Cancer survivor happy with new health care law

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle

by Gail Schontzler

As the U.S. House voted Sunday on a landmark health insurance reform bill, Katie Gibson and her husband watched the action via the Internet from their Bozeman home.

“I’m just so excited and relieved it’s passed,” Gibson, 47, a software engineer, said   Wednesday. “Not only for myself, but for 32 million people (without insurance). I know what it is to be uninsured.”

Gibson was singled out by President Barack Obama last August during a town hall meeting at Gallatin Field airport as one of the millions of Americans who would be helped by the controversial reform.

The usually shy Gibson told the airport crowd of 1,300 that she had been forced to battle both cancer and her insurance companies. Diagnosed with cancer 17 years before she said   employer’s excellent insurance had covered radiation, chemotherapy and several surgeries.        But when she and her husband, Scott Bischke, started their own business, their new insurer raised their deductible from $5,000 to $25,000.

Other insurance companies refused to cover her because of her preexisting condition. And after the couple signed on with a new insurer and had been paying for coverage several months, the company suddenly dropped her, “rescinding” coverage retroactively.

The new law “makes a huge difference for me” in three ways, Gibson said Wednesday.

“Now I can shop on the open insurance market for private insurance, whereas before I would have been denied because of a preexisting condition,” she said. 

Second, she knows that once she has insurance and pays premiums, “I will not be dropped.”

The third way the bill benefits her family, she said, is that their small consulting engineering business will receive a tax credit for insuring themselves. That could cover 35 percent of the cost, she said.

In January, Gibson said she traveled to Washington, D.C., to talk in person with Montana’s lone congressman, Republican Denny Rehberg, to urge him to vote yes.

“I told him my story,” she said. “He listened for 20, 25 minutes. He didn’t promise anything.”

Rehberg voted against the bill Sunday with the united House Republicans. Rehberg issued a statement that the bill   wouldn’t lower medical costs and would be the first step in a “government takeover of health care.”

The new law “will shift the increasing costs of health care from the struggling patient to the struggling taxpayer,” Rehberg wrote, saying that’s no solution because “they’re the same person For Gibson .” and her husband, the new law was a cause for celebration. After Obama signed it Tuesday, they and the neighbors toasted to the law.

She said she’s glad she did what she could to help make it a reality.

“I’m really happy I was able to get beyond my fear of public speaking,” she said. “I’m real happy I got to be part of it.” 

Gibson said some of her relatives agree with critics who see the new law as creeping socialism.

“I think it’s a lot of fear-mongering,” she said. “I think over time people will realize the world hasn’t ended and it’s a good bill.”

It’s not a perfect law in her eyes. Gibson said she wished it included a public option insurance plan, which would give her a simpler option, and she wished it didn’t include language barring federal funding of abortions.

Still, she said, “I’m happy overall. It’s a huge step, and I think there will be incremental changes to make it what it needs to be.”