An open letter to my anti-life members of Congress

Me and Mike on his wedding day.

Dear Sen. Burr, Sen. Tillis and Rep. Meadows:

You know me.

You know me because for the last nine years I have hounded you and others about the importance of access to health care.

I have hounded you because nine years ago yesterday, I got a call that every parent dreads.

It was about 9:45 a.m., and I was on my way to work.

“Mom,” he said, “the cancer’s back. There’s nothing they can do. I might have a few weeks, maybe a few months.”

It was as though I had been punched in the chest, full force, by a very strong man.

“How do I begin to say goodbye to everyone?” he asked.

The next six weeks are etched on my heart, burned into it like a cattleman’s brand.

I am forced to relive the death of my child because he couldn’t get access to health care.

He was uninsured, not because he was lazy — he was as hard a worker as anyone I’ve ever known. He was a full-time student, working in a restaurant and volunteering with his 12-step group to help other people get and stay sober.

But a birth defect — one that left him vulnerable to colon cancer — was a pre-existing condition, so no insurance company would sell him a policy. Without insurance, he was unable to get the cancer screenings he needed, and of course, he developed cancer.

He went to the Emergency Room when he got sick. He went three times and left with the wrong diagnoses, the wrong medicines and a bill because the ER only has to stabilize patients. I’ll bet you know that when you tell people they have access to care there when they really don’t. My son was given laxatives and pain pills when the problem was a malignant tumor blocking his colon.

By the time anyone did anything for him, he was vomiting fecal matter. Can you imagine that?

No, I guess not. You and your families have access to care whenever you need it.

By the time he got any care, it was too late to save his life. He was forced to leave his wife to get Medicaid. It took 37 months for his disability to be approved — he was dead nine days before his first check came.

Michael was lucky because the many people who loved him did all we could to make sure he had a place to live and food and clothing — and even a few little luxuries like a cell phone.

But all the love and support he had weren’t enough to save his life — all because insurance companies wanted to protect their profits.

My son died on April 1, 2008. I sat beside him, his hand in mine, as he breathed his last.

I had believed I would die when he did. I couldn’t imagine that my heart would continue to beat after his stopped.

But there I was, heart beating, lungs inhaling and exhaling. I was too devastated to cry.

Have you ever had that happen? Something so horrible that you can’t even cry because you’re so paralyzed? It’s not something I would wish on anyone — even you.

So I decided I would work to make sure everyone — not just every citizen, but every human being — gets access to health care.

We managed to make some progress with the Affordable Care Act. Some 32 million Americans have gained access, saving tens of thousands of lives every year, and now you want to repeal that law.

And you still call yourselves “pro-life,” and “Christian.” You are neither, and I pray you will face judgment for your crimes.

Since it’s unlikely you’ll ever lose a child the way I did, let me tell you what it’s like.

I would give my own life to have him back in the world. I so miss those late-night phone calls that began with, “Hi Mom, I knew you’d still be up.”

I miss the calls that started, “When are people going to learn to fucking drive?” when he was stuck in traffic.

I miss having him in the kitchen, eating an entire loaf of fresh-baked bread with the proclamation, “The only thing wrong with this bread is that it’s not at my house!”

I miss watching cooking shows with him, punctuated with, “Oh, you know what?” which was followed by an idea for a recipe. We both wrote a lot of recipes. I had hoped we would write a cookbook together someday.

I miss slapping his hand away from the turkey and stuffing on Thanksgiving, and I miss him emptying the entire gravy boat onto his plate so I had to refill it for the rest of us.

I miss how much he loved his wife and his nieces and nephew, his brother, his many, many friends, and me.

I cry most days because the pain of losing him hasn’t gotten any better. On our shared birthday, I go with a friend to where we scattered his ashes and I sing Happy Birthday to me, while my friend tries to drown me out singing it to him. I miss that Michael and I used to sing it that way.

See, I told him he could have the birthday when I was done with it. It was a joke on each of the 33 birthdays he had before we were robbed of his life by a broken health care policy.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that I was advised to have an abortion when I was pregnant with him, but I CHOSE not to. I am much more pro-life than you are because I believe life is sacred even after it exits the birth canal.

