Photo by: Dan Koeck/Gannett
A former paralegal who lives in Fargo, N.D., Shawcross lost her job and her health coverage in July after a car accident forced her to take time off work. She's concerned her past health struggles will make it impossible to buy insurance.
"I didn't make any of these choices," says Shawcross, a Mexican American who survived thyroid cancer. "They were made for me."
Insurance companies that deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions have become a leading issue in the health care debate this year.
A July survey by the nonpartisan Commonwealth Fund found 36 percent of people who tried to buy insurance on their own, or 12.6 million people, were denied or charged more because of prior health problems.
Shawcross knows it's important to keep a policy active to avoid being denied coverage. When health benefits weren't offered at a previous job she spent all of her retirement savings on a $600-a-month policy that allowed her to temporarily continue her coverage. Now, there's no money left for health care.
When her doctor recently ordered an ultrasound scan to ensure that her cancer was gone, Shawcross agreed but called later to cancel the appointment. She is waiting to address a lump she found in her breast until she can find an organization that will provide a free mammogram.
Shawcross says she supports efforts to change the health care system -- specifically a provision that would prohibit insurers from denying coverage for prior conditions. Without that, she says, she isn't sure what she'll do.
"I'm scared. I've already had cancer once," she says. "I'm scared of leaving my children."
By JOHN FRITZE
Gannett Content One/USA Today