A recent article featured on CNN.com chronicles the story of Mark Windsor, a man who has suffered with a rare bone cancer for 25 years. Mark's cancer could possibly have been cured in the early stages of the disease. Now, his prognosis is fatal. Like so many Americans, Mark was unable to afford the burdensome cost of health insurance and this fact will cost him his life.
This article isn't about asthma and allergies, but it is about the greater epidemic facing our nation, and public health in general. This article provides a name and a moment in the media spotlight for the millions of nameless people we refer to as the "uninsured." Working for a voluntary health agency, such as AAFA, it becomes apparent that many patients that contact AAFA and similar groups suffer from a lack of health care coverage. There are 6.5 million children in the U.S. who have asthma and nearly 650,000 of these children are uninsured. However, a possibly more staggering statistic is that nearly 2.3 million of these children are enrolled in federal programs such as Medicaid, State Children's Health Insurance Plan (SCHIP) and other Title V programs. Many of these programs are under funded, not enthusiastically supported by the Bush administration, and leave children vulnerable and underinsured. Therefore, long-term asthma and allergy management becomes virtually impossible.
From a professional standpoint, I know that AAFA advocates for the uninsured and underinsured by supporting Medicaid/Medicare and SCHIP legislation. We also support the National Health Council's Presidential Town Hall Campaigns that advocate for universal health care coverage. AAFA continues to offer information for patient prescription assistance programs, and urges the pharmaceutical industry to continue to practice corporate social responsibility methods through programs that offer quality medicine at affordable prices for patients. AAFA also supports the efforts of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as they sponsor an annual, "Covering the Uninsured Week," that begins April 27-May 3, with the goal of raising awareness about the need to improve the access and affordability of health insurance and health care.
However, I am also writing this blog as an individual...an individual who finds it heartbreaking that in the land of opportunity our nation finds it opportune to waste money on the Digital TV Transition, and waste time debating whether or not Miley Cyrus and Lindsay Lohan should have posed scantily on the cover of Vanity Fair. Instead of fighting for the funding needed to advance public health, science, research, medicine, and technology, we fight with weapons in an already abundantly divided world. Whether you are a Democrat, Republican, or Independent, whether you are from the Deep South, Midwest, or New England, and regardless of what religion or lack thereof you practice, you are not immune to disease. You are not immune to disease.
I urge you to take a stand for the uninsured. Write a letter to your local newspaper to spark a discussion about this staggering problem. Write or call your local representatives and ask them what their stance is on health care reform and coverage. Tell them this is an important matter to their constituents. Prod your representatives to keep health care reform a top issue during the Presidential campaign. Individuals become advocates, and advocacy creates change.
If you would like to share your story about coping with asthma and allergies or health care coverage please submit comments below.
-- Betsy Stoller, AAFA
Published On: May 16, 2008