Now you’re talking about repealing the ACA, which would condemn tens of thousands of Americans to slow and painful deaths. It would condemn tens of thousands of families to suffer the same loss mine has.

But you don’t care about that because your friends profit so much more when people suffer the way my child did.

I have a fantasy: You know the passage in the Gospel of Matthew, where Jesus sorts the people in to goats on his left and lambs on his right?

I have a fantasy of you walking in and confidently sitting among the lambs, only to have Jesus say, “Excuse me, you’re in the wrong seats. You belong over there on the left. I was sick and you told me I was lazy because I didn’t have a job with insurance. I was hungry and you voted to take away my food stamps and then you voted to keep my wages too low to be able to afford decent food and shelter.”

Then you say, “But we never saw you sick or hungry …”

This is where Jesus cuts you off and points to my son and the tens of thousands of others like him.

“Whatever you did to them, you did also to me.”

Sincerely,
Your constituent, Leslie Boyd

 

 

We have crossed the line into an uncivil society

Rachel Alexander was one of the 102 victims of Sunday's massacre in Orlando. She faces mounds of medical bills.

Rachel Alexander was one of the 102 victims of Sunday’s massacre in Orlando. She faces mounds of medical bills.

Rachel Alexander is one of 53 surviving gunshot victims from Sunday’s massacre at Pulse, an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Fla., and she has another problem — finding a way to pay what will be massive medical bills.

It wasn’t enough that she was targeted because she frequented a business that caters to LGBT people; now she faces lifelong debt or bankruptcy because the state where she lives has chosen to not expand Medicaid, and even if she does have insurance, the deductibles and co-pays will be massive.

In other words, not only can we as a nation do nothing about gun violence; we can’t do a damn thing about access to health care, either.

The money from the Gun Lobby has been used to bribe Congress into total inaction on access to guns, and the money from Big Pharma and Big Insurance has prevented adequate access to medical care for millions of Americans, especially in states like Florida.

The Affordable Care Act provided some badly needed insurance reform, but it left the insurance companies intact and still in charge. It provided insurance coverage to some 22 million Americans, but because the Supreme Court voted to reject the mandate for states to expand Medicaid, it left another 22 million Americans uninsured, and millions more with insurance plans they can’t afford to use because of high deductibles and co-pays.

If you’re in your mid-20s, as many of the victims were, and you work an entry-level job, that $5,000 deductible you have to meet before you start getting benefits might as well be $5 million.

The 102 people who were shot by a religious zealot (and, according to some, a self-loathing gay man), who despite being on the no-fly list was able to buy an AK-15, were victims of a society that cares not at all about human lives, and now the 53 survivors face choosing between a lifetime of debt and bankruptcy.

If you’re not outraged by this, you’re part of the problem.

If you think we don’t need to do something about access to guns, you have bought into the hate and malice being peddled by the NRA and others.

If you don’t want your tax money to go to paying for health care for everyone, and you consider yourself a Christian, a Muslim or a Jew, go back and read your scripture because all three sacred texts talk about loving and caring for each other. Nowhere do any of these texts tell us to adopt an I-got-mine-get-your-own attitude.

If your member of Congress is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Gun Lobby, Big Pharma and/or Big Insurance and you vote for him or her anyway, you are part of the problem. If you don’t vote, you are part of the problem.

We have crossed a line here, and I think it was after Sandy Hook, when we failed to do anything about access to guns. We are no longer a civilized society. We are devolving into chaos.

It’s long past time to fix this. We must pass sensible gun laws. We must offer universal access to health care.

To do this, people of conscience must vote. We must vote in every election, in every race. We must demand better or we never will return to being a civilized society.

If you want to help Rachel, you can visit her Go Fund Me account at www.gofundme.com/laurawillprevaill.  To donate to a fund for all the victims, visit www.gofundme.com/PulseVictimsFund.

If you don’t know how to reach your member of Congress, visit www.house.gov/representatives/find/.

