Sorry I missed my Friday deadline. As you know, Fridays are now dedicated to the healthcare reform debate instead of a Weekly Cancer News Round-up. Once we get something passed, we’ll return to the original schedule. But I feel strongly that the stakes, especially for those of us with serious illnesses, are way too high. The subject cannot be ignored. It will not just fade away.
The national dialogue continues to be quite active in my Midwest neighborhood. Two of my neighbors are traveling to Washngton in separate groups to protest the reform. At the same time another neighbor told me that she and her husband, both self-employed, have decided to drop their insurance coverage since the monthly premium rose to $1700. He is a property manager and commerical real estate agent. She does daycare in her home. Both are close to my age, approaching sixty. Although both are healthy, both of their risk factors for illness increase with age. But then again spending over $20,000 per year for health insurance is a pretty significant burden.
Last week Tish and I were at a garage sale in a fashionable upper middle class neighborhood. We bought a number of children’s items from a woman in her fifties. She also had done daycare in her home until serious degenerative spinal disease and chronic pain caused her to close her business. Her husband had died of cancer four years previously. Among the garage sale items were porch ramps, a wheelchair and several varieties of crutches. Her two-story brick home had five bedrooms and two baths and was worth in the $375,000 range – a sizable sum in our locale. She had stopped seeing her medical specialist because she owed him money. And her home was ready to go into foreclosure. Hence her series of garage sales each weekend.
Another young man we know, 23-year old, works full time but has some chronic issues with diabetes. He was crashing into ketoacidosis several times a year. Each time required a trip to the emergency room for hydration and stabilization of his glucose. His home almost went into foreclosure due to mounting medical bills. This despite the fact that he had insurance through his small business employer. The hospital’s diabetes specialist ordered a ct-scan in an effort to discover why he was having these potentially life-threatening episodes. His insurance company refused to pay, saying it was not pre-approved. Yet another bill to pay.
These and other stories lately, stories that I just happen upon in casual conversations with neighbors and shopping at garage sales, really reinforce in me the belief that our healthcare system is in need of urgent reform. What I am witnessing is in Middle America not in slums or rundown neighborhoods. I like to exchange ideas and opinions with people like my neighbors who have opposing views. This is healthy. This is what a democracy is all about.
But it seems as if the national debate has been hijacked by a national hysteria, at least in some quarters. It seems like the subject of healthcare reform has been rolled into some larger view that the country is under threat of super conspiratorial forces. Parents did not want their children to listen to President Obama’s speech encouraging young people to work hard, stay in school, and have belief in themselves. They feared that this might be the start of political indoctrination leading to Nazi-like youth camps. People still rant that the president is not a citizen, that he somehow hoodwinked 300 million people and our 230 year old system of democracy. He is accused a being a secret Muslim or Communist or Fascist, without even realizing that these are mutually exclusive belief systems. Views on death panels and national euthanasia programs persist. Some gun enthusiasts believe that there is a secret plan to forcibly seize all weapons in midnight raids around America.
I might think that this is all laughably sad if it were not distracting so much from changes that are critical to our healthcare system. If left untouched, the crisis will widen and the health of our people, of our children will decline. America is better than that.