Posted by: mutantpoodle | August 19, 2009


Public OptionI have argued  before, in this space, that anecdotes have limited utility in the health care debate.

Where they are helpful is in illustrating a theme.  In this case, the theme is the failure of our for-profit health insurance system to actually provide insurance to everyone who wants it.

Today, David’s letter to Barack Obama:

Dear President Obama,

Thank you for your leadership on Healthcare reform. This is a very personal issue for me. It’s not abstract. It’s not optional. You see, my youngest son, Woody, has been severely disabled since birth. He spent his first 6 weeks of life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Such a unit costs up to $50,000 per day. It is a staggering sum to start life. Since then, he has been hospitalized dozens of times, and had numerous surgeries. His last unexpected hospitalization over Christmas 2008 was over 30 days long. His surgery was over 11 hours. We estimate the costs of that stay to be in excess of $560,000. Getting true costs are almost impossible, given how hospitals bill, how insurance companies pay, and how these things are reported to us, the consumers. We may never know the full cost.

Additionally Woody is fed through a gastronomy tube (G-Tube). He is unable to get any nutrition orally. His food is a special, prescription, liquid diet costing over $1,800 per month. Every month. For life. It will only get more expensive as he grows and requires more.

If you’re getting the impression that my medical bills are astronomical, you’re partially right. I am one of the lucky ones. I have coverage through my employer (for now). My insurance company (United Healthcare) does an admirable job of denying claims and refusing payment. Luckily, my son also qualified for Medicaid here in North Carolina — he had the G-Tube, shunt tubes in his head, and a tracheostomy so he got in on the “3-Tubes” loophole — so his out-of-pocket costs are close to zero. But that could change in an instant. North Carolina is considering changing the Medicaid guidelines which would make Woody ineligible. My company is being acquired by another, and I may lose my job. Either one of those things would mean I lose my insurance, and Woody loses his. If he were to get sick again, I’d lose my house and everything I own or ever hope to own. As it stands, Woody is getting dangerously close to his “lifetime maximum benefit” with United Healthcare at which point they will refuse any more claims for him for the rest of his life. He’s 11, and though no one knows how long he will live, it will certainly be longer than United Healthcare will cover him.

In addition, and more frightening, I am uninsurable. With Woody’s history, I could not get insurance on the “Free Market” for any amount of money. Ever. No one will take on a family with a kid that has already cost millions of dollars. He is a pre-existing condition. The daily struggles to care for Woody are nothing in comparison to the fear that I will one day not be able to pay for the care he needs in order to survive. To be blunt, without insurance to pay for his food, Woody will starve to death. For me, and for my family, this is a life or death struggle. The fear of losing my insurance is a daily nightmare.

I have called dozens of Senators and Representatives. I have met with the staff of my congressional delegations. I have written letters to the editor of my local paper. I am doing everything I can think of to work for healthcare reform. I beg you not to give up on the public option. While I would prefer a single-payer solution where I would never have to worry about being covered, at least a public option, for now, would fill the gap. Please remember that this is, for some of us, literally a life or death matter.

Sincerely yours,

David XXXX

Everything is fine here – move along. Seriously – when a child is a pre-existing condition, how does one defend the status quo?


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