Two huge decisions

 

aca

Last night, for what seems the millionth time since my son died from medical neglect, I cried myself to sleep. But the tears were different this time. Mixed with feelings of loss were feelings of gratitude that the Affordable Care Act is finally safe from the wolves on the Right.

In fact, in his opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts pretty much scolded opponents, telling them the law will not be overturned unless Congress is able to do it.

Then today, in an opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Court upheld the right of any two consenting adults to marry. My tears were strictly tears of joy this time.

From Justice Kennedy’s decision:
“The history of marriage is one of both continuity and change.
“Changes, such as the decline of arranged marriages and the abandonment of the law of coverture, have worked deep transformations in the structure of marriage, affecting aspects of marriage once viewed as essential. These new insights have strengthened, not weakened, the institution. Changed understandings of marriage are characteristic of a Nation where new dimensions of freedom become apparent to new generations.”

rainbow flag

I wish I was home in Asheville tonight for the party, but I will do my celebrating here in New Jersey with friends.

The screamers on the right have gotten it wrong again, and in both these cases, their defeat is complete.

The people who call themselves “pro-life,” but assert that it was OK for 45,000 Americans to die each year from lack of access to health care, can go away now.

Of course, the first reaction from House Speaker John Boehner was that he will keep trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act. I imagine the haters will try to pass a Constitutional Amendment again, defining marriage in their own narrow view, but that won’t happen. Too many people get it that we all deserve the freedom to marry the person we love.

Too many people understand that the Affordable Care Act is saving tens of thousands of lives a year, even as opponents continue to block Medicaid expansion in nearly half the states. That, by the way, is causing the deaths of 17,000 Americans a year.

While that’s a lot better than we were doing, it is still 17,000 human beings. That’s the same as wiping an entire small town off the map. You can’t say that’s OK and continue to be credible when you call yourself pro-life.

Justice Scalia huffed and puffed over the Affordable Care Act decision, calling it “pure applesauce.” I don’t think he’s happy about being a relic, and I would think Justice Thomas may realize his status as a relic of a more hateful time any day now.

I have friends and family who are getting health care now who couldn’t get it before the ACA, and they would have been booted out of coverage had the court ruled the other way. I would have lost coverage.

I also have friends whose marriages were affirmed by the decision on marriage equality. When my friends Bruce and Christopher were married this year after more than 20 years together, I wept through the entire ceremony. Christopher said he could hear me sobbing on the video, and he loved it.

It may well be the most joyous wedding I ever attended.

Thank you, SCOTUS, for getting it so right two days in a row. I never thought I’d be able to say that about this court, but there you go. Miracles happen.

 

 

 

 

At least I’m not alone

Michael, age 3, playing with his food.

Michael, age 3, playing with his food.

This is a hard time of year for me. Tomorrow is Mike Day, the anniversary of my son’s death.

I think he chose April 1 to go; he was a proud jackass. He loved turning things upside-down and inside-out for a good laugh. His best friend, James, eulogized him as a jackass and everyone laughed and applauded.

I don’t know why this doesn’t get any easier. I honestly thought that after seven ears I would miss him a little less, that the edges would have worn off the pain, but that’s not so. I think of him every day, sometimes every hour, and on days near the anniversary of his death, it’s more like every moment.

At least I’m not alone.

I’m not talking about the friends and family who have stood by me and held me up, although I treasure them; I’m talking about the hundreds of thousands of others whose family members and friends have died the way Mike did.

Before the Affordable Care Act, the death toll was 45,000 a year, and each one was loved by somebody. Each person was adored by friends and family.

The death toll is lower now — about 17,000 a year in states that have refused to expand Medicaid.

Marketing people tell us we need to use the phrase, “close the coverage gap,” but that doesn’t say it any better than “expand Medicaid.”

How about this? It’s time to stop this immoral and inhuman killing of people just because they can’t help enrich insurance companies and Big Pharma.

Or, this for all the “Christians” who think we don;t need to ensure access to care for everyone: Who would Jesus turn away?

