Nobody “just wants a handout.” Nobody.

I will continue to tell my son’s story because no one — no one — should die the way he did. This was almost a year ago, hours after Rev. Barber and I were arrested for refusing to leave the General Assembly Building until we had been allowed to exercise our Constitutional right in North Carolina to speak to lawmakers about expanding Medicaid. 

Ten years ago today was my first day of life without my precious son. It has been difficult every moment of every day. I live on the verge of tears almost constantly.
I have been and will continue to be very public with my grief because Mike’s is far from the only story of death by denial of health care. We got the Affordable Care Act passed, but opponents are still trying to get rid of it, to go back to the days of killing people like my son because they can’t turn him into a profit-maker. He was denied care until his cancer had spread. That’s when he could turn a profit for Big Pharma. Taxpayers couldn’t spend $1,000 a year to prevent his cancer, but when Big Pharma could make a profit off him, taxpayers were forced to pay more than a half million dollars for his chemo.
Go ahead, call me a conspiracy theorist, but you won’t change my mind.
Here’s what you need to know if your heart aches for me and the hundreds of thousands of Americans whose loved ones have died and continue to die the same way he did and who endure the same pain I do:
Profit-mongers are still trying to kill the poor, the elderly and people with disabilities.
The Republicans’ “health care” bill takes money from Medicaid, the federal insurance program for poor people and people with disabilities. If you think Medicaid is for people who “just want a handout,” think again. Medicaid pays the bills for people who live in nursing homes and for people who live with disabilities. For those who have it, Medicaid is a lifeline.
But the income limits are so low that even disability can put a person over the top and leave them without access to health care for two years, until Medicare kicks in. That’s right, Medicare doesn’t kick in for 24 months after a person begins to receive disability payments. I’ve known people who have fallen into that loophole, and some of them die from lack of care.
Remember, my son, who had no job and was too sick to work, still had to leave his wife to get Medicaid, and his disability took 37 months to be approved. His first check came nine days after he died.
He never wanted a goddamn handout, OK? He wanted to work and pay his way. Until he got sick, he thought the government had no business getting into health care. He changed his mind when he saw what really happens to people, as it happened to him.
I have a friend in Rhode Island, which has expanded Medicaid, thank God, who has a rare disease and can’t work. Without Medicaid, he will die. He is a passionate, funny, smart, kind and caring person. He doesn’t want a handout, he just wants to survive.
My stepfather and my mother both needed to be in a nursing home at the end of their lives. They had both worked and retired in their 70s. Should they have been sent home to die?
If that’s what you think, then go ahead and set your elders and anyone with a disability out onto an ice floe now, because you are condemning them to death.
My son has been gone a decade, and it hurts today every bit as much as it did 10 years ago.
I fought for the passage of the Affordable Care Act because it would lower the death toll, and it has, by more than 20,000 human beings every year.
People who need health care don’t deserve to be turned away. No human being should suffer the way my son did. No human being deserves to die from the greed of Big Pharma, Big Insurance or any other greed-driven entity.
Health care is not a “handout,” it is a basic human right. If you don’t agree with that you are wrong, and if you refuse to listen, you are willfully ignorant — and still woefully wrong.
Let me repeat what I’ve said a thousand times or more since my son died from medical neglect: Nobody wants a handout. Nobody. In all the years as a reporter working on social justice issues, I never met a single person who just wanted a handout. No once. In the decade since that I have worked as an advocate, I haven’t met anyone who just wants a handout. If you think you know someone who just wants a handout, get to know them better because I assure you, they don’t.
I can imagine that some people get so weary from fighting that it might seem as though they’re just looking for a handout, and I have seen that, but no one starts out that way.
If you want to be able to consider yourself a moral person and you think it’s OK to let people die, you need to change your ways.
I start out the second decade without my precious son the same way I started out the first, immobilized by my grief and determined to stop the carnage.
I will fight these purveyors of misery and death going forward as passionately as I have fought for the last 10 years. I will not stop, I will not step back. That’s my promise to my son and I will keep it to my dying breath.

More lies in the mail

My husband is registered to vote, but not in either party (I’m a registered Democrat; you could look it up). As a result, we get stuff in the mail from both parties.

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.

For example:

  •  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.

Ryan? Really?

It’s a gift from the Right — Paul Ryan, the author of Kill Medicaid/Medicare/Social Security, as VP pick for Mitt Romney.

OK, first off, the Protestants aren’t going to be happy, especially those furthest to the right think neither Mormons nor Catholics are “real” Christians. There are some over there who don’t even think Methodists are real Christians.

Then there are the few moderates in the party who will bail out at the thought of a Tea Partier as VP.

And those on the far right likely are unhappy already because Mitt distanced himself from the Medicaid debacle.

We on the left are pretty pleased, of course, because the Ryan budget hasn’t been very popular and we can (and will) exploit what it would do to seniors, to people with disabilities and to people who happen to be both poor and sick.

And just as the Affordable Care Act is gaining some popularity among the millions of people it has helped already:

  • 2.5 million young adults who are on their parents’ insurance policies,
  • 5 million children with pre-existing conditions like asthma or a birth defect,
  • 14 million seniors who received help with prescription drug costs or other aspects of the new law,
  • 50,000 people with pre-existing conditions such as a history of heart disease or cancer,
  • women who no longer have to pay out-of-pocket for cancer screenings or contraception.

I’ve actually heard the word, “Obamacare” spoken with some affection, and these two are smiling, waving and promising to repeal the whole thing.

Then there’s the Ryan tax plan what gives even more money to the wealthiest while increasing taxes on the working class. This “deficit hawk” has a budget that would increase the deficit while robbing the poorest Americans of everything.

While Romney and Ryan have been trying to paint everyone who’s poor as lazy or evil, many of us know people and families who would be devastated by cuts — people like Rebecca Demmer, whose two sons both have autism and need state services. Cuts in Medicaid would affect this innocent family by taking housing and work support away from them.

Medicaid rates are so low already that many service providers refuse to work in the system, making it difficult to find care for people who depend on Medicaid.

But those people don’t matter to someone who idolizes Ayn Rand, an author with a survival-of-the-fittest philosophy. Rand’s philosophy says that people who can’t “contribute” will not survive. Tell that to Rebecca Demmer, who loves her sons and will argue that they contribute greatly to the lives of the people around them.

Some of my Republican friends are worried about this choice. They see how it looks to moderates and progressives, and they know most unaffiliated voters are pretty middle-of-the-road, and those are the voters who will decide this election.

Thanks, Mitt.

 

 

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