Member’s Story Highlights Need for Quality Care

Lauri Cooney is getting ready for her vaccinations. While the thought of shots might make some cringe, it’s nothing compared to what Cooney has been through.

Cooney, an SEA member who works as a fiscal specialist with Juvenile Justice, is a breast cancer survivor who also went through a bone marrow transplant. The need for vaccinations arises after bone marrow transplants like the one Cooney had.

Her story illustrates the importance of access to quality, affordable health coverage. In Cooney’s case, she said knowing she had the coverage gave her one less thing to worry about as she went through treatments.

“That was the biggest piece of it for me and anybody else going through a catastrophic situation, just knowing you have that insurance is huge,” she said. “It’s a huge peace of mind. I didn’t have to worry about going bankrupt.”

And she probably would have gone bankrupt, she said, based on the treatment she needed. It started with a mastectomy in 2010 followed by chemotherapy and radiation the next year. While dealing with that, her family suffered a loss as her father-in-law died of cancer in late 2011. 2012 brought more bad news after her doctor ran a blood test.

“What I actually found out I had was the precursor to multiple myeloma, which is a blood cancer,” she said. Her doctor at Dana Farber started her on chemotherapy, but also recommended the bone marrow transplant. “He said even if I didn’t have myeloma, I could still get it without the transplant.”

After the transplant, she was in the hospital for 17 days in a special wing that used HEPA filters, and anyone who came into the room had to wear gloves and a mask. She said that fortunately all of that was covered.

“I had so much to be worried about,” she said. “Just knowing that I didn’t have to worry about whether my coverage was going to be there, that I didn’t have to worry about it, was helpful.”

In sharing her story, Cooney said she just wanted to make it clear how important quality coverage is.

“I just wanted people to know how important this was to me,” she said. “I’m sure I’m not the only one in the state who went through a situation like this.”

The State Employee Health Benefit is one of SEA members’ greatest accomplishments, and it remains a critical component of the overall compensation package for Executive Branch and Judicial Branch members. With the Affordable Care Act, our health care system will continue to transform through 2014 and 2015. SEA members will continue to work towards ensuring access to quality healthcare for our members.

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