OP-ED

Obamacare to the Rescue

I want to apologize to President Obama. But first, some background.

I found out three weeks ago I have cancer. I’m 49 years old, have been married for almost 20 years and have two kids. My husband has his own small computer business, and I run a small nonprofit in the San Fernando Valley. I am also an artist. Money is tight, and we don’t spend it frivolously. We’re just ordinary, middle-class people, making an honest living, raising great kids and participating in our community, the kids’ schools and church.

We’re good people, and we work hard. But we haven’t been able to afford health insurance for more than two years. And now I have third-stage breast cancer and am facing months of expensive treatment.

To understand how such a thing could happen to a family like ours, I need to take you back nine years to when my husband got laid off from the entertainment company where he’d worked for 10 years. Until then, we had been insured through his work, with a first-rate plan. After he got laid off, we got to keep that health insurance for 18 months through COBRA, by paying $1,300 a month, which was a huge burden on an unemployed father and his family.

By the time the COBRA ran out, my husband had decided to go into business for himself, so we had to purchase our own insurance. That was fine for a while. Every year his business grew. But insurance premiums were steadily rising too. More than once, we switched carriers for a lower rate, only to have them raise rates significantly after a few months.

With the recession, both of our businesses took a huge hit — my husband’s income was cut in half, and the foundations that had supported my small nonprofit were going through their own tough times. We had to start using a home equity line of credit to pay for our health insurance premiums (which by that point cost as much as our monthly mortgage). When the bank capped our home equity line, we were forced to cash in my husband’s IRA. The time finally came when we had to make a choice between paying our mortgage or paying for health insurance. We chose to keep our house. We made a nerve-racking gamble, and we lost.

Not having insurance amplifies cancer stress. After the diagnosis, instead of focusing all of my energy on getting well, I was panicked about how we were going to pay for everything. I felt guilty and embarrassed about not being insured. When I went to the diagnostic center to pick up my first reports, I was sent to the financial department, where a woman sat me down to talk about resources for “cash patients” (a polite way of saying “uninsured”).

“I’m not a deadbeat,” I blurted out. “I’m a good person. I have two kids and a house!” The clerk was sympathetic, telling me how even though she worked in the healthcare field, she could barely afford insurance herself.

Although there have been a few people who judged us harshly, most people have been understanding about how this could happen to us. That’s given me the courage to “out” myself and my family in hopes that it will educate people who are still lucky enough to have health insurance and view people like my family as irresponsible. We’re not. What I want people to understand is that, if this could happen to us, it could happen to anybody.

If you are fortunate enough to still be employed and have insurance through your employers, you may feel insulated from the sufferings of people like me right now. But things can change abruptly. If you still have a good job with insurance, that doesn’t mean that you’re better than me, more deserving than me or smarter than me. It just means that you are luckier. And access to healthcare shouldn’t depend on luck.

Fortunately for me, I’ve been saved by the federal government’s Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan, something I had never heard of before needing it. It’s part of President Obama’s healthcare plan, one of the things that has already kicked in, and it guarantees access to insurance for U.S. citizens with preexisting conditions who have been uninsured for at least six months. The application was short, the premiums are affordable, and I have found the people who work in the administration office to be quite compassionate (nothing like the people I have dealt with over the years at other insurance companies.) It’s not perfect, of course, and it still leaves many people in need out in the cold. But it’s a start, and for me it’s been a lifesaver — perhaps literally.

Which brings me to my apology. I was pretty mad at Obama before I learned about this new insurance plan. I had changed my registration from Democrat to Independent, and I had blacked out the top of the “h” on my Obama bumper sticker, so that it read, “Got nope” instead of “got hope.” I felt like he had let down the struggling middle class. My son and I had campaigned for him, but since he took office, we felt he had let us down.

So this is my public apology. I’m sorry I didn’t do enough of my own research to find out what promises the president has made good on. I’m sorry I didn’t realize that he really has stood up for me and my family, and for so many others like us. I’m getting a new bumper sticker to cover the one that says “Got nope.” It will say “ObamaCares.”

Spike Dolomite Ward is the founder and executive director of Arts in Education Aid Council, a nonprofit organization that is restoring the arts to public schools in the San Fernando Valley. This piece originally appeared in the L.A. Times.

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DeterminedMD
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DeterminedMD

Think about this little fact, folks. These idiots in Congress can’t even work to do their f—ing jobs directly, that being come to some middle ground in handing the debt, and you lame defenders think they can fix health care!?

Supporters of PPACA, sorry, but I hope you get screwed as much as the rest of the country if the Court cluelessly favors this garbage legislation.

BobbyG
Guest
DeterminedMD
Guest
DeterminedMD

So funny, I forgot to laugh. If someone came along and ruined your profession, you really think you would enjoy others laughing at your expense?

