health care reform

despite what anyone’s opinion may be on health care reform, it’s impossible to ignore the thousands of stories of americans who have suffered under the current state of our health care system. for those who are opposed, i doubt they’ve ever had to sit through the harrowing insurance process or watch a loved one suffer because they are denied compassion and care because of bureaucratic technicalities. in memorium of my dear friend, gene williams, i am going to post the letter i wrote to the editor of the l.a. times after gene took his own life in 2006. with his health rapidly declining and his quality of life shattered, he was denied life saving care based on forms, questionnaires, quotas and small print:

Nov. 9, 2006: Is Universal Healthcare part of this “new direction”?

As we get past election Tuesday and celebrate victories won, I can’t help but think about the “new direction for all Americans” that’s being touted in the headlines and whether or not that “new direction” includes health care reform for “all Americans”.

I am mourning the loss of a dear friend who took his own life last week because something as basic as good health care was denied him. Gene, who needed a kidney transplant, played by the rules and in fact, had a job that provided health care. He located kidney donors with the help of a website campaign and when the time came to schedule the transplant, he found his insurance company had cut him off. The accountant at the company he worked for had been embezzling and pocketing the insurance payments and as a result, he and several other employees in need were left without. Despite the involvement of the FBI and a plea to the Insurance Commissioner in Sacramento, Gene was left without his transplant, money for medicine, and he could forget about dialysis. Pacific Care turned down his employers offer to pay the delinquent payments and a years payments in advance to continue his coverage. This was a boon to Pacific Care. They are in the business of making money not helping their policyholders and now they were rid of that profit loss. No other insurance company would take him with a pre-existing illness. He couldn’t go on Medicaid because his income disqualified him and the hospitals wouldn’t touch him without 20% of the $200k plus for his portion of the operation. Let alone the medical expenses of his donor. Gene didn’t see anything but a slow, painful death ahead of him so he put his house in order, said goodbye to the people close to him and shot himself. He’s not the first. I know others out there and I’m sure you do too. Insurance companies are not in the business to help you but to make a profit. When you are in need and relying upon the policy that you’ve paid so much money into, they see you as a liability and work hard to find a way cut you loose. What makes it worse is that we live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world where I, as a taxpayer, contribute to the billions that are being pumped in the pockets of Halliburton and the like all in the name of war but not one penny of which does people like Gene any good.

So, when they said a “new direction for all Americans”, did they mean those Americans too? The ones who have to choose between rent and health care? Or did they mean only the Americans who could afford that “new direction”? I’ve heard about “change” throughout every election since I was old enough to vote and the one thing that I’ve noticed is that for the lower-income and yes, middle class, nothing changes no matter who’s in power except for the amount of tax our government pulls out of our checks. So while our newly elected politicians pat each other on the back, I wonder if a single one of them will speak for the people they’ve been sent there to represent. If they will speak up for something as fundamental as health care coverage for “ALL Americans”.

we miss you gene.