This is a topic that I’ve discussed with my peers and family for years, and a topic I personally feel very strongly about. I have had continuous healthcare coverage from the day I was born, up until my early 20s. Healthcare was never something I ever had to think about. It was a given that I could walk into any hospital or doctor’s office that accepted my insurance card, and if I was sick I would be taken care of. I’m sure that’s partially because of both my youth and naevity at the time about how healthcare worked, but I digress.
Shortly after I turned 17 my father was diagnosed with CML – Chronic myelogenous leukemia. When diagnosed, my father was in the Blast stage, which is the last and most deadly phase of this disease. When he was diagnosed, the only known cure for CML was a bone marrow transplant or stem cell transplant. Unfortunately, the same genetic mutation he had in in bone marrow rendered him unable to find a donor match. He was given an outlook of 6 months. We started tying up loose ends, and saying our goodbyes. However, shortly after he was given this news, we discovered that there was a very new experimental drug that just came on the market, called Gleevec, but it wasn’t without risks. Not many people were on the trial, and they didn’t know the long term results. He had to go through monthly bone marrow harvests to check the health of it, as well as getting his blood cell count checked reguarly. However, time went on and as it turned out the drug, quite literally, saved my father’s life. He is now in complete molecular remission, and I’m happy to have my dad still alive and well 8 years later.
During this whole time, it became very clear that my father was very lucky to have the health insurance he did, and that he worked for the company he did. When the company changed health insurance policies, they allowed my dad to stay on the old plan so he wouldn’t have to change plans and be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions. The costs of his montly trips to the hospital for harvests and monitoring alone, not to mention the multiple visists to his oncologist were astronomical. Not to mention, he was on an incredibly expensive experimental drug, a drug he now has to take every day for the rest of his life. Gleevec, for all the wonders it did for my father, can cost upwards of $300.00 a single pill, which is $109,500.00 in a year. Without his insurance, my father could never have footed those bills alone.
One thought from that experince haunts me whenever the topic of healthcare reform is brought up. In one of the most advanced countries in the world, one that has one of the leading healthcare systems, the best hospitals, the best doctors and this one lifesaving drug (not to mention countless others), had my father not had health insurance, he would have died. With all of this at our fingertips, with the power and tools avalible and waiting to save his life, he would have been let die. I think that that is one of the largest travesties of our time.
We as a nation have stood up and said that this isn’t good. We’re haunted daily by stories of people who wake up in a hospital in debt. I’ve heard stories of people who were in a terrible accident, were unable to notify their employer, and so they were terminated. Because they were terminated, they lost their insurance, and now have hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical debt because they were injured, and now have no job to pay for it.
I work with a great guy. He and his wife recently had a baby, but during her pregnancy she was diagnosed with cancer. He missed the deadline to sign up for insurance, but our company bent over backwards for him and helped him sign up, but because she had been diagnosed with cancer before she was covered under his insurance, they deemed it as a pre-existing condition. She’s slowly and painfully dying with a newborn infant, that she will never see grow up. The last tally on her medical bills were towering in the thousands.
I have said time and again that the basic unit of society is family, and like Clinton said, it takes a villiage. A family’s, and likewise a village, responsibility is to take care of each other. As a nation, which is made up of thousands of different families, we need to get together and make sure that we’re doing what families are supposed to do. We need to help each other up and take care of each other, especially when members of our family are too old or too young or too sick to do it themselves. There is no excuse. No one should have to die in this country from disease and illness that we can cure, not when we have the money and technology to do it. People still die from strep throat in this country because they can not afford insurance premiums or the cost to see a doctor to receive a slip of paper for a medication we hand out to other countries for free. There is no excuse.
I was watching when the House approved the healthcare reform bill. It passed the house with 220 votes. It barely passed. Personally, I find this very disturbing for a representative government, especially when the polls of the American people are drastically different. A recent Gallup pool reported that 76% of Americans strongly support providing guaranteed health care coverage for every American. Yes people, that’s socialized medicine, and quite frankly, its about time.