And for those of you who are “pro-life,” but think that doesn’t include access to health care: You are most decidedly NOT pro-life, even though you have tried to make the definition only about abortion.

chose not to have an abortion when I was advised to do so, and you “pro-lifers” did nothing to help him get the care he needed after he was born.

You are not pro-life.

Maybe if I was alone, if my son’s case was an aberration, it would be easier.

But my friend, Lila suffers every day because she can’t get insurance. The pain she endures makes it impossible for her to work full-time, and without that income she is eligible for neither premium subsidies nor Medicaid.

My friend, Crystal, is just 30 years old and the mother of two. She has cervical cancer and can’t get treatment because even though she works, she can’t get insurance or Medicaid. She’ll likely die the way my son did, and she will leave behind two orphaned children.

If their lives don’t matter to you, you are not pro-life.

If their lives do matter, you need to do something about it. Our state legislators say the people don’t want to care for the poor because they’re lazy bums.

What they don’t tell you is that 88 percent of people living in poverty have low-wage jobs. And in this so-called economic recovery, most of the jobs being created are low-wage. Fully one-third of people in poverty have two full-time workers in the home and still live below the poverty level.

We need to call and visit our legislators and tell them they’re going home in 2016 if we don;t have expanded Medicaid by then. And then you need to work hard for the candidate who will expand access to health care.

We did it here in Buncombe County. We sent home Tim Moffitt and Nathan Ramsey and replaced them with people who will vote to close the coverage gap, expand Medicaid, stop the senseless and immoral carnage — however you want to phrase it.

My precious son has been gone seven years. I had hoped we would have made more progress by now.

 

The very definition of insanity

A definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and over again, each time expecting a different result.

Well, House Republicans have voted 41 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and the law is still in place.

In desperation, the GOP shut down government, trying to de-fund the law and make it impossible to implement.

That didn’t work either, although it did cost us $24 billion, according to a Standard & Poor estimate.

So now, what’s the plan?

Well, Ted Cruz, the freshman senator from Texas, says he wants to shut down the government again.

And here at home in NC Congressional District 11, our representative, Mark Meadows, has been called the architect of the shutdown because, back in August, he reportedly wrote the letter calling for the shutdown unless “Obamacare” was de-funded.

Economist Steve Morse of Western Carolina University said the shutdown cost people in this district about $1 million a day in lost tourism revenues.

October is the busiest time of year here because of the changing leaves and mild climate, and the shutdown cost people in the tourism industry half their October business.

Meadows has backpedaled on his insistence that the Affordable Care Act be de-funded, probably because people in this district were so angry at the closing of the national park and at his role in bringing about the shutdown (which he now denies, by the way).

So, perhaps Meadows now sees the folly in his obsessive hatred of the Affordable Care Act. His constituents don’t want to lose their businesses over it; they don’t want another government shutdown — hell, they didn’t want the first shutdown.

Cruz was elected because he claimed he could bring government to its knees, which he did, briefly.

Now he claims he wants to be president. Well, let him run and see how far he gets. The American people overwhelmingly disagree with his far-right stands and we are not amused by his antics.

Cruz could still cause trouble, but it’s doubtful he can orchestrate another shutdown and it’s even more doubtful he could take the White House.

Cruz has shown his hand and it’s a loser.

 

Hunker down, NC folks

Now, wait just a minute. What do you mean you'll just do what you want?

Now, wait just a minute. What do you mean you’ll just do what you want?

On Day One of the new legislative session in North Carolina, it’s clear who will be in charge of the asylum, and it’s not the governor.

I never thought of Pat McCrory as a moderate, but I suppose “moderate” is relative when you’re talking about the right-wing nuts in the General Assembly and their agenda.

I e-mailed McCrory last week and the week before, asking for him to agree to expand Medicaid. But now it appears that the nuts in the Assembly are considering a law that would make it illegal to comply with the federal Affordable Care Act.

Now, they can’t do that, of course. I mean, they can pass a law, but it won’t be legal because state law can’t supersede federal. Still, it sends the powerful message that these people are extremist and we won’t be able to reason with them.

What’s worse is that we’re stuck with them for the next two years because North Carolina has no provision for recalls.

