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When Healthcare Reform Gets Personal

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Whatever is decided in Congress will affect not only millions of Americans -- it will impact my sister.

woman looking sad with the us capitol building

Elizabeth Lindell: My mom calls my sister and me seven-year twins -- born almost a decade apart but connected as though we lived side-by-side in the womb. When her joints swell and feel as though they have been fractured in a fall on the ice-skating rink, I don't sense it the way they say twins do, but I deeply empathize. My sister and I both suffer from Systemic
Erythematosus (lupus). The one vast difference in our lives, among our many similarities, is that I have medical insurance and she does not. I have access to doctors, surgeries, holistic treatments, hospitals, and prescriptions. She does not.

During my worst lupus flare, my sister was there as always, mothering my daughter in a way no one else could, and that allowed me peace during a 10-day hospital stay. She brought my child to see me, along with magazines and skin cream, but I could see in her eyes it was difficult to be there. Lupus had gone to my brain that time and had caused swelling and lesions. Although I would be okay, it was serious, and she knew lupus could be life-threatening. As I lay there, I looked at my beautiful, vibrant soul sister and wondered how she was feeling. Appearance can be deceiving with this illness. If she had been the one slurring her words two days before, her mouth going numb, followed by her legs, would she even be in this bed? Would she be receiving intravenous Solu-Medrol around the clock and treated to CAT scans and MRIs? I wasn't so sure. Would she have simply been sent home from the emergency room the first night with a prescription for steroids she couldn't afford to fill because she didn't have insurance?

When we're standing in line at the emergency room, waiting to sign in, in a line full of people without insurance and with a cold, because they can't afford to go to the doctor, and a woman rushes in holding a T-shirt dripping with blood to her head, what do we do? If a nurse isn't around, we triage ourselves, and move her to the front. I've seen this happen. When we're driving down the street and hear a siren, what do we do? We pull over. Yes, it's the law. But, I like to think it's humanity that first draws us to the side. This is the immediate, gut-reaction compassion we need in regards to President Obama's Health Care Reform proposal, which includes a public option plan. The head wound in all of us is bleeding profusely -- and we all need to be first in line.

Obama's plan makes it illegal for insurance companies to drop or deny you for a pre-existing condition, adds nothing to our deficit, and gives security to seniors and a public option to give everyone this very basic need we are all entitled to. The public option is for only those without insurance, and its presence is also intended to keep insurance companies honest and rates affordable. Under this plan, you are free to use whatever insurance you like, and companies will have stricter guidelines in place to protect you, such as by putting a cap on out-of-pocket expenses, and they will be required to cover preventative care such as mammograms and colonoscopies at no further expense to you.

The problem is that we've become a nation that believes it's every man for himself. We've been taught our government doesn't care, society doesn't care, and sometimes, our peers don't care. In reality, there are so many of us who do care. About the health of ourselves, others, and the health of who we choose to be as people.

When I was first diagnosed, I chose the most respected rheumatologist in the field. Being able to choose your doctor is ideal, but having one at all is a basic need and should be a right. A public education is the right of every child in this country, and many of us have trouble covering the book fees or even school supplies. Imagine if public school was no more because people were upset that they couldn't choose their district or were frustrated with the taxes? One year of writing a check for $12,000, the average cost for a fifth grade private education, would have us all united.

My initial visit with the rheumatologist was $10 with insurance. My sister's, with the same doctor, was $600 without it. We wrote a check that day, crossing our fingers it would clear the next. We share everything from thoughts, dreams, and cosmetics to Prednisone. The same prescriptions I can buy with insurance to ease my suffering and lead a normal life, she must buy from non-professionals, at three times the expense, because she can't afford the upkeep of doctor visits. Many doctors won't continue to prescribe medication to patients, even if it's one they need to take long-term, if they haven't been seen within six months -- and regular checkups for a chronic illness at $150 to $600 a visit is difficult to manage on any budget.

Some have said the responsibility lies in the hands of each individual to provide health care for oneself. Former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani made a comment about how everyone owns a cell phone, implying that if everyone can afford that, then everyone can afford a health care plan. Not everyone does own a cell phone. Even if health care were made much more affordable, I doubt it would be at the price of a prepaid at 7-11. People in my sister's position -- who have a chronic illness, and are a mother -- aren't always able to walk to the bathroom or brush their hair, let alone find a job that offers insurance. But maybe, with Obama's plan that includes the public option, they could finally get the treatment and medication they need, and have the strength to pursue jobs, careers, and passions and raise the children that are destined to impact the world and turn it into a place where decisions like these are obvious.

