Monday, August 31, 2009

Local Blogger Says Health Care Is No Debate - It's A Matter of Life or Death

For a woman named Beth, a single mother of two, the so-called Health Care debate is not about politics of the Right or the Left, or the endless chatter on talk radio and television. For her, it is a matter of life and death.

Beth penned an letter to the East Tennessee blog OpenPen saluting them for their coverage of the debate and of her vital questions:

Dear Editor,

I’m writing you, in part, to commend you for your fair and objective coverage of health care reform and town hall meetings. I’d also like to urge other media outlets and, more importantly, people to also be fair and objective in discussing health care reform. Though, for some people, especially pundits and politicians, health care reform is a vehicle for political posturing or personal bias. For millions of others it is a matter of personal health. And for far too many, like me, it is a matter of literal life or death.

My name is Beth. I am a divorced single mother of two wonderful children, ages 5 & 7. 3 ½ years ago I fell gravely ill to rare and potentially deadly, but treatable, disease called, Takayasu’s Arteritis. The rarity of my disease and severity of it’s debilitating symptoms led to me being misdiagnosed for the first 2 years of my illness. It is difficult to fully explain Takayasu’s Arteritis and its symptoms, in short form. But, in laymen’s terms, at 26 years old I have the vascular corrosion, bone density loss, joint inflammation and chronic fatigue of a person 60 years my senior.

Likewise, I am also susceptible to heart attacks and strokes. It takes a daily regimen of highly toxic and very expensive prescriptions to regulate my disease. But even the treatment of my disease begets a series of daunting side-effects, including, but unfortunately not limited to, hypertension, extreme weight gain, skin thinning/bruising, hair loss, lymph node tumors, cataracts and skin cancer. The symptoms of my treatment are often as painful and debilitating as my disease itself. But, for (and with) the love of my beautiful daughter and son, I willingly submit myself to whatever it takes to be here for (and with) them.

It is in this spirit of self-sacrifice and survival that I have been rendered financially ruined, due to medical debt. I am stranded in an all too familiar conundrum for uninsured/underinsured patients: Either pay for prescriptions and treatment or living expenses, gas and food. I’ve always been a hard worker, averaging 70 hour weeks as a restaurant general manager. But maintaining the rigors of my job accelerated the symptoms of my sickness. My doctors notified me that continuing to work would jeopardize my chances of recovery and possibly lead to premature death.

Subsequently, I could no longer hold employment. Which meant I lost what health insurance I did have through my job. I initially qualified for TennCare; but was ultimately denied, due to a cluster of state guidelines and regulations. Moreover, because I have a pre-existing condition, no private insurance company will insure me. Effectively, I have been shut out of every feasible resource on a state and private level. Without a federal ‘public option‘, I will quickly descend from shut out to shut down, literally.

With a ‘public option’ I would be able to purchase an insurance plan that would not only provide adequate treatment, but allow me to purchase my prescriptions at a much more attainable cost than the current overwhelming prices (which I can no longer afford). It pains me to see the ‘public option’ be battered about in consideration of only the ‘option’ (resources) aspect of the term, but not the ‘public’ (people) part. And isn’t that what this whole debate is about? The people? Is the primary focus of health care reform to save money or save lives? I understand that it’s not a strictly either or proposition. There is a give and take. But ‘how much money are we willing to give’ seems a much more reasonable and humane question than ‘how many lives does it take before health care reform is a must‘.

Personally, I went form an upwardly mobile, gainfully employed, tax paying citizen to a patient who will likely never have good credit again, nor a bank account/savings, a house or any significant possessions or assets of worth to leave to my children… an especially heartbreaking dilemma considering my faltering health and uncertain treatment resources. I want to leave them something more than medical debt, antagonistic bill collectors and a jaded sense of being let down by a system I’d so willingly paid into when my health provided me the ability to do so.

This is no way for a young mother to live or die in America. This is no way for anyone to live or die in the richest country in the world and most successful democracy ever established. There is no shortage of hyperbole, partisan rhetoric and political propagandizing now polluting the health care reform discussions in the mainstream media, blogosphere and town halls. My plea will likely not influence those who most voraciously feed off cacophony to be more responsible or constructive in the dissent or support of health care reform. But to anyone who is willing to adhere to reason, I ask you, please stop shouting. Yelling a lie does not make it anymore truthful. And the truth is no less true in a whisper.

Blogger Southern Female Lawyer also posted a video on YouTube of her recent Town Hall conversation with 1st District Congressman Dr. Phil Roe:

Some background on what Rep. Roe referred to as an "Associated Health Plan":

"The big problem is that AHPs would be allowed to operate outside of the requirements of the state’s health insurance law and so create two separate and very different markets for health insurance. One would be made up of AHPs, each of which would be rated on its own experience and operate outside the requirements and protections of the current small employer health insurance law. The second would consist of all other small businesses and individuals, whose experience would continue to be merged. The effect will be to pull lower cost and better risk employers into AHPs, leaving higher cost and higher risk groups and all individuals in the merged market, with higher premiums.


  1. Wow that's powerful. Thanks for sharing that.

  2. Ally Wunnerlyn8:41 PM

    Well, I can see you are only posting those comments that agree with your opinion.

    I was recommending your blog to others as one that offered differing views, but I see you are as intellecutally limited as all the rest.

    Nos vemos!

  3. Ally, I hope they are posting comments that are well thought out and try to add something to the conversation.

    I read a post yesterday that started off, "Obama could have.....". I think the health care reform got off on the wrong foot to begin with.

    They should have done what any other business or company would have done. Define and detail the issues and systematically fix each problem.

    They have a piece of legislation that will do little to help our current health care woes. They are trying to do a fix all with one huge bill. Find the issues, get the together the concerened parties (doctors, insurance companies, etc.) and write legislation one bill at a time that will fix the problems.

    And congress, before you go trying to fix the privite sector, get your own house in order. You have entitlement programs that are going bankrupt. Medicare is the poster child for fraud and abuse.