Our Senators should know better. Both of them continue to misrepresent the people of Louisiana on this issue, though they are doing a fantastic job of representing the private insurance lobby.
The Public Option Is Not A Political Issue; It Is A Human Rights Issue:
I am a 27 year old with cerebral palsy. Fortunately, my disability is very mild, and it does not affect cognition. I have degrees in Religious Studies and English from Rice University, and I’ve spent the past two and a half years working as the special assistant to the Mayor of Alexandria, Louisiana.
Until I was ten years old, I was covered by my family’s private health care plan, Traveler’s Insurance. Because of my disability, I spent much of my childhood either in hospitals or in physical therapy.
I was fortunate to be born into a family that recognized the power of preventative, pediatric intervention and treatment. For most kids with CP, it is absolutely crucial to ensure that bones can grow correctly, which usually requires rounds of orthopedic and/or neurological surgery and years of hands-on physical therapy.
At ten years old, Traveler’s told my family that I was no longer eligible for coverage.
At ten years old, I was told that, essentially, I was the best I could ever be; as I recall, they specifically refused any additional payments for physical therapy.
I had metal screws and metal plates in my body– things that were implanted as temporary fixes, as a way of guiding and instructing my growth, things that needed to come out.
My disability is somewhat unique and rare, and as a result, it was and remains difficult to find a doctor who thoroughly understands proper treatment. When I was very young, I was treated by a neurosurgeon, T.S. Park, who was recently featured by NBC Nightly News for conducting rhizotomies, a procedure that I was one of the first in the world to receive (paid for, in part, by my family’s private insurance company). Afterward and until the age of about 15, I was treated by Dr. Jim Gage of Gillette Children’s Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon roundly considered one of the world’s top experts in cerebral palsy. (After I lost my health care coverage, Dr. Gage remained one of my champions, providing me with medical care, no doubt, at a loss).
So I lost my insurance when I was ten, and my parents were making (barely) too much money for me to get government insurance. They tried to get me included in other private insurance plans, but I was always summarily rejected.
I was uninsurable.
And I had screws and plates in my body that needed to come out. I had other surgeries that were needed. I had physical therapy too. Tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars in needed treatment.
There was only one solution at the time: My parents had to relinquish custody of me to my grandparents, who made less money than my family, in order to qualify me for Medicaid. I had to move out of my family home, away from my brother and my sister and my mom and dad, for an entire year.
You can say that I cheated the system, I suppose, except that “the system” allowed and actually encouraged such action. (Fair warning: If you believe I somehow cheated, then I will immediately dismiss you as inhumane. After all, I was ten years old, disabled, with screws in my bones, and in obvious need of medical care).
I don’t pay into any privatized health care plan in my current job because I fear losing the paltry plan I have today– public insurance that runs nearly $200 a month.
Access to health care should be considered a fundamental human right. And in the richest country in the history of our planet, this access should be unfettered and should include the services of the best professionals in their fields.
More importantly, this fundamental right to access should never be predicated on the whims and desires of a for-profit corporation.
When taking a stand against the public option, you are effectively standing against the poor, the elderly, the infirm, and the disabled. Period.
And most importantly: I know that I am not entirely unique. I know there are, right now, kids just like I used to be, kids filing through the doors of our publicly-subsidized hospitals, kids whose families can only hope that their child will be able to see the doctor who drove up in a Porsche (this, to be sure, is my experience with a certain doctor), kids who are deemed uninsurable, and kids who will never have the opportunities that I had because, fortunately, despite my disability, I belong to a family who believed in exhausting every option.
Today, because of the care I was provided, I am able to live independently. I walk without aid. I drive my own vehicle to work.
I have traveled the world. I snow ski in the Rockies. I have scuba-dived into the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, explored caves in the Galapagos, and “backpacked” through Europe. In a few months, I plan to be in Africa on a safari.
Without the care with which I was provided as a child, I would be confined and restricted, spastic and stationary.
Please be forewarned: Although I have never (seriously) asked for you guys and gals to come together to fundraise for a cause, I understand now that we can make an impact on this issue with only $10,000. I firmly believe that in the course of one or two months, we can raise much more toward a good cause.
PS22 sings “Don’t Stop Believing”: