Tag Archive for health care
No longer content to just badmouth and vilify hardworking Americans, it seems the right has started actively trying to kill them.
In NC, the legislature has voted to deny 600,000 people access to health care by refusing to expand Medicaid, even though it would bring down billions in federal dollars and create 25,000 jobs, not to mention save lives.
This move will mean more suffering among the more than half-million people who can’t gain access to health care. We’re talking about more heart attacks and strokes, more complications from diabetes — kidney failure, blindness, limb amputations — more advanced cancers, more intractable mental illnesses, more asthma emergencies … the list goes on.
The legislature’s choice of a twisted ideology over compassion and decency will increase medical costs and people will still suffer and die unnecessarily.
And if you’ve been unlucky enough to have your job shipped overseas, that’s too bad too because the legislature has voted to overhaul unemployment insurance by slashing benefits and the amount of time people are eligible to receive them. North Carolina now has the shortest compensation time in the country — in some cases just 12 weeks.
Not to mention that when people lose their jobs they also lose their health benefits, but our legislators don’t care about that.
My inbox is full of e-mails begging me to sign one petition or another to prevent the North Carolina GOP from de-funding education, raping the environment, rigging taxes so the rich pay less and the rest of us pay more, punishing workers for wanting to make a living wage, making a naked power grab by firing everyone on state regulatory commissions …
I can’t keep up with it all, and that’s just in North Carolina.
In Washington, the GOP is still refusing to cooperate with anything the President wants to do.
They’re filibustering against Chuck Hagel’s appointment as Secretary of Defense; they’re saying they’ll block a minimum wage increase, they’re slowing down gun safety laws, and the House GOP is still trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
I’m exhausted from e-mailing and calling and traveling to try and get these people to listen to reason about the Medicaid expansion, but I’m just met with a stone wall. My own representative doesn’t answer my e-mails, not does Gov. Pat McCrory.
McCrory did answer an e-mail from my friend, Eileen McMinn, though. He sent her a form e-mail asking if she would donate money to him.
They’re ignoring us, and I suppose they have reason to believe they can get away with it because we seem to be lying down and playing dead.
How many of us have e-mailed, called or snail-mailed our state representatives or governor over these issues? How about our federal representatives? Have we thanked the ones who are doing the right thing? I e-mailed Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican, to thank him for voting in favor of the Violence Against Women Act.
There’s a lot at stake here. You may not think you’ll ever need Medicaid, but if your job gets shipped overseas and you get just $350 a week for 12 weeks, what then? How long can you keep making house and car payments? What if you get sick on top of all that?
We are all at risk here, and we all need to take action. Democracy is participatory. If we don’t participate — and by that I mean becoming educated about the issues and voting according to our convictions — this is what we get.
If you don’t know who your representative is in the US House, visit www.hoismyrepresentative.com.
If you don’t know who your state senators or representatives are, you can visit www.ncleg.net or call your county’s board of elections.
If you’re one of those who say, “I’m just not interested in politics,” shame on you! You’re part of the reason we’re in this mess.
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.
See, Mitt believes people can get the care they need at the emergency room and that they won’t get a bill.
Wrong and wrong, Mitt.
My son’s story is proof.
Mike was born with a birth defect that left him vulnerable to colon cancer — a pre-existing condition. Since no company would sell him health insurance at any price, he was left to fend for himself. It wasn’t a matter of wrong choices as those on the Right would like to believe; it was a matter of no choices for him.
He tried the emergency room four times. But they don’t have to find the cause of your problems, they only have to address the symptoms, in Mike’s case, pain and constipation. So Mike was sent home with the wrong medications and a bill four times. By the time anyone was willing to do anything for him, the cancer had spread and it was too late to save his life.
People need to know Mitt Romney is wrong, especially since he’s been repeating the emergency room lie a lot lately.
So, I stood with other protesters across from the line of people waiting to get in. One man jeeringly asked me what emergency room had turned my son away, so I told him. It was Memorial Health Center in Savannah, Ga. He sneered at me and turned away, so I went closer to the line. A police officer started to step in front of me and I told him I had no plans to cause trouble.
“Excuse me,” I said to the man. “I see you have a son. You need to know that the emergency room only has to stabilize someone. It’s not a solution.”
He sneered at me again and turned away.
“I do what I do so your child won’t die the way mine did,” I said as he walked away.
