Crohn’s Disease Sufferer Fears Return of Insurance Limits

Brian Greenburg stands for a portrait in Stamford, Conn., on July 6, 2016. If the Affordable Care Act is repealed, he said, he would consider leaving the country because of his high-cost medical needs as a Crohn's disease patient. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Brian Greenberg is tough enough to complete a half Ironman triathlon — a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1-mile run. But he winces to think what would happen if insurance companies reinstated lifetime limits on coverage.

If the Affordable Care Act is repealed, he said, he will seriously consider moving to Canada or England because of his high-cost medical needs as a Crohn’s disease patient.

To date, his insurer has paid more than $845,000 for his medical care. The 33-year-old Greenberg is on track to hit what used to be a $1 million lifetime limit on his insurance policy during the next president’s administration.

Before the law, many health plans capped what they would pay for an individual’s medical care over a lifetime, typically at $1 million or $2 million. Up to 20,000 Americans each year lost their coverage because they would max out, according to a federal estimate.

Greenberg figures he will be among them if Republicans make good on their promise to undo the federal health care law.

He was 27 when the law’s ban on lifetime limits went into effect in 2010. Crohn’s disease had worn away at his digestive tract, and he had endured more than a dozen operations, including surgery to remove a portion of his colon. He later had surgery to attach an artificial opening so his body could empty waste into a disposable bag.

His expenses continue, including $4,000 a month for Humira, an injectable drug he takes weekly to keep the disease at bay. His health insurance — which costs $600 a month, with no government subsidy — covers most of his medical expenses after he reaches his annual deductible of $4,000.

“I reach my deductible on Jan. 1, basically,” he said.

Greenberg is a financial services professional in Stamford, Connecticut, and founder and president of a nonprofit organization, the Intense Intestines Foundation, which raises money for scholarships for people with Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.

“It’s very scary to hear what some of the candidates are saying about the Affordable Care Act,” he said.

Two days before the election, Greenberg hopes to be celebrating his latest athletic achievement, the New York City Marathon on Nov. 6. Greenberg, who considers himself neither a Republican nor a Democrat, said he will cast his vote with health care in mind.

“Without my doctors, I’d pretty much be on the couch,” he said.

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