Who Is Edie Littlefield Sundby, The Stage 4 Cancer Patient Losing Her Insurance Coverage Under ‘Obamacare’?

  @angeloyoung_a.young@ibtimes.com on November 04 2013 3:21 PM

UPDATE: It's worth noting that MIT recently reported how extremely off-base the cost of U.S. health care is compared to every other wealthy nation. The cost of treatment in the country has been rising precipitously for over two decades as health care, insurance and pharmaceutical interests run the show on Capitol Hill.

Original story begins here:

Before Edie Littlefield Sundby, 62, appeared on the pages of the Wall Street Journal on Sunday she was just one of the very few, very lucky stage 4 gallbladder-cancer patients to have lived seven years and counting -- a survival rate of less than 2 percent -- thanks to world-class treatment she received from three major cancer centers, including from a Stanford University oncologist.

Now she’s expressed her frustration and concern that she’s losing her top-shelf health insurance after Dec. 31 -- despite President Barack Obama’s promises that under his plan patients will be able to keep plans and doctors they’re happy with.

“My grievance is not political,” writes Sundby. “All my energies are directed to enjoying life and staying alive, and I have no time for politics.”

 

Sundby says despite Obama’s promise, she’s being forced to give up a great health plan from UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE:UNH), which has paid out $1.2 million to her health care providers since March 2007. Now, United is pulling out of California’s individual health insurance market, where it serves about 8,000 customers, according to California Healthline.

 

Though Sunday’s Opinion piece identifies Sundby only as a California resident, her cancer experience was the focus of an AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) magazine piece past year. The story describes Sundby as an active Episcopalian from San Diego who practices yoga who was facing the prospect of having her right lung removed as part of her treatment. In that interview she points out that she’s being treated under a catastrophic-coverage plan.

“Her doctors use words like outlier, statistical anomaly, even miracle, to describe Edie, although they admit they are seeing more people with advanced cancer survive much longer than predicted,” AARP writer Meg Grant wrote.

 

Sundby doesn’t fit the profile of the typical uninsured American struggling to find coverage for routine treatment and to pay for stratospheric health care costs for even the most basic care. Sundby’s husband, Dale, headed IBM’s Palo Alto offices until the couple decided to become San Diego-based software entrepreneurs, according to a 2000 profile in Forbes. In the AARP interview, she announced plans to launch a company selling beauty products. Until her diagnosis for a catastrophic health condition, the Sundby household was adequately covered for basic health care needs in ways millions of Americans haven’t been.

 

Sundby wrote in the New York Times “Well” blog in July, describing her 55-day, 800-mile hike on the California Missions Trail earlier this year.

“From the first day I felt a sense of heightened well-being, each mile a soulful connection to a more natural rhythm, a primal rhythm,” she writes. “Nature is overwhelmingly beautiful, and peaceful. That peace became my peace.” 

 

In writing about her fears of not getting life-preserving treatment from some of the country’s best cancer specialists come Jan.1, Sundby might not have had a political agenda. In the Twittersphere, however, Sundby’s words have resonated with opponents of individual health insurance mandates, public options or single-payer policies. They want what Sundby wants: the status quo. And they point to Sundby’s experience as a prime example of someone who could die under the choices given to her by Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange. 

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