Quotes I live by:

"Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity"~Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King

"Not to know is bad. Not to want to know is worse. Not to hope is unthinkable. Not to care is unforgivable"~Nigerian saying

"I don't want you to do it because you're weak, I want you to do it because you know I'm right"~Dabney Coleman as Mark Winslow in the film Modern Problems

Friday, August 21, 2009

Healthcare Reform: Letter to my U.S. Congressman -- Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA)

I am writing on behalf of my family, to tell you of our struggles with the current healthcare system and why we are strong supporters of single-payer coverage for everyone, financed though taxes like Medicare. We believe healthcare should be treated not as a corporate commodity, but as a community necessity, like police and fire departments, transportation, and public schools, but with federal funding so that members of less affluent communities have the same access to care.

On your website you state a preference for a "co-op" instead of a public option, but that provision is needed for working-class people who are above income limits to qualify for Medcaid and still can't afford health insurance. My family is in that category, with my younger kids qualifying for Medicaid, but my oldest left with nothing after turning 19. She has several health issues, including a genetic condition inherited from me, that isn't disabling if monitored and managed, but needs daily prescription medication. After years without adequate treatment, my condition progressed until I am now on SSI with Medicaid, but I would rather have had access to care and not have become disabled in the first place. Ironically, that now qualifies me for healthcare which, if available when I was still relatively healthy, would've allowed me to now be productive and able to work, better able to take care of my kids, and would cost less to the govenrment for my medical treatment.

My husband works at least 40-50 hours a week, but has no coverage, relying on the free clinic with it's limited resources and services to treat his high-blood pressure and other health issues. His net income is only $1800/month for our family of four, and after bills, food, and gas to get to work, we're barely able to break even, much less pay for health insurance, even a "co-op." My adult daughter and her husband have a similar situation. He works full-time at a factory, also can't afford insurance, and she has a pronounced sensory/learning disability that makes it hard to find work. Plus any additional income, even from a fast food job, would put her over the free clinic's limit, and she'd have no health care or the medicine she needs.

The free clinic income ceiling is currently $18,941 for a family of two and $28,665 for four, so there are hoards of people who don't even have that option and still can't afford insurance. Free clinics also have limited services not even equivalent to a basic general practitioner, is not adequate for those with more than the most basic of needs, and does not cover emergency or in-patient services. That was my only resource when I broke my ankle and spent almost 2 weeks unable to walk before I could be treated, hoping it was just a bad sprain. My husband has been a valued employee at a small family-owned business for 13 years, and almost every year, his employer asks us to find out how much he can give in a small raise that won't knock us out of his free clinic eligibility, and the kids' and mine for Medicaid. It's usually not more than about $10/week, which no where near balances rising costs.

My youngest child also has my genetic medical condition and needs to take medicine and have levels monitored frequently with blood tests. She has the same sensory/learning disability as my adult daughter, along with some developmental issues for which she has been in therapy since 18 months old. But though nothing is severe enough that she would qualify now as "totally disabled" for SSI, like my older daughter it will impact her advancement in education and her options for employment. There is no job my oldest could get that would offer health coverage or pay enough for her to afford it herself. I fear for both my girls that if there is no help for those of us who can't afford health insurance, they will wind up like me, permanantly and totally disabled and costing the government more than if I was still only mildly disabled and able to work and contribute through taxes.

You mentioned Medicare's low reimbursement rates and their negative affects on providers in lower-income areas. The inclusion of younger and, on average, healthier people who are still working and could contribute to the program while needing less care will increase revenue, allowing reimbursement rates to be raised. We all know that hospitals inflate bills for everyone else to offset costs of treating others eligible for charity write-offs, filing for bankruptcy, or who just default on payment. This practice also affects current government-run medical programs. Recently, I had to go to the ER, drove myself, and had nothing besides a simple 5 minute EKG and a blood test. My condition had stabilized and my tests were OK, so they sent me home -- Medicaid was billed almost $2000. The same blood test is $60 at my doctor's office.

Taxpayers are already paying for the uninsured now, whether in extra costs billed to Medicaid/Medicare, or directly as increased insurance premiums. If everyone is covered, all will have access to care that can minimize, or even prevent future health problems, keeping our workforce larger and more productive. More people staying healthy and working means more tax revenue for all programs, as well as more money earned to circulate and strengthen the economy. The current system subsidizes private insurance companies that overcharge policyholders to cover 30% overhead and make a handful of executives multi-millionaires, and still denies treatment. Money paid for premiums would instead be better spent on a program for all, keeping millions more people healthy and contributing members of society. That can only be better for America.

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