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TACOMA, Wash. (KING) – Patricia Zuniga fears cancer could be spreading inside her body after a surgery to remove a tumor was abruptly canceled.
Zuniga’s health insurance fight has lasted more than three months.
Last December, a mammogram revealed she had a tumor in her breast.
Doctors didn’t believe it was malignant but wanted to do surgery.
“They don’t know how deep it is, what the blood supply is, they won’t know until they get in there,” Zuniga said. “That’s what the surgeon told me.”
Her calendar lists a series of appointments leading up to the scheduled surgery on Jan. 27.
The date was important because of her husband’s status with the Army.
After serving for 13 years with tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, Robert Zuniga was medically separated from the military on July 30 due to an injury.
The family was told they would have healthcare for six months.
“I understood that that meant until January 30th, because that is six months from July 30th to January 30th,” she said.
On Jan. 27, Patricia showed up for surgery. Her blood was drawn and her skin was prepped.
Before she went into surgery, she was given the news.
“Very, right up front. ‘You are not having your surgery today. You don’t have healthcare. You don’t have benefits.’ I said, ‘What do you mean? I made sure I got this scheduled before my benefits ended.’ ‘Your benefits ended 12 hours ago,” she remembered.
Patricia says it wasn’t until later that she saw the expiration date in fine print on her military ID card, which said Jan. 26, 2015.
She admits she should have noticed it, but even more importantly, the staff at the hospital should have.
“I’m terrified right now, because I found this other lump,” she said.
The new lump is growing over her thyroid gland.
“I feel scared. I have two daughters. I’m a young woman,” she said. “I want to live, that’s what I think every day when I take a shower, when I see it. And now when I see this, I just want to live.”
“Once service members and families leave military service, health care benefits are usually discontinued unless there are extenuating circumstances,” a spokesperson for the hospital said.
Zuniga will get insurance next month through the Affordable Care Act.