One woman read my sign and looked me in the eye.
“Do you have children?” I asked.
“I do,” she said. “But I take care of them.”
Does she really think my son died because I failed to take care of him? I wanted to tell her how desperately I tried to get help for him and how deep into debt I went doing it. I wanted to tell her how much I loved him and how pissed off I was when his heart stopped and mine didn’t. I wanted to tell her how I still cry almost every day because my heart is still so shattered.
But I just stood there, shocked at her answer, as she walked away.
Several people laughed at me. They looked at my sign and laughed. I asked a few of them why they would laugh.
“What about this is funny?” I asked. But they walked away.
A reporter asked me how I felt as he watched it happen.
“It comes from fear, I think,” I said.
Very few of the people in line yesterday are more than six months away from poverty. What if they lost their jobs and could only find part-time work that didn’t have health benefits? Then what would happen if they got sick? If it’s true that the emergency room isn’t the solution, then what happens to them?
So, as a self-defense mechanism, they have to believe it can only happen to people who make “wrong choices.” Looking at my son’s photo and hearing his story bursts that bubble unless you dismiss it with a nervous laugh and walk away.
Then there was the woman who caused me to lose my cool.
“You need to read your Bible,” she hollered, pointing at me.
“I do read it,” I said.
“You’re a liar!” she jeered.
“Who would Jesus deny?” I yelled back. The police officer in front of me stepped away as though he was hoping I’d slap her miserable face.
“Do you think God let him die because I didn’t pray enough?” I yelled. “Tell me! Who would Jesus deny?”
I took a deep breath and stepped back in among the protesters, ashamed that I had allowed someone to get to me like that.
Getting angry at mean, spiteful, self-righteous, ignorant people doesn’t do the cause of health care for everyone and justice.
But she got to me. How dare she think that I didn’t care enough about my son to do all I could? How dare she judge my level of religious faith?
Looking back on it, though, I have to believe she is one scared, ignorant and helpless-feeling human being. I don’t believe anyone can be that mean without some fear and helplessness mixed in.
The ones that get me the most are the lies about health care reform, or “Obamacare.” The latest one repeats the lie that the law will cut Medicare services by $716 billion. It will not. That is an out-and-out lie. No matter how many times they repeat it, it still will be a lie.
The Affordable Care act does NOT cut services for seniors. In fact, services should improve.
- As of Oct. 1, hospitals will be fined if Medicate patients are discharged and then readmitted within 30 days.
- The Affordable Care Act closes the prescription “doughnut hole” for seniors.
- Seniors now get their annual checkups with no out-of-pocket costs.
- It cuts millions of dollars to private, corporate-run “Medicare Advantage” plans, which are more expensive for seniors anyway.
There’s more, but you get the drift. The $716 billion number is actually the estimated amount that will be SAVED by taxpayers over the next 10 years by the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
And as for the “death panels,” that un-elected board will only be gathering data to ascertain the most efficient and effective treatments for various illnesses and disabilities. No one’s actually been doing that.
For example, one hospital in Utah studied treatments for prostate cancer in older men and found that aggressive treatment in older men actually results in worse outcomes than the “watchful waiting” tactic.
The board will not have the authority to limit any treatments but instead will allow doctors to inform patients of the efficacy of various treatments. That’s information I want to have, don’t you?
And yes, Obamacare does raise taxes on prescription drug makers, whose profits are obscene and who are not re-investing those profits back into research. We are the only country in the industrialized world that doesn’t regulate drug prices. I think the least we can do is make these companies pay their fair share in taxes.
So, there you have it, the truth about that flyer you got in the mail yesterday. If you want to know more, go to www.healthcare.gov. The truth is there for you to read.
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.
I drove some winter tents and heaters from a military tent surplus store near my house to Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC, last week. As I was in the office arranging to have my U-Haul loaded, a man came in, cap in hand, and asked if the company was hiring.
“We might be soon,” the woman said. “But it’s really hard, heavy work.”
The man looked to be in his 40s.
“That’s OK,” he said. “I can do that. I’ll do anything.”
He hadn’t worked in a year, and because the job he had before that — setting up mobile homes — was as an independent contractor, he wasn’t collecting unemployment benefits.
That’s a trick contractors play often. You can work for the same place for years, be there on time every day and work hard, and still not be able to collect when you get canned. They avoid paying benefits and they avoid having any responsibility if something happens to you.