Exhibit A for colleagues, non clinicians making light of health care’s demise.

Nice try.

BobbyG
Guest

Cue the violins.

DeterminedMD
Guest
DeterminedMD

What, the song about Johnny versus the Devil?

BobbyG
Guest

You NEVER learn, do you?

DeterminedMD
Guest
DeterminedMD

From you? No.

BobbyG
Guest

First, we had “ObamaCare.” In 2012 we will have “ObamaHair.” The key to re-election.

http://www.bgladd.com/ObamaHair2012.jpg

DeterminedMD
Guest
DeterminedMD

Gee, if you don’t embrace the party line that is the basis of this site, ie foster the use of EHR and other computer tech interventions, you are labeled a crack pot or annoyance or called just plain rude, even when the accusers do the accusing as rude as the dissenters. And then, when the dissenters get sick and tired of the dismissals or frank projections by the apologists and defenders of said above agenda and do get rude, then the attackers get to say “see, I told you so”. Give me a break, writing long posts at threads and… Read more »

Margalit Gur-Arie
Guest

Here you go Dr. D…. Enjoy, or despair…. 🙂

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8oMoAMnFczY

DeterminedMD
Guest
DeterminedMD

Have no respect for OWS crowd. Dependency is not a right, it is a weakness that only furthers destruction of a society,

Frankly, Democrats really are enablers and codependents in the end. Not to give Republicans an out, they are equally enabling the biggest addiction in this country, that being greed.

Margalit Gur-Arie
Guest

Governor Roemer IS a Republican….

DeterminedMD
Guest
DeterminedMD

So? You think I care what party affiliation is at hand!?

MD as HELL
Guest
MD as HELL

(Don’t worry. The day is arriving when long-term care issues will be more pressing than anything else and the problems CLASS was intended to address will make today’s unemployment look like a walk in the park. Perhaps then the political will may force action. Or maybe not.)

John,

Long before this could ever happen the young will have already dispatched the old off the cliff. All my young friends (30 ish) are conservative and wondering who thinks they are fool enough to pick up the tab for the senior follies.

DeterminedMD
Guest
DeterminedMD

Sure, the right put up a negative campaign that has it’s inappropriateness, but come on, don’t be so equally partisan and trying to jam rose colored glasses on those who want the facts. Because, and I know my peer Mr G will harp on this in a heartbeat, but she said it basically, Pelosi used as one excuse “pass it to find out what’s in it” is NOT a reason to pass legislation. And since it passed we are finding pretty large and ugly warts. Example, CLASS? And why is it the mandate and demand on states to have to… Read more »

BobbyG
Guest

“You partisan hacks really annoy me!”

That’s rich. Everyone but YOU is “partisan.”

Moreover, your addiction to annoyance is by now exhaustively documented.

I followed every PPACA draft along the way to enactment. It wasn’t difficult to do (and I made my displeasure known). So, spare us the canard that this was some mysterious law that just appeared incognito.

DeterminedMD
Guest
DeterminedMD

Really, what defines partisan to you, I despise both parties equally, one gave us a war that enriched the military machine, and then the other gave us legislation that enslaved clinicians, and we will find out it will enrich the cronies behind the scenes. If partisan means I worship a party principle above the needs of the public, you tell us who that worship is to. And if you read this legislation along the way and continue to write what you write, then tell us who you worship, because I do not read your commentary as so neutral and concerned… Read more »

BobbyG
Guest

It does not follow that, because you “despise both parties equally” you are somehow loftily “non-partisan.”

“why the hell do you defend what Pelosi basically said back in March 2010?”

Document for me where EVER posted a defense of it. (Hint: You cannot.) I merely, repeatedly point out your misquoting her precise words (Google Pelosi pass the bill). How you construe them is your right and your problem.

“enslaved clinicians”

You remain utterly free to go Cash-Only Concierge.

Seek help.

DeterminedMD
Guest
DeterminedMD

Here’s a tip, although per your writings I doubt you will be interested: making statements that basically defends someone makes you an accomplice. Had you just said the first time something similar to “here’s the clip, I don’t interpret her statement as you do” would have been a bit more neutral. And repeatedly challenging me even after I at least acknowledge she did not word for word say “pass the bill and we’ll find out what’s in it” just gets old and annoying. So what is my partisan bent? That I support physicians being allowed to practice providing care as… Read more »

BobbyG
Guest

@DMD December 13, 2011 at 7:15 am

“antiphysician”

Right.

Have a nice day.

John Ballard
Guest

Is DMD the new Nate?

James
Guest
James

While the policy was good, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act suffered most from a lack of effective public relations about it. While it was making its way through Congress, people didn’t understand its implications.