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12 comments so far | Post a comment now
chris September 30, 2009, 6:02 AM

I feel for your sister but the health care plan is not the answer. Yes, we need to fix the problems that are in the health care system like losing coverage when you leave your job or being denied coverage for a pre-exsisting condition but don’t you thing these problems can be fix if the government wanted to? They chose not to fix the problem but want to totally redo the system. To say that it won’t cost anymore is so wrong. If the govenment can find $500,000.00 within the medicad system that is being used incorrectly, then they should fix that before changing the system. Our govenment can not run any program effectly and I don’t trust them with my healthcare. Please don’t fool yourself into think that is reform is the answer. I know everyone wants healthcare and everyone should have healthcare but please become completely educated on what this reform will do to us. Employer have already stated that they will drop insurance for thier employees, doctors have already stated that they will leave the field because they won’t be able to do thier jobs correctly with that many additional patients, your treatments will be prolonged with less doctors treating you. This is not the answer. If the government really cared about making this right, they would pass the bills needed to stop insurance company from dropping patients and put caps on out of pocket co pays but that’s not want they want to do. Remember healthcare is a business for everyone from doctors, insurance companies and yes our government to make money.

Jennifer September 30, 2009, 8:33 AM

Chris, your comment is illogical. How do you propose the government can fix the problem if they wanted to without major overhaul?

If a doctor chooses to leave the field because there are too many patients, I don’t want that doctor treating me. That sort of response shows a basic lack of humanity which is necessary to perform a job in the human services.

As for the issue with medicare, they are working to reduce unnecessary spending now. We’ve had 8 years of an administration who paid little attention to the healthcare system, so yeah, it might be a little broken.

What I don’t understand is why people think these things just magically happen? You say if the government wanted to do something, they could pass bills. I apologize for being blunt, but what do you think they are trying to do right now?

The real issue here is that many people are buying into the lies being perpetrated by influential media sources instead of doing their homework themselves. I can tell by your response that you are regurgitating what they have been telling you because you clearly have no idea what the bill actually entails or for that matter how the process of passing a bill works. Might I suggest you start with School House Rock?

Monica September 30, 2009, 9:20 AM

I completely understand how your sister feels. If I wanted to walk into the emergency room today I couldn’t even afford to. I have a family of three with absolutely no medical insurance. I was denied insurance because of preexisting conditions. And then offered a state insurance that cost upwards of 550 a month just for me alone! WTH? I agree Americans who are against the reform of health care are just thinking of themselves and themselves only.

Audrey September 30, 2009, 10:40 AM

We need a pro-growth agenda that urges congress and the Obama administration to enact policies that bring tax rates in line with our global competitors. We need to keep chipping away at the deficit by taking steps to control wasteful government spending. See

amanda September 30, 2009, 11:08 AM

The only problem I have with this health care reform is the fact that they want to insure the 10 million illegal immigrants that are here in this country. I pay more than enough for my family insurance now and I can’t afford to have more of my money go to taxes. Atleast in Canada, you absolutely can not get into thier health system if you are not a citizen.

kathy September 30, 2009, 11:12 AM

Glad “triage” was mentioned. I have often wondered WHERE in the Supreme Court decision illegals & non-insured won the right to NONemergency care? Triage them & send the phony, non-emergencies home! Now, as for the rest: the ins industry will not clean up their own house, even with rules passed. They will find loopholes. We also need a govt option to drive down the prices. We don’t need Obama making deals with Big Pharma to freeze prices so they can keep their big fat profits! We need AFFORDABLE care for the non-insured — my super athletic family of 4 was quoted at over $800 a month with NO medical conditions a few years back!! That is a house pmt!! Let no disease be excluded — some actually render you uninsurable (such as lupus). There is MUCH work to be done to curb the giant insurance industries, the hospitals, the docs & Big Pharma. It is precisly BECAUSE it is for-profit that we screw our own citizens. It is NOT a thing to be proud of.

Rachel September 30, 2009, 12:16 PM

Monica, enough with the histrionics! “Only thinking about themselves.” Whatever. Couldn’t be that people don’t trust the government to make a workable, deficit neutral system? No, must be that everyone is SELFISH. Grow up!

Anonymous September 30, 2009, 12:44 PM

I don’t trust the government to run MY healthcare. They can’t run any program or system successfully. Why the big rush…the program that Obama is trying to put in place won’t even become effective until 2014. I think he needs to slow down and do this properly. I’m starting to think that this man has ADHD. He jumps from one thing to another before anything is solved.

Michelle September 30, 2009, 1:19 PM

No family should go bankrupt because of an illness. I agree we need true health care reform. However, the author keeps referring to Obama’s plan. Obama has no plan. There is a plan in the House and a plan in the Senate, but Obama hasn’t ever presented a plan. So all the talk about deficit neutrality is great, but it’s all talk and all the bills presented in the House and Senate have the potential to add billions or trillions to the deficit.

How about annual credits of $5000 to every family to pay for insurance? How about getting rid of employer based insurance and having long-term insurance so it doesn’t matter if you lose a job. There are other solutions than a government option.

ame i. September 30, 2009, 3:58 PM

I no longer have faith in our government to run anything, much less healthcare.
I’m not willing to give up my excellent employer-provided insurance. I’m not willing to pay more in taxes so people paying no taxes will receive the same healthcare I will, substandard as I’m sure it will be.
The U.S. may the land of the free but that doesn’t mean anyone has the right to receive anything for free.

Lissalou September 30, 2009, 9:14 PM

Well said, ame i.

Sam Adams October 5, 2009, 1:26 PM

I couldn’t agree more ame i.

Why should I have to pay more so a couple who did not plan and had more kids than they can afford use my tax money for their ill-planned lives.

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