And it’s not just anti-healthcare laws they want to promote; they want to enshrine the state’s regressive right-to-work laws in the Constitution the way they did with their anti-marriage-equality stance.

They want to reduce unemployment compensation to the point people who lose their jobs will have no means to pay their bills, even for a couple of months.

Apparently, they’re introducing these bills without even talking to Gov. McCrory.

I foresee a really nasty couple of years ahead, and I can only hope we can unseat the bastards then.

 

 

The GOP’s priorities

repealOK, so it’s the new Congress and there’s a lot of really urgent work to do. So, what do Michele Bachmann and her cronies do first? They try for the 34th time to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

No matter that they’ve tried 33 times and haven’t been able to succeed (thank God). No matter that they have fewer votes now than they did before the election. No matter that the American people want Congress to work on more urgent problems like getting aid to the victims of Hurricane Sandy or renewing the Violence Against Women Act. Nope, they have to make the statement that they’re just a bunch of spoiled, selfish children.

Apparently, 33 attempts at repeal using 80 hours of House time and costing taxpayers $43 million wasn’t enough for Bachmann et al; they have to keep trying to take away health reform.

Victims of the Sandy have waited 10 weeks now for some help and this hopelessly tired effort to repeal health care reform takes precedence. And this comes after House Speaker John Boehner shut down the 113th Congress without allowing a vote on relief for the victims of one of the worst storms in American history.

And when the House finally did take up relief for the people in New York and New Jersey who have lost everything, they didn’t vote on the entire $60 billion package; they only passed $9.7 billion, which allows FEMA to try to find housing for people who lost everything more than two months ago.

And dozens in the GOP even voted against that.

So, what will happen when the rest of the funding comes up for a vote on Jan. 15? Republicans will act as though Sandy victims somehow brought all this upon themselves and therefore don’t deserve the help.

That’s right, the victims of Hurricane Sandy are just a bunch of moochers looking for a free ride from the government, but their corporate friends deserve every break, even if it costs American lives.

And if votes mean priorities, the safety of women means nothing. The renewal of the Violence Against Women Act was never even brought up for a vote and one doesn’t appear likely anytime soon.

After all, we women are usually asking for it when we get beaten up and raped. We were sassy or we dressed wrong or otherwise provoked the poor men in our lives who aren’t supposed to control their own violent urges.

You knew he would get furious if you walked in front of the TV or if the baby cried when he was trying to nap. He told you a million times dinner has to be on the table by 6 and here it is 6:15. And where the hell did you drive the car? It has 100 more miles on it than it should. You know that pisses him off.

And women are fair game to satisfy a man’s sexual urges if they wear anything attractive or if they allow a man to buy them a drink or to kiss them. These girls were called “prick tease” when I was younger because they didn’t understand that boys have to go all the way if they start. They deserved what they got and apparently still do. Apparently, just crossing a horny man’s path is reason enough, and we ought to know better.

So, like the victims of Sandy — more than the victims of Sandy — we women get what we ask for, so we don’t need no stinkin’ laws to protect us.

Why the hell does the US House of Representatives have to spend good time and money on our safety when there’s health reform to repeal?

How’s that for priorities?

 

A victory for the people

Now that I’ve had a little time to breathe, let me say, “Whew!”

I was surprised to see the Affordable Care Act left intact and shocked to learn Chief Justice John Roberts was the swing vote.

I had agreed to participate in a press conference in Charlotte with Health Care for America Now and Action NC, so I was getting ready to leave the house when news of the decision came down.

I didn’t know whether to jump up and down hollering, “We won! We won! We won!” or cry, so I did a bit of both.

At the press conference, I told Mike’s story and I talked about how much I miss him. But I am overjoyed that other mothers won’t face the deaths of their children the way I did. I’m grateful that fewer people will suffer and die because they can’t get access to care.

When Dr. Herbert Hurwitz at Duke University Medical Center adopted Mike and gave us two more years with him, he asked that we write to our legislators and ask them to support access to quality health care for all Americans. I had already done that, but I wrote again. And I wrote some more. Then I did it again.