The man had applied to several home center stores, but was turned away because he had bad credit. That’s right, Home Depot does a credit check on you when you apply for a job and then turns you away if your score is too low.
He’ll stop back in at the tent surplus company and maybe they’ll have a job for him. They won’t do a credit check, either.
It stiffened my resolve to stay involved with the Occupy Movement, and to be more involved with the one here in Asheville.
The 1 percent is getting out its big guns to get rid of us, though. Reportedly, the federal Department Homeland Security has been advising mayors on conference calls about how to break up the camps. Here in Asheville, ours has moved a couple of times and dozens of people have been arrested.
Occupy is not going away, no matter how many camps are broken up. We will gather elsewhere. We will gather on private property if we have to — there are churches and other organizations that support what we are doing. We will continue to educate people about the many ways the 1 percent is screwing us. We will continue to have direct actions.
This movement is not fading away as the media would have us believe. There were more tents in Freedom Plaza when I was there than there were when I left six weeks ago, and McPherson Square is even more crowded. Both camps have received notice that they will be broken up, but neither is moving. No one is afraid of being arrested because we all are committed to making meaningful change.
The media keep demanding a list of demands. We keep telling them what’s happening to Americans and they say we’re unfocused. Perhaps it seems that way because there are so many things wrong. We all have our favorite issues — I have worked toward quality health care for all Americans, others have worked for a living wage, safe and affordable housing, labor rights, education, mental health and disability rights, a cleaner environment and a move toward sustainable and renewable energy sources. None of us has made much headway on any of these justice issues. The 1 percent’s corrupt money is like a brushfire. No sooner do we put it out in one place than another flame pops up.
Under the banner of the Occupy movement, we are working together now, and we are not going away.
Today was Sunday and everyone who had come to say goodbye to Mike was leaving. We had Justin and Amanda, friends from Raleigh, James and Janet, Janet’s mom, Mike’s cousin, Christina. Kristy and Kathleen stopped by to make me take a few minutes for myself, and just as I got out of the hot tub, a neighbor I’d never met before came to the door to complain about all the cars parked along the street.
“You can’t have people all over the place like that,” she said. “It’s unsafe. I have to drive on this street, you know.”
I told her the people were here to say goodbye to my son, who would die in a few days and then the street would be more convenient for her. I wanted to really lash out at her.
Who the hell was she to come to my door and complain about having to drive more carefully when my son was dying? Couldn’t she have asked whether everything was OK first? The cars had been there on and off since Mike came home to die 10 days earlier. It was obvious we weren’t partying.
Well, maybe it was a party — a goodbye party for Mike.
She asked if there was anything she could do. I figured she had done enough, so I just asked her to drive carefully.
I relive these last few days every year. Friday — April Fool’s Day — will be three years without his maniacal laugh and his practical jokes, our late-into-the-night talks, his nagging as I cooked that I was doing something wrong and his total pleasure at the result anyway.The only thing wrong with my bread was that it wasn’t at his house.
Three years since we went into Great Smokies National Park with our cameras or watched Star Trek while we nibbled dark chocolate and talked about food.
Three years since he and Danny and Rob — rabid Yankees fans all — teased me about being a Red Sox fan.
Three years since I heard him say, “Love you, Mom.”
Mike was a Mama’s boy; he would tell you that as soon as he met you. We shared a birthday and we shared a wicked sense of humor, which we both got from my father — his hero.
As Mike battled and conquered addiction and then faced cancer with courage, grace and humor, he became my hero.
Three years ago tomorrow, the night before he died, he told me he was having a good time here with me.
I figure if he could be having a good time then, I should never complain again about anything.
But I do complain because I don’t think it’s fair that he was denied health care until it was too late to save his life. I think it’s wrong that he had to nearly starve to death before anything was done to help him. Twice in less than a year, and then they failed to treat a life-threatening infection.
If Dr. Herb Hurwitz at Duke hadn’t agreed to see him, he would have died from that infection. Dr. Hurwitz gave us two more years with him.
I think it’s immoral that no one even apologized for the way he was neglected.
I hate how big the hole is my heart is since he died.
I wish I had died instead.
Three years, and we’ve made so little progress in getting affordable quality health care for everyone. People are still fighting it and opponents are still spreading lies about it. The media still covers the lies as though they were truth.
Three years and 135,000 more Americans have died just the way Mike did, and there’s still no national outrage.
