Iowa man battling cancer with insurance market on the verge of collapse

* Editor's Note: Five days after this report, Jim Graves called WQAD News 8 to share the good news that his insurance company approved his request to go out of network and receive his treatment in Texas.

COLUMBUS JUNCTION, Iowa -- With Iowa's individual health insurance market on the verge of collapse, many farmers and small business owners are scrambling to find coverage before the end of the year.

For Jim Graves, it's a matter of life and death.

The 53-year-old was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer last year. A doctor discovered the cancer during a routine colonoscopy in December of 2016.

"He came into my room and told my family, 'Take him home. He's got six to eight months.' And it was like... wow," said Graves.

Graves has spent the past 10 months dealing with doctors, operations, and chemotherapy. While he's worried about his health, he never imagined he would also be worrying about insurance coverage.

Graves is running out of options, and he wants to visit MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas for a second opinion. His doctor agrees and already wrote a referral letter, but Graves must *wait for his insurer, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, to decide whether or not they'll cover the out-of-network trip.

"Then I can appeal it, but that's going to take 45 to 50 days, and that puts us into January. And... adios," said Graves.

Experts say Iowa's individual health insurance market is on the verge of imploding. Next year, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield is pulling out. Just one insurer, Medica, is willing to sell Obamacare plans in the state.

Graves, who helps run a small family business with his wife, isn't sure what he'll do.

"Now, I'm worried sick. I know I can get my wife coverage, but there's nobody gonna write a policy for me again," said Graves. "Or if they do, I can't afford it. I just can't."

According to a study by consulting firm Avalere Health, premiums for the most popular Obamacare plans are going up an average of 34 percent.

So, people like Graves are stuck waiting for lawmakers to strike a deal -- and time is something he doesn't have.

"If we do nothing, we know the outcome... and not to get teary-eyed, but it's my life. And I'm scared," said Graves.

Open enrollment begins November 1, 2017.

* Editor's Note: Five days after this report, Jim Graves called WQAD News 8 to share the good news that his insurance company approved his request to go out of network and receive his treatment in Texas.