The right, however, put forth incredibly effective negative propaganda against it.

This post is a good example of the result.

John Ballard
Guest

Having followed this sausage from the time they killed the pig I only partly agree with your Left vs Right observation. It’s true there was (and continues to be) a fundamental political disagreement about how much government control over the private sector is appropriate. In the case of ACA, though, my impression is that the big players behind the scenes were corporate more than political — insurance, pharmaceuticals and powerful interest groups ranging from various physician and hospital organizations to AARP — all plowing tons of money at both political parties and all sides of the political spectrum, Left, Right… Read more »

Carol McCrite
Guest
Carol McCrite

My husband was given three to four months to live in 2011. He was diagnosed with SMALL CELL (oat) LUNG CANCER. Oncologist said, “Get your affairs in order.” After ONE chemo treatment he said, NO MORE….I’m going to die anyway so I am not subjecting myself to this barbaric non-treatment. In the meantime our daughter had brain tumor and went to Shands in Gainesville, FL They removed the tumor size of small orange but unfortunately dendrytes had covered the brain and intertwined with blood vessels. Someone gave her a bottle of ESSIAC TEA (aka 4-herb tea) and when she went… Read more »

DeterminedMD
Guest
DeterminedMD

Read this article in this weekend’s Parade magazine, about a 10 year old girl, Matisse Reid, who is still alive today after being born with a congenital condition called chronic idiopathic intestinal obstruction, who managed to survive until her parents, from New Zealand, brought her to a hospital in Pittsburgh and eventually got her an organ transplant last year. Wonderful story to run in Parade magazine. Except one little thing that makes a story like this very unlikely to read in Parade magazine by the year 2017: you think that health care around PPACA will be able to finance situations… Read more »

DeterminedMD
Guest
DeterminedMD

Wow, re reading that comment was the ultimate Freudian slip on my part:

“we just don’t want to EXCEPT the odds, do we?” It should have read “accept” the odds. Saturday night is alright for fightin’, per Sir Elton John.

probably catch the grief on Monday, enjoy your football games tomorrow!

Margalit Gur-Arie
Guest

@Peter, Great comment! @John, I think you misread the little exchange above. There is no cat fighting. This is actually a very rare moment, when I believe Dr. D and I are (almost) in full agreement, and I must say that I think I see Dr. Mike’s point as well, up to a point. Either way, the way I see it, health care, which is only a symptom of a larger ailment, may present a rare opportunity for physicians to reassert a leadership role on behalf of all of us, instead of passively (or furiously) accepting dicta from above in… Read more »

Peter1
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Peter1

The question is not whether this lady, or the millions of other people in the same position did not make flawless decisions in their life, it is that they are employed, or were employed in jobs/businesses that did not come with the guarantee of recession proof income that would have allowed them to maintain coverage/lifestyle, or that their time to recover and continue paying premiums just ran out, along with their 401Ks and savings and maybe help from relatives and friends before the economy came back. The smug among you who continue to get full income, or at least income… Read more »

MD as HELL
Guest
MD as HELL

Getting back to the original post, no one needs to buy a COBRA policy unless they are uninsurable otherwise. Insurance is a choice and health care is not a right. It is a commodity. The P-U-B-L-IC-O-P-T-I-O-N is why Greece, Italy and the rest of the EU are circling the drain. The hard fact is someone has to pay. Everyone with insurance prepays, creating a fund for care. For the federal programs, taxpayors prepay. If everyone is to be eligible, then call it a tax and rqaise it, eliminate private insurance and have single payor. See if you can sell it.… Read more »

steve
Guest
steve

“The P-U-B-L-IC-O-P-T-I-O-N is why Greece, Italy and the rest of the EU are circling the drain.”

Nope. They spend much less on medical care than we do. As to the larger picture, they had a real estate bubble, except for Germany, like the rest of the world. Germany is in trouble because of its banks.

Steve

MD as HELL
Guest
MD as HELL

I am referring to all of their gov’t profligate spending of money they do not have. Their public option was to drive off the cliff much faster than we are.

John Ballard
Guest

Thanks, steve. Anyone with a passing glance at Greece knows there is world-class tax evasion with the top quintile of earners paying virtually nothing in taxes. Tax evasion by high-income citizens is so widespread that helicopters are used to look for swimming pools located on property where owners claim such a small taxable income that such a luxury would be out of the question. The most recent move to cut the national debt was a thousand dollar surcharge on electric bills of property owners. This is from a recent Greek response to a Forbes article suggesting that a military coup… Read more »

MD as HELL
Guest
MD as HELL

You are scary.

