Donna Smith, American SiCKO, is executive director of the Health Care for All Colorado Foundation
We drove to Colorado Springs yesterday to start work on a new chapter of Health Care for All Colorado. HCAC is working to achieve health care reform under an improved and expanded Medicare for all for life system. In order to achieve that goal, we must build grassroots support and capacity for political action. It is good to see the organization reaching out.
That has been the good news of our past few days. There is always something good to hang on to, and always something to hope for. Today, we celebrate my first-born's 41st birthday. It's hard to imagine that many years passing, and it is marvelous to know she is thriving as an adult in ways I could only have imagined when I gave birth to her in 1972.
But aside from having my children and seeing that they are successful adults with much to look forward to, my life has been largely a failure when I compare it to what I had hoped to do by now. I went broke due to the health care system dysfunction in America, and the slide down towards that financial breaking point was long and difficult. Working class people do not just throw up our hands and go bankrupt as our first choice. We are taught that is not the right thing to do -- we hang on. And so we did. We borrowed against things, we sold things, we lost our home, we fought with creditors, and we did everything we could think of to earn more money. We always carried health insurance, but it wasn't enough over the long haul of my husband's artery and heart disease or my run-ins with cancer. After decades of hanging on, we threw in the financial towel after one doctor sued us to collect the 10 percent of his bill that we owed after my insurance had paid him $6,000.
So, financial losers that we had become over time -- quietly, insidiously and painfully -- we got up and fought on to rebuild. My husband became disabled and then was able to retire. I work on. But I have to admit that I am often exhausted from the fight. So when I logged on Friday to pay my $803.64 monthly health insurance premium to Aetna, I was shocked to see that they had raised my monthly premium to $875, and they had done so retroactively to July. If I wanted to stay insurance, I needed to pay almost $1,100 by October 1st. I paid it knowing that I had now wiped out money needed to pay other bills. I wondered if when the insurance exchanges open in Colorado if I will get any relief. But that won't help until the first of the year.
What does this have to do with driving to Colorado Springs? As we drove down, I mentioned to my husband that I do understand more than ever why people give up and suicide or murder-suicide as they get older. He didn't argue with me. We just knew that at some point, even the very strong among us have their breaking points. If we don't have a huge amount to contribute financially to our families, our communities or our nation, we aren't of much value. The health system won't want those of us who have gone broke -- no profit in the broke ones.
We have absolutely been luckier than most people who fight this long struggle against the greedy health system in the US. We know that, and we are deeply grateful to Michael Moore, to our allies in the single-payer reform movement, and to our extended family. We are not feeling sorry for ourselves. We are just running out of gas to rage on against a system that discarded us long ago. This toll on our working class aging population (as we feel useless and exhausted) is one that will end up costing us far more than we can calculate with data and research. It is and will tear at the fabric of our society as the wisdom of the ages is replaced with the greed and raw selfishness of making profits above all else at the expense of the common good.
We have no idea if the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare will ease some of this pressure on other aging working class people who face health problems. The law still allows age rating of premiums, so I may well be more expensive to insure than my value adds to to system overall. After wringing out every penny we had to give, this awful for-profit system that barters human life for money will soon find us without further value. The fight for single-payer will go on. It must.
September 29, 2013 -- Today's count of the health care dead and broke for profit in the U.S.:
The 2013, to date, U.S. medical-financial-
industrial -complex system dead: 33,843
The 2013, to date, U.S. health care system bankrupt: 533,128
** These figures are calculated based on the Harvard University studies on excess deaths in the U.S. due to lack of insurance coverage or the ability to pay for needed health care, and the Harvard University study that calculated the high percentage of personal bankruptcies attributable to medical crisis and debt in the U.S. 123 people die daily due to lack of coverage or cash to pay for care; 1,978 go bankrupt every day due to medical crisis and debt though the majority had insurance at the time their illness or injury occurred. This statistic is also based on the 1.2 million bankruptcies in the U.S. in 2012, according to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, and calculating those medically-related bankruptcies from that number.http://www.healthcareforallcolorado.org/endorse_right_to_health_care
To follow Donna "American SiCKO" Smith's blog: http://donnasicko.blogspot.com/
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