I felt Mike’s spirit with me when I heard the news. I felt like he was dancing around the family room with me. I was thrilled that 30 million more people will have access to health care thanks to this law, but at the same time, I wish I could have shared the moment with my son.

My son’s illness, his lack of ability to get insurance, or care when he got sick, and ultimately his death set me on a path of lifelong health care advocacy. Too many people say I’m being political about it, but this shouldn’t be political. This is about saving lives — some 45,000 or more of them each year. This is a moral issue because it is about saving human lives. How can anyone claim to be pro-life and be against providing health care to everyone?

How can you say you believe life is precious so you’re against abortion and then turn around and say my son didn’t deserve help?

How can you vilify the poor by calling them lazy bums when you’ve never sat down with them and heard their stories? Is it because opponents of health care reform are so afraid they might be caught between the cracks one day that they have to blame the victims to feel more secure in their own safety?

Mike’s story makes a lot of Tea Party people furious because he wasn’t a lazy bum (nor are most of the other people who are being denied care). I’ve been called a lot of nasty names — and so has Mike — by people who don’t want to admit that it could happen to anyone, including them. They don’t want the stories out there because the stories don’t go with their narrative and they don’t want to change their narrative. That would require disagreeing with what Fox News tells them to believe.

The only reason health care became so political is that big business has co-opted the political process.

People don’t seem to understand that their health care policy premiums have helped pay for this corruption of our system and that the new law will put a cap on the insurance industry’s ability to do that. They must spend 80 percent of the money we pay them on direct care now.

This law is a good start on the road to access to care for everyone, just as Medicare was supposed to be in 1965. The plan was that Medicare would slowly expand downward in age until everyone was covered. Since that never happened, this new path became necessary. It’s a bit of a round-about way to achieve the goal, but OK, I’ll work with it.

Today begins the work toward getting the other 21 million access to care. Let’s start by letting people buy into Medicare if they want.

 

Waiting and hoping for a miracle

Kelly and me in the Green Room of the Ed Shultz Show on MSNBC.

I have hoped for miracles before. Sometimes I’ve been disappointed, like when I could do nothing for my son as I watched him get sicker and sicker.

Then there’s my friend, Kelly Cuvar, who has had a rare form of cancer for 13 years. Pretty much everything about her is a miracle. Knowing her has made me believe miracles are possible.

Kelly has never been in remission. She is from Ohio (from John Boehner’s district, of all places), but she lives in New York, where she is able to get care for her disease.

But, she says, worrying about health care has caused her more angst than her cancer. What if she loses Medicaid? What if she had to find care on her own for some reason? What if the Supreme Court overturns the Affordable Care Act and Paul Ryan gets his way on Medicaid and Medicare?

Kelly and I don’t talk as often as I would like — we tend to keep up on Facebook and via e-mails these days. She’s pretty upbeat most days. Often, she’s downright irreverent. She has a right to be.

Kelly has said time and again that dealing with our broken health care system is more difficult than dealing with cancer. In most other countries, she wouldn’t have to worry about whether she would be thrown to the curb. In most other countries, she would get care. Period, end of discussion.

In the US, however, she never knows whether the doctor she’s seeing will stop accepting Medicaid, forcing her to find another doctor who will. Her well-being depends on which way the political, and lately, judicial, winds will blow.

Every decision she makes about her life revolves around her health care. It determines whether she’ll marry (she can’t now), where she’ll live, whether she can work (she can’t) … Just about every decision most of us make without thinking, Kelly has to make with an eye to whether it will affect her health care. Worrying about her care causes her more distress than her illness, Kelly says.

Kelly and I were fellow travelers along the road to getting the Affordable Care Act passed. We met in Washington, DC, when we both went there for rallies and lobbying. I carried my picture of Mike; Kelly carried her cane. We realized very quickly that we share a similar twisted sense of humor and the guts to speak truth to power.

When the ACA passed, Kelly and I were on the phone to each other, laughing and crying.

