Dear President-Elect Obama:
As you prepare to take office during these turbulent times, much is expected of you. Perhaps too much.
I’m not one to expect miracles, but my dearest hope is that we will soon see the first inklings of change.
You can tell a lot about a people by how they treat their ill. Major health care reform must begin now if we are to hold our heads high in the world once again.
Mine is just one story out of millions. The details vary, but the theme is the same. One way or another, we have found ourselves caught up in the health care crisis.
At 43 years old, I held a full-time job, complete with major health care coverage. The health care crisis was on my mind, but hadn't yet hit home. The following year, sudden illness lead to an inability to work full time, putting an end to my group insurance policy. A diagnosis of multiple sclerosis soon challenged all my previous notions about health care in America.
COBRA was helpful, but ran its course. Shopping for individual insurance with a pre-existing condition is a mind-blowing experience. In Virginia, where I live, only one insurance company MUST accept all applicants, but they alone decide which policies to offer. There is no cap on the premiums they may charge. There is no high-risk pool. Extreme deductibles and co-pays add insult to injury. All told, my policy has $20,000 in deductibles annually.
Many advances have been made in the treatment of multiple sclerosis, but the only available medications are labeled “tier 4” prescriptions, costing up to $3500 per month. There are no generics. Tier 4 drugs fall under a separate category for insurance purposes... with much higher co-pays. Mine is $500 per month.
While there is no cure for MS, these injectable medications are our only hope for staving off permanent disability... if we can afford to take them.
To have group insurance coverage tied to the workplace is a disaster for people like me, who lose coverage just when we need it the most. I still work and pay taxes, but do not qualify for group coverage, nor do I have other options.
One might also assume that here in America, we are able to move freely about in order to better our lives. However, moving from one state to another increases my chances of becoming uninsured, since many states have no protection for people with pre-existing conditions seeking individual health insurance policies.
As the ranks of the unemployed swell, health benefits will continue to erode, forcing gut-wrenching quality of life decisions.
It's not a free ride we seek. So what do I, and others like me, want? We simply want options. We want affordable and accessible health care. We want at least some sense of control over our own health care decisions. We want a fighting chance.
We look to you, and to congress, to implement the first substantive changes in our health care system. Changes that we hope will put us back on the right track, and stop punishing our own for their ill health. I don't believe I'm asking too much.
You have your work cut out for you, Mr. Obama, and we're all pulling for you. We're eager for change... and time is of the essence.
Published On: January 05, 2009