Every year now, I relive those last days with him.
Today was Sunday and I had two more days with him.
I’m Leslie Boyd. As a newspaper reporter for more than a quarter century, I saw and told the stories of real people in real situations who were being held down by systems that worked against them.
In 1983, it was Jeannie Alkema, a woman in Passaic County, NJ, with debilitating multiple sclerosis who was being cared for in her home. Her 12-year-old son suffered nightmares of his mother being put in a nursing home and him being placed in foster care. It was less expensive to care for Jeannie in her home than in a nursing home, but one day she called me in a panic and said the Department of Social Services was going to cut off her home care. Her son’s nightmare was about to become reality.
I called the DSS director and told him I was working on a front-page story about the mess( which I was, if she was going to be sent to a nursing home) and he knew nothing about it. A few minutes later, though, he called me back and said it had been a computer glitch and Jeannie and her son would continue to get services at home.
My father, also a newspaper reporter, loved when he was able to right a wrong, to help people caught up in systems that were harming them.
I called what I did – writing about social justice issues by telling the stories of real people – advocacy journalism.
In 1992, I started writing about the health care crisis when a woman I knew told me she would be in debt for the rest of her life because she had thyroid cancer and had to pay for her treatments out-of-pocket. President Clinton had just been elected and was promising to help the then-16 million uninsured get access to quality health care.
His efforts were defeated by the health care industry, which didn’t want any controls in place.
Then, at the end of 2005, my son, Mike Danforth, got sick. He had a birth defect that left him very vulnerable to colon cancer. That being a pre-existing condition meant Mike couldn’t get insurance at any price, so he couldn’t get the colonoscopies he needed. The gastroenterologist wouldn’t even let Mike pay over time – he insisted on having the full price up front.
Mike and his wife, Janet, were students. They didn’t have $2,500 or more to pay, so Mike didn’t get his colonoscopies, and in December of 2005, he got sick. He couldn’t keep food down and he had abdominal pain. Still, he couldn’t get a colonoscopy. His doctor wrote in Mike’s medical record that Mike needed a colonoscopy but couldn’t afford it and then suggested Mike should get financial counseling.
Mike went to the emergency room several times and was given laxatives, pain killers and antibiotics, but he continued to get worse.
The doctor finally agreed to do a colonoscopy, but he never told Mike the results: “couldn’t finish procedure; next time use (pediatrics) scope.”
Mike’s colon was blocked. His life was in danger and his doctor just sent him home.
The next time Mike saw the doctor, a couple weeks later, he was vomiting fecal matter and his organs were shutting down. Mike, who was 6 feet tall, weighed just 112 pounds. He was admitted to Memorial Health Center Hospital in Savannah.
It took doctors five days to stabilize Mike so he could have surgery. By then his cancer was stage 3; it had spread to 11 of 13 lymph nodes.
Mike got chemo and radiation through a charity in Savannah, where he lived and was neglected, but the radiation caused a new blockage. This time his doctors let him get down to 104 pounds before they did anything, and the only reason they did was because we were going to take it the media.
The pathology report found “a few viable cells,” and they just gave up. No one from oncology ever even came to talk to him, and his doctor failed to treat a life-threatening infection in his surgical incision.
Fortunately for Mike, his life was extended when I got him a consultation with Dr. Herbert Hurwitz at Duke University Medical Center. He took one look at Mike, and knowing Mike would be dead in a few weeks if he was sent back to Savannah, Dr. Hurwitz “adopted” him.
Mike still needed Medicaid for his chemo, though, and he and Janet had to split so he could get it. He applied for disability but was turned down twice. He was finally approved in March 2008, but he died at age 33 on April 1, 2008, nine days before his first check came.
We used the bulk payment to pay off the debt we incurred supporting Mike for three years while he waited for disability.
In July 2009, I left the newspaper to do real advocacy. I founded Life o’ Mike as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit so I can stand up for what’s right and try to help people get the care they need. I tell Mike’s story and the stories of others who are suffering because Americans don’t think health care should be a basic human right.
Americans desperately need to be told the truth, but Big Insurance – and Big Media – prefer to keep people in the dark; that’s where they operate best – in the dark.
It’s up to progressives – liberals – to stand up and tell the truth and to work for social justice – living wages, safe, affordable homes, health care, education, consumer safety, food safety and more.
We have our work cut out for us.