My letter to Sen. Lindsey Graham about health care

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Photo by Politico

 

When I was in Washington, after I had been released from jail. I met Lindsey Graham in a crosswalk as I was going to the Metro.

I introduced myself and showed him a photo of my son. We spoke briefly and it was very cordial, and as we parted, I begged him not to vote to strip away access to health care for 33 million people.

Last week, he introduced a bill to do just that.

Here’s the letter I faxed to him this morning:

Senator Graham:

You might remember me. I stopped you in a crosswalk in Washington a few weeks ago and introduced myself. I told you I’m from North Carolina, and you smiled and called me your neighbor.

I showed you a photo of my beloved son, who died because he couldn’t get access to health care and ended our conversation with, “I beg you, sir, please don’t vote to take away access to health care from 33 million Americans,” and you said you would consider it. You actually went back into the Senate Chamber and voted against that first bill.

This is my son, Mike Danforth. I miss him every moment of every day.

Real people die when they lose access to care. Each year before the Affordable Care Act became law, 45,000 Americans died prematurely because of lack of access to health care. That’s one every 12 minutes.

At 4:48 p.m. on April 1, 2008, it was my precious son whose heart stopped beating. I would rather it had been me, but I didn’t have that choice because I couldn’t make any insurance company sell him coverage and without that coverage, I couldn’t get any doctor to give him the care he needed. Yes, he went to the emergency room, but as I’m sure you know, they were only required to stabilize him, so instead of a diagnosis and treatment for the cancer that by that time was blocking his colon, he got a laxative and a bill.

My son worked 30 hours a week in a restaurant and attended college full-time, majoring in history with a minor in philosophy. He was also a volunteer, helping people get and stay sober. With all this, he still maintained a 3.75 GPA.

I know you like to call yourself pro-life, so I’ll tell you that when I was first pregnant with him, I had a rare virus that my doctor said could cause birth defects. She advised me to have an abortion and try again, but that child was real to me already. I chose to continue the pregnancy, and I never regretted that decision because he was such a remarkable human being.

My son was brilliant, kind and wickedly funny. His work saved lives. I know this because so many people told me their stories after he died. One mother came up and hugged me and said, “Had it not been for Mike, my son would have died. Mike literally picked him up out of the gutter and saved his life.”

Mike needed a colonoscopy every year, but no doctor in Savannah, Ga., would do one for him, even though he had a one-in-four chance of developing an aggressive form of colon cancer. It would have cost us about $60,000 over the course of his lifetime to do the screenings and remove any polyps, but we said no, and instead shelled out nearly $1 million for his care and he died anyway. So don’t tell me we can’t afford it because I know it’s a lot cheaper to take care of people before they get really sick.

I tell you this about my son because you appear to believe that people who can’t get a job with insurance coverage, or who were born with a “pre-existing condition” are morally inferior. They are not lazy. They are not worthless. They are not looking for a handout, and even if they were, they don’t deserve to suffer and die the way my son did. No one does.

I have been doing health care advocacy work since my son died and I haven’t met a single person who doesn’t deserve health care. Not one, although I have questioned whether the selfish, greedy people responsible for my son’s death deserve anything.

You see, I consider the people who withheld care from my son to be murderers. Their inaction killed my son as surely as if they had put a bullet through his heart. Actually, putting a bullet through his heart would have been more humane than the three years of suffering he endured.

To be eligible for Medicaid, my son had to leave his wife because she had a late-model car and some student loan money for tuition in the bank. My son applied for disability and waited 37 months for approval. He was dead nine days before his first check came. He applied for food stamps, and with no income and no wife he was offered $10 a month. He refused the offer.

If so many people hadn’t loved him so and been willing to care for him, my son would have died on the street.

Life without my son borders on the unbearable every moment of every day. All I can do is beg for you and your colleagues to care enough about human life to shore up the Affordable Care Act, or to pass Medicare for all.

Consider the words of Jesus (I believe you consider yourself to be a follower of Jesus) in Matthew 25 (paraphrased here for modern times):

“For I was hungry and you voted to cut Food Stamps, Meals on Wheels and school lunches.

“I was thirsty and you voted to allow polluters to poison my water.

“I was sick and you voted to strip me of my access to health care.

“I was in prison and you allowed corporations to profit off of my misery.

