Sunday, March 21, 2010

Health Care Debate

I told myself I would not belabor this issue. I have posted my thoughts before, here and elsewhere. But watching C-SPAN and feeling the urgency of the upcoming vote on health care reform, I am caving in to my impulse to voice my conviction that this measure is long overdue. I am telling a story because I believe in stories. When my husband Ron was being treated for cancer at MD Anderson, he had a network of supporters who were there to help with counseling, pain management, physical therapy, and any other needs he might have. At one point we spoke with a financial counselor. Ron's fear was that his health insurance might run out and then that the expensive COBRA might run out after that. This is the fear of any cancer patient who does not have unlimited resources and is under the age of 65. At that time Ron had an apartment in Houston where he stayed during the week, and then he was with me on weekends. This lady told him to get rid of his Houston address immediately. Why? Because if they could say he lived in Houston, and if he ran out of insurance, he would have to be treated at Ben Taub. Our Montgomery County address meant there was not at that time a cancer clinic available so he could go to MD Anderson. Ben Taub is a great emergency hospital, but is the end of the line for folks who are out of insurance. Before we concluded our interview, the social worker told us a story about another man she was working with. This unlucky fellow was 64 years old. He would not be 65 for several months. He was in the position that Ron feared. His insurance and his money were running out. He actually only needed to hold on for three more months until he was 65 and would have Medicare. They had tried every possible plea and ploy to somehow get a concession so he could continue his treatment at MD Anderson, to which he was responding well. No dice. She said the bottom line was he would have to go to Ben Taub for three months, where the therapy was not available. He would probably die much sooner as a result of this interruption in his treatment. How many people have to find themselves in similar predicaments? How many is too many? I lived through the debate and passage of Medicare, when all the same dire predictions were made. They are no more true today than they were then. Ron died before his insurance ran out, but it still makes me mad that he had to worry about insurance as well as his cancer. Shameful.

And now I am back at MD Anderson. Yesterday I had my blood tested in the same lab where Ron used to get his done. That was a strange feeling. I have good insurance, and I also have a very good prognosis. I am not worried about the same things that Ron, with stage IV lung cancer had to face. But still...

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations. Your blog has been nominated for our Library Blog Awards. In fact, your blog was suggested more than once. We're in the process of assembling information about all those nominated and will be sending a short questionnaire, including the categories of awards and the judges involved. Would you please send me your email address so that I can send you the questionnaire? If your email is on your blog, I couldn't locate it.

    Thanks in advance,
    Peter W Tobey