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Dexter Leader: Local woman who lost health-care benefits to attend State of the Union address

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Washington, Jan 28 | comments

DEXTER — Julie Boonstra reached out to as many people as she could last month, after her private health insurance plan expired under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Boonstra was diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia five years ago, ending her ambitions to permanently transition from being a stay-at-home mom to an elementary school teacher, after attending Madonna University for a bachelor’s degree in history with a minor in elementary school education. She and her family decided to prioritize getting her the extensive and frequent care that she needs by purchasing a private health insurance plan through Blue Care Network.

In October she received a letter from BCN informing her that the plan she had purchased, and was pleased with, would no longer be available due to the new healthcare law. After trying several times to get onto the PPACA healthcare exchange website for the state of Michigan, Boonstra said the delays pushed her to the limit.

“It was failure after failure,” she said. “The problem with CML is that I take oral chemotherapy every day for the rest of my life and I depend on this medication to fight the cancer and stay alive.”

By the time Boonstra finally got a hold of a live person in the state exchanges pool of PPACA navigators, it was the middle of December and she was told that there would be a two week waiting period from that point, which exceeded the sunset date for her expiring private policy, which was Jan. 1.

Without insurance, she would have to pay $4,100 out of pocket for the necessary oral chemotherapy treatments alone — money that she does not have.

One of the people she reached out to was U.S. Congressman Tim Walberg (District 7), who announced this week that he would be accompanied by Boonstra to President Barack Obama’s 2014 State of the Union Address in Washington D.C. Tuesday night.

Walberg, as Chairman of the Workforce Protections Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives, announced Dec. 11 with fellow GOP colleagues that his party was launching the #YourStory campaign to collect stories from constituents detailing public harm done by the PPACA.

“I am honored to have Julie as my guest to the State of the Union this year,” Walberg said. “She has been through a lot with her health and insurance problems and deserves to hear what the President has to say on the matter. My hope is that soon we can put this harmful law behind us and replace it with patient-centered solutions that promote consumer choice, decrease health care costs and improve access to quality care.”

Ultimately, Boonstra purchased a new policy with assistance from the Michigan Farm Bureau, which was on her list of people and organizations to contact during her hour of crisis. There was talk of qualifying for Michigan Medicaid in her talks with the PPACA navigator, but whether she actually qualified wasn’t immediately clear and was another point of clarification that would require she wait for answers with time that she didn’t have.

“I just got to a point where I couldn’t wait any longer,” Boonstra said. “So I connected with the Michigan Farm Bureau, who helped me select a plan through Blue Cross. I still don’t really know what the ACA website can offer to me, since I haven’t been able to get to that information. They were going to send me my password (for the state exchange website), but I still haven’t received (that) and that was last week Wednesday. Now I have a huge out of pocket expense.”

Boonstra’s new Blue Care plan is an 80/20 plan, meaning she pays 20 percent of the costs associated with the many tests and screenings she receives and she must pay $50 out-of-pocket for visits to her leukemia specialist.

“My premium on the old plan was double the amount that it is now, but my old plan covered more,” Boonstra said. “I would have only $20 per office visit, but all of my labs were covered. Being a leukemia patient, I have a lot of labs done on my blood and those were always covered. Everything you could possibly think of was covered. My blood tests are thousands of dollars.”

Boonstra says she’s looking forward to seeing what the president has to say on healthcare during his address to the nation. Prior to being put in this situation, the nearly 20 year Dexter Township resident says she didn’t really consider herself as having a position on PPACA, but now that she’s been put in this position she would like to see the law repealed and a wide-ranging committee formed to seriously consider healthcare reform that doesn’t put anyone in the position that she’s in.

“I’m just an every day person, but for me I think I’d like to see it repealed,” Boonstra said. “We need people’s health concerns and issues to be taken under consideration. When the Affordable Care Act was brought together, I don’t feel confident that whoever designed the program really looked at the issues that people face. For instance, there are over 26 cancers that are treated with oral chemotherapy. I don’t know that anyone thought about our need to get our medications.”

Boonstra added that she believes everyone should be covered by insurance.

To read the original story from the Dexter Leader, please click here

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