Sure, the law didn’t give us everything we wanted, but it was a start and we vowed to continue working to improve the system. We had won a battle, but there would be more and we knew it then. We would work for a public option, for the ability to buy into Medicare. Someday, insurance companies will have competition and people will be able to gain access to the care they need.

We didn’t believe we might have to start from scratch, though, and if the Supreme Court overturns the law, we’re back to Square One.

Kelly has cancer and I’ll turn 60 later this year. Neither of us has unlimited time. But neither of us is willing to give up, either.

No matter what the Supreme Court decides, Kelly and I will keep advocating for access to quality care for all Americans. Getting sick shouldn’t mean having to choose between bankruptcy and death.

If the ACA is upheld, Kelly will be able to buy insurance in 2014, as will others who have had cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, acne … all the things the free market has used to deny insurance coverage to people. We will be able to go to the doctor with the assurance that our needs will be met.

Some 20 million people will remain uninsured, however, and Kelly and I will continue to fight for improvements to the system. We may get tired because she’s sick and I’m old, but we won’t quit. I assure you, we’re in this for the whole race.

It may take a miracle, but Kelly and I have seen miracles; we believe in them.

 

 

The myth of government dysfunction

By my friend and former colleague Matt Davies.

As a Supreme Court announcement on the Affordable Care Act nears, the volume on the rhetoric is rising almost to the pitch it was before President Obama signed the bill into law. House Speaker John Boehner is promising to eviscerate the law if it is upheld so that President Obama won’t be able to boast about success during the coming election season. GOP nominee Mitt Romney is denying he had anything to do with the Massachusetts plan on which the federal law is based. He now says he would work to repeal the ACA.

So, what about the good of the American people? Is our current “system” really worth defending? Are we really OK with more than 45,000 unnecessary deaths a year and hundreds of thousands of bankruptcies because of massive medical bills?

Big Insurance is fighting anything that will pinch its profits, and the GOP spin machine is talking about how the ACA will remove all control of their health care from people, and how the system will drown in an avalanche of paperwork.

But over here on the left with the ghost of Ted Kennedy, we’re talking about how to expand coverage, possibly to single-payer.

Here’s a little truth for you: Medicare spends 97 percent of its funds on direct services; health insurance companies are whining about having to spend 80 percent of the money they take in from customers on care. Why? Because of executive pay and bonuses, lobbying, advertising, marketing.

Here’s another uncomfortable fact for the right: Since 1970, the number of physicians has less than doubled, while administrators’ jobs have grown by about 3,200 percent, according to figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics. Those administrators work for insurance companies and for doctors’ offices, mainly because doctors need so much help coping with the different forms, codes and requirements of each insurance company. In the US, we spend more than $700 per person on health care administration than they do in Canada, which has a national system.

About 31 percent of everything we spend on health care goes to this administrative mess, and the worst of it comes from the private sector. Under an improved Medicaid-for-all system, bills would go to one place; forms and codes would be universal instead of having a different set for each of dozens of companies.

If everyone has the same coverage, there will be no tricks to deny people coverage, such as denying a claim for a colonoscopy because it was done in a doctor’s office instead of a free-standing clinic.

Doctors and patients can make decisions based on the needs of the patient, not on what the insurance company will or will not pay for. The bureaucrats who interfere with doctor-patient decisions work for the insurance companies, not the people.

A nurse complained to me a couple years ago that she was on the telephone with a Medicare representative for almost two hours as they tried to come up with a code that would pay for what the patient needed.

I told her a private insurance company would have denied the care and hung up, and she agreed that likely would have been the case. The bureaucrats in the government might be somewhat burned out, but they aren’t eligible for a bonus just for denying you care.

We could save somewhere between 45,000 and 101,000 lives every year because we all would have access to appropriate health care, not to mention the money saved by managing chronic illnesses so they don’t become crisis care.

Insurance companies are spending billions to avoid letting everyone have access to care because there’s no money in it for them.

We are the only one of the so-called wealthy nations that does not see health care as a basic human right.

No matter what the Supreme Court decides in June, we all need to demand a better solution — one that puts people before corporate profits.

 

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