16 October 2007

Get cancer, lose your job.

George Bush's America. Via Washington Post.

A firefighter and an EMS dispatcher in Manassas, VA were terminated after being diagnosed with colorectal and breast cancer, respectively, and going out on disability. Each was in discussions with supervisors regarding alternative job duties which they would be able to carry out when a notice of termination came in the mail. With their jobs went their health and life insurance benefits.

Appalling doesn't begin to describe this sort of behavior on the part of the employers, but apparently "legal" does. The legal details are beyond me, but it really doesn't matter. As an employer, I have had employees get sick, and cost our small business a lot of money. Even if we could get away with it legally, it would have been absolutely reprehensible to cut our valued co-workers and friends off in such a time of need.

For their sake, I hope these EMS workers belong to unions with retirement plans that do include health insurance; the article wasn't clear on that point. Because otherwise, they are screwed. Unable to work, uninsurable -- I guess once they've spent down their assets they can get on Medicaid. But there's going to be an obligatory time frame in which their medical funding, and probably their care, is compromised. Hopefully it won't cost them their lives.

This is why we need some sort of Universal Health Care now.

(h/t Americablog)


  1. So why wouldn't they be eligible for Medicare? I'm not sure how a "universal health plan" would improve their situations.

  2. Good question -- maybe they are. Is cancer an automatic qualifier for Medicare? I don't know -- disability certification is not exactly my gig.

    It didn't sound like they were unable to work at all, just unable to work at their specific jobs. In theory, then, they are not disabled. OTOH, I have seen enough people "on disability" for BS like dyslexia or depression, or other cock-and-bull stories that I certainly don't expect the rules to make sense...

  3. Well the article stated that she was on "long term disability" because of her 7 surgeries and multiple chemo treatments, etc. And he had lost 90 pounds and was at least unable to work as a firefighter. I presume he had some surgeries and chemo too.

    I don't know the criteria for Medicare disability either, but I've seen a bunch of people on it who were less deserving than those two.

  4. Well, a careful read says that he's "medically retired," which at least for firefighters in my state means his health & pension are covered. Perhaps not in VA, but that sounds unlikely- public service unions tend to have pretty sweet contracts. She certainly sounds like she'd qualify for Medicare, as she's already on a private long term disability plan (so they'll be making her apply for SSDI soon enough, if she hasn't already).

    I don't doubt these two folks have a lowered income compared to when they were working, as well as greater medical costs, but I call straw man.

    Criteria for Medicare due to disability are the criteria for SSDI ... due to your disability, you can't do anything that would earn you more than $700/month, and this level of disability has to persist for at least 12 months continuously.

    There are a lot of people who got benefits years ago who would never qualify now. The powers that be review each case periodically. This medical records review can lead to revocation of benefits, although you basically have to be able to document malingering.

  5. Colorectal and breast cancer, employer termination, and loss of health benefits are Geroge Bush's fault.

    Maybe then he is responsible for my leaky roof, slowing marathon times, and the fact that Notre Dame sucks at football this year.

    C'mon SF, I love your blog and insights but your seething hatred distracts from the good topics.

  6. JB,

    You are right. Notre Dame sucks not because of Bush, but because they are morally corrupt and deserve to lose.

    And yes, Bush-bashing may be a little off-topic here, but I'm still annoyed at him for vetoing SCHIP without even a plausible pretext, and it so predictably annoys scalpel I just can't help myself.

  7. By federal law, every state must have an insurer of last resort for those who are turned down by private insurance or cannot get it on the job. Therefore, no one is uninsurable.

    This man is lucky that he is in the United States. In countries with nationalized health care his chances of surviving cancer would be much lower due to the fact that their governments find it cheaper to let sick people die than to great them.

  8. Your cry for universal health care is a bit misplaced. Your $500,000 house, boat, and hawaiian getaways will all be a thing of the past if that happens. Morality is one thing, making a living is something else...



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