‘Obamacare Won’t Pay For My Back Surgery, But It Will Pay For Opioids’

The story of one North Carolina man’s ordeal with Obamacare shows how the federal health care law hurts average American families by denying care.

Most days, Joe Cato is confined to sitting in a chair or lying in bed, heavily medicated or asleep, debilitated by back pain that’s left the 41-year-old husband and father of four unable to work, attend seminary, or run his construction business. He has degenerative arthritis in his lower back and pelvis, a condition brought on after years of working on construction sites as a stonemason and hauling music gear as a worship leader in his church. Even riding in a car is painful, which he must do to get to his health-care provider 30 miles from his home in Waxhaw, North Carolina.

Joe is one of the many victims of Obamacare. His doctors say he needs surgery to repair the nerve damage in his lower back and pelvis, but his insurance company, Blue Cross Blue Shield, won’t cover it. In most of North Carolina, including Union County where Joe and his family live, Blue Cross is the only health insurer still offering coverage on the exchanges established by Obamacare. The only treatment Blue Cross will cover for Joe is pain medication—a battery of prescription drugs he must take daily, including what he calls “comatose-inducing” muscle-relaxers and opioids.

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