“I was naked and you told me to get a job, but you wouldn’t ensure I could make enough to buy clothes.

“Whatsoever you did unto the least of these, you did also unto me.”

I beg you to think about this and then withdraw the bill, or at least your support for it.

Oh, and the day I met you I had just been released from jail for disrupting the Senate. I was one of the people who chanted, “Kill the bill!”

I had been hauled from the gallery a few minutes before the chanting began because in my hand was a 5×7 photo of my son – the same one I showed you in the crosswalk. The guard called it a poster.

When the chanting began, I joined in and was arrested, along with 31 other people who are truly pro-life.

I didn’t have to join the protesters.

I could have not been arrested. I could have stayed home and been alone in my grief, but I do this in his memory and because no one should die the way my son did. No one. And I will fight with every breath left to me to make sure no one does – not even those who would take access to care away from 33 million of their fellow human beings.

Your “neighbor,”
Leslie Boyd
Candler, NC

 

 

 

My letter to my senator on the ACHA

Me and Mike on his wedding day. Damn, I miss him.

 

I faxed this letter to Sen. Thom Tillis yesterday. Perhaps, if he reads it, he might understand that real people, innocent people, die when they can’t gain access to health care. I sent a similar letter to Richard Burr. Please, please, call, fax, e-mail or visit the offices of your senators.

Senator Tillis,

I think you probably know who I am. I am the mother of a young man who died because he lacked access to health care. You had me arrested for trying to speak to you when you were Speaker of the House in North Carolina about the importance of access to health care. You were one of the leaders in the fight to withhold Medicaid from a half million people in this state, sentencing some 2,000 of them to death every year.

The ACA would have saved my son’s life because it forces insurance companies to not punish people who have pre-existing conditions.

My son had a birth defect. Like many young people, he decided to take a year off college when he was 19. Little did we know this common decision would be a fatal one for him. He was booted off my policy and then discovered he couldn’t buy insurance at any price because a birth defect is a pre-existing condition – as though he had decided as a zygote to have a birth defect.

This birth defect left him extremely vulnerable to an aggressive form of colon cancer, and he needed a colonoscopy every year. When he lived in New York, he had a doctor who would allow him to pay for his colonoscopies in monthly installments. By age 25, he had already had pre-cancerous polyps removed, so he had a near certainty of developing cancer if he couldn’t get his annual colonoscopies. But when he moved so he and his wife could go back to college, he discovered he could not get a colonoscopy unless he paid $2,300 in cash up front. No credit cards, no checks, no installments, nothing.

When he got sick he went to the ER three times and came away with three wrong diagnoses, three wrong medications and three large bills. You see – and I’m sure you know this – the emergency room only has to stabilize you; it does not have to look for the cause of your problem.

By the time anyone did anything, my son had stage 3 cancer. It was too late to save his life.

My son was a student, he worked 30 hours a week and he was a volunteer. He was an extraordinary young man.

But none of that mattered. He was sentenced to death – a slow and excruciating death – for having a birth defect. He had to leave his wife to get Medicaid and although he had applied for disability when he first became sick, his approval took 37 months and he was dead nine days before his first check arrived.

I tell you this story because, at the time he died, 45,000 Americans were dying every year from lack of access to health care, according to a study by Harvard Medical School that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The ACA has saved more than half of those lives. The uninsured rate in this country right now is at an historic low. The law is saving tens of thousands of lives every year, and to repeal it is tantamount to murder.

No, that statement is not overstating things. You are working on killing more than 25,000 innocent Americans every year. Those are human beings, Senator, and their lives matter a whole lot to me and to all the people who love them.

I have to face every damn day without my beloved son. I get up every morning longing to hear his voice again, devastated that I will never laugh at another one of his outrageous jokes or taste his cooking or have another late-night conversation about philosophy with him. I will never hear him tease me about being a Red Sox fan, or look for my chocolate stash only to discover he found it and left me just one little piece.

Perhaps it’s time to turn your back on your corporate overlords and become truly pro-life. Vote no on repealing the ACA. Vote to save the lives of the people who will die without insurance.

You have to know what you’re about to do is wrong.

If you go ahead with this, I hope and pray that you will burn in hell.

Leslie Boyd
Candler, NC

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

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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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