Update: Steve Dieckhoff died Saturday morning (3/15) just as the sun began to rise, friends said. He was 56 years old. A memorial service in Boulder has not yet been scheduled.
Steve Dieckhoff is a local Boulder rock climber who is battling lymphoma. His friends and fellow climbers are hosting a fundraiser at the Spot gym in Boulder on June 2, at 7pm. His story breaks my heart – cancer sucks, and it can strike even the healthiest of people. I’ve never met Steve, but I share his passion for being active and outdoors, and I really hope that he can win this fight with cancer.
Steve’s story is a perfect example of why health insurance is not an optional product. In his case, he’s had a bad hip all his life, which has made getting health insurance difficult. He lives in Colorado, so I’m familiar with how he would have been underwritten had he applied for individual health insurance. A few carriers would have declined him (the ones that don’t use exclusions or rate increases during initial underwriting). A few others might have offered him a policy with an exclusion on his hip. And a few others might have offered him a policy at a higher price. I don’t know what process Steve went through with health insurance over the years. Maybe he applied and didn’t like the idea of an exclusion or a rate increase. Maybe he applied for one of the companies that just uses straight accept/decline underwriting, got declined, and thought that there weren’t any other options. Maybe he had a choice to have coverage through an employer but felt that it was too expensive. Maybe he felt that if he couldn’t get coverage for his hip (obviously a big expense thus far, as he’s had it replaced), what was the point in getting health insurance at all? Maybe he just thought that he really didn’t need health insurance, as he’s an athlete who obviously takes good care of his body.
Unfortunately, the unthinkable happened. Steve’s cancer bills will make hip replacement surgery look like chump change. I know that the Boulder rock climbing community is large and generous, and hopefully the forums and blogs about Steve will reach enough people to raise the money he needs to pay for his treatment. But without health insurance, he’s going to be facing some very steep bills. For anyone who is on the fence about whether or not to get a policy, please don’t think that you’re immune to serious health issues. It can happen to anybody. You don’t have to have any bells and whistles on your policy. Even if all you can afford is a $5,000 or $10,000 deductible, it’s worth it. $10,000 is a whole lot easier to come up with than half a million, but once you’re already sick, it’s too late. If you are healthy, you have tons of options for individual policies. If you have some pre-existing conditions but are generally ok, talk to a reputable broker who can explain the underwriting rules that each company uses and help you find the best one. If you can’t qualify for any individual policies, take the policy your employer offers (even if it seems way too expensive). Cover Colorado is another option for Colorado residents who don’t qualify for individual health insurance. With health insurance, there are lots of choices – what kind, what level of coverage, what company… but whether or not to have coverage is not an option. We never know what life has in store for us.
Our thoughts are with Steve as he fights this battle. May all the luck in the world be on his side. If you would like to help out, but can’t make it to (or missed) the fundraiser, there is a benefit fund you can donate to:
Steve Dieckhoff Benefit Account
Pueblo Bank and Trust
2950 Pearl Street
Boulder, Colorado 80301
The account number is 1190296.