John Ballard
Guest

Ya think?
All I know is what I read in the papers.

http (colon slash slash) shr (dot) tn/0TWF

DeterminedMD
Guest
DeterminedMD

People just don’t want to accept cold hard truths. People die of unfair causes, and it sucks! But, technology has given false hope, thinking that buying a couple more months, even a few years, is worth the cost, UNTIL, others realize it isn’t the patient paying for the care as a majority of the cost this wonderful and accessible care can provide. Maybe it is time for some to come to the realization that this planet was not intending to have 10 Billion humans walking on the soil. Read the comment currently at the end of this thread and think… Read more »

BobbyG
Guest

“health care is not a right. It is a commodity.”

That’s a moral decision a society makes. Not an objective fact.

steve
Guest
steve

I think I tend to see it more as an obligation than a right, but maybe my religious beliefs influence me too much in this.

Steve

BobbyG
Guest

See my post “Public Optional” “How can we say that people have an “intrinsic right” to military defense, or to police and fire protection, (or to safe food and water, or to otherwise safe products that won’t electrocute us when we plug them in)? Well, we simply SAY it. And then we codify it. And, then, having codified it, we don’t lie awake nights worrying that everyone will demand a Special Forces FOB dug into his or her front yard, or an occupied Metro PD Black & White, an ambulance, and a hook & ladder truck parked at the curb… Read more »

DeterminedMD
Guest
DeterminedMD

No one touched my comment at an earlier thread asking if third world societies have a “right” to health care. Hmm, you think silence can be validation at times? Is it really a right, or, societies like ours that are more giving and allow more opportunity create false hope and expectations? Can you really look people in the eye and tell them they have the “right” to demand complete access to all care options, even if they do not have the ability to pay for the care? I am not saying I have the right to say otherwise, but, let’s… Read more »

BobbyG
Guest

DMD at December 10, 2011 at 6:51 pm “Can you really look people in the eye and tell them they have the “right” to demand complete access to all care options, even if they do not have the ability to pay for the care?” ___ Predictable Straw Man. “And, then, having codified it, we don’t lie awake nights worrying that everyone will demand a Special Forces FOB dug into his or her front yard, or an occupied Metro PD Black & White, an ambulance, and a hook & ladder truck parked at the curb 24/7.” Show me where I EVER… Read more »

John Ballard
Guest

I hate seeing professionals fighting among themselves. It does little to inspire confidence in those of us who rely upon them for advice and services. We need physicians just as we need architects and engineers competent to design and build safe multistory buildings in locations known for earthquakes. The broad-brush catfighting happening here is out of line. Please stop it. Way up the thread Dr. Mike posed a spate of questions— “Will people pay the fine or heed the mandate? Will the pre-existing clause bankrupt insurance companies or make insurance, even on the exchanges, unaffordable? Will the exchanges work –… Read more »

Nate Ogden
Guest
Nate Ogden

State exchanges, of federal if the state doesn’t have one start in 2014. “So I say without apology, let’s give the new legislation a chance to work. That time is still years in the future. it can’t be much worse than what we now have.” It could actually be much much worse becuase it undoes so much of what is already in place. Its like taking out someone’s heart and replacing it with a liver and saying it can’t be much worse. For example when the Federal and State governments spend trillions and have nothing to show for it you… Read more »

John Ballard
Guest

I hate seeing professionals fighting among themselves. It does little to inspire confidence in those of us who rely upon them for advice and services. We need physicians just as we need architects and engineers competent to design and build safe multistory buildings in locations known for earthquakes. The broad-brush catfighting happening here is out of line. Please stop it. Way up the thread Dr. Mike posed a spate of questions— “Will people pay the fine or heed the mandate? Will the pre-existing clause bankrupt insurance companies or make insurance, even on the exchanges, unaffordable? Will the exchanges work –… Read more »

Margalit Gur-Arie
Guest

“That means that physicians, patients, politicians, and pundits all have some role to play in reshaping they way in which we approach end of life care. ” “What do you hope to gain by profession bashing?” “I can’t control my colleagues” I would like to address these together, and thank you Dr. D for understanding that this is not about bashing the profession. So here is what I am driving at: You cannot relinquish responsibility for what is happening in medicine in general. You should not invite pundits and politicians to this table. You need to provide the leadership necessary… Read more »

DeterminedMD
Guest
DeterminedMD

By the way, I despise the picture that accompanies this post. I just do not see this man espousing care. I pay attention to the deeds, and he just does not sell care, just more selfish political interest, as did his immediate predecessor. Responsible leadership as of Dec 2011 will not come from either the Democrat nor Republican parties. They are tainted, polluted pools of our political system. And they collude to keep out real, invested alternative choice. We are headed to true revolt, which will be ugly, violent, and destructive. Which is what are species seems to practice per… Read more »