You need to have been there…

I was hesitant to write this post because it is about a very polarizing issue.  My opinion (and I acknowledge that is all it is) differs greatly from most of my friends and my readers.  However, my personal experience (which is what I am going to share) is relevant to the issue.  What is the issue, you ask?


There I said it.  The three little words that incite anger, misinformation, partisan politics and even hate mail.  I’m taking my chances because I feel strongly that reform is necessary.  Why do I feel strongly enough to expose myself to critical (and that is putting it nicely) comments on my blog, losing readers and tarnishing relationships?  Because of my experiences– all I ask is that you take the time to read my story.  Agree, disagree- but a true dialogue, a true debate, true change can’t take place when people aren’t willing to listen.

  • In 1999 my husband and I got custody of (and I adopted) his son, who had just turned six (an expensive process in and of itself).  Jason came to us from a very abusive home and had (and still has) severe emotional and behavioral issues as a result. We knew that he would need extensive counseling (little did we truly know) and my husband did not have health insurance available through his employer.  Jason went to a counselor two times a week for three years before we got insurance (I went to work full-time in 2002 when our youngest went to kindergarten).  For those three years, I worked nights cleaning at the race track, worked at a daycare (so the kids could come with me) and watched other people’s kiddos to afford those appointments.
  • In 2001 (while we were still uninsured) I was diagnosed with cervical cancer.  The biopsies leading up to the diagnosis and the surgery required put us in debt to the tune of $25,ooo.  My husband worked as much overtime as he could and we made payments to anesthesiologists, the hospital, the doctor, the lab and every other possible medical entity known to man for years.  As a matter of fact in 2007, we still had a $1,500 balance with surgeon and she sent me a letter that since I had so faithfully made payments she was forgiving the rest of our debt!  What a blessing-  We had been paying her monthly for almost seven years.  While friends were driving cars that didn’t break down and living in houses with more than one bathroom, every “extra” penny we made was going to medical bills.
  • In 2003, Jason’s behavior deteriorated beyond what could be managed on an out-patient basis.  We now had health insurance through my employer but mental health benefits leave SO MUCH to be desired.  Between February 2003 and November 2004 Jason would be admitted as a psychiatric inpatient three times (twice in Towson, MD, an hour and a half away from our home) and would be in numerous partial hospitalization programs.  In 2004 our OOP (out of pocket) medical expenses for his care were in excess of $17,000 WITH INSURANCE.  Can you imagine what we would have been facing if my employer did not offer a health benefit (that I paid $124/every two weeks for as well)?
  • Then (mind you this is the very abbreviated version) a judge ordered Jason to be remanded to a residential treatment facility to the tune of $60,000/year.  Do you know how much our insurance company authorized for that? ZERO, ZILCH, NADA. Know why?  Because Jason had exceeded his mental health benefit (he was 11).  His dad and I had to make the gut wrenching choice to sign physical custody of him to the state of West Virginia so that he could get the treatment he needed.  (That was the only way he could be covered by Medicaid, to not be in our custody)  You can never know what that was like if you have not experienced it.
  • You would think our story would be over by then but no.  I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in January of 2008.  My hubby has great insurance through his employer now but our 20% of my EXORBITANT drug costs, hospitalizations, IV treatments, physical therapy and co-pays to the general practitioner, MS specialist, neuropsychiatrist (yes, all of this has left me a little depressed), urologist, hematologist, cardiologist, pulmonologist and pretty much every other “ologist” known to man came to over $13,000 in 2008 (and I can no longer work full time).

Don’t get me wrong, God has provided for us time and time again.  I am constantly amazed, looking at the $ amount going out compared to coming in, how we are not bankrupt.  We haven’t lost our home, our vehicles, or our sanity.  But we are fortunate.  So many people have.  People that didn’t deserve to have to choose between their medicine and groceries.  People that shouldn’t have to wonder if they should see a doctor or not, because they can’t afford it.

So, what are you saying, Melissa?  I am saying that reform is necessary, whether we like it or not.  Both Presidential candidates agreed on that in the last election. Yes, I have read the 1000+ pages of the proposed bill, and while I do not agree with every thing in it, I am glad that the President has the courage to introduce it.  Because it is necessary!

The bill (and the Baucus bill) are not in final form.  Yet still, there are some gross misrepresentations being made and fear mongering to distract people from the real issue.  REFORM IS NECESSARY.

Death panels? Not even going there.  Socialism?  Give me a break.

Accessibility-   please!  Affordability-  please!  Ability to have options-  please!  Eliminate pre-existing condition clauses-  pretty, pretty please!  Not have to worry about the cost of being sick for the rest of my life-  I can’t even imagine.

I urge you to educate yourself about reform, listen to those of us who truly know what it means to have medical expenses take over your life and stop the partisan rhetoric.  For me…for all those out there like me and those much worse off….just listen!


  1. THANKS FOR POSTING. I was just thinking of posting something I had written on facebook, to my friends who are mostly conservative (as am I). Here is what I wrote there:

    These are my personal beliefs on health care. I don’t listen to Fox news, I don’t listen to CNN, I haven’t watched a news broadcast in probably 3 months on cable or network TV, I just listen to the radio on my drive to and from work (10 mins) … these are just my own thoughts based on my own experiences.

    1.) I’ve lived under national healthcare for 3 years when we lived in Germany; and it was GREAT. Their system is FAR superior to ours. I wasn’t forced to take treatments I didn’t want, I wasn’t forced to wait ages for them. I never heard the doctor calling anyone to ask for approval on how to treat me. When I did get sick, I had more tests and more consultations to see WHY I got sick than just prescribing me some medicine to mask the symptoms. I find it odd that when I go for my annual checkup in America to get my blood sugar, cholesterol, etc. checked that they just mail me the results. Shouldn’t I get the test first, take them into the doctor’s visit with me and we discuss together what I need to change, what goals I need to set to be healthier for the next year?
    2.) If Malta can do it, we can do it. If a country like Malta, where all of Leonard’s family lives and uses national healthcare without incident, with few natural resources and an economy a fraction of ours can provide free GOOD coverage to all of its citizens, why can’t America a country with billions more do the same for us?
    3.) You can’t save enough for a health disaster. According to Dave Ramsey, the average family makes about 40K per year. Over a working lifetime, this amounts to 2 million worth of money to do things with. Even if you were the best saver, once you deduct typical living expenses from 2 million, you wouldn’t have enough to cover a major illness or accident.
    4.) I live in an upper class area and know handfuls of stories of people suffering under our current healthcare system due. Think how people in areas with lower per capita income are faring.
    5.) People are dying. I am pro-life when it comes to abortion. I am pro-life when it comes to health care. How can I say I don’t want an unborn fetus to die, but say I support letting an adult die because they can’t afford healthcare. I feel I have the same moral responsibility to take care of an economically unprotected adult as a voiceless unprotected fetus. I don’t care is the adult isn’t working, isn’t producing. How will I know that the fetus I support will be a productive citizen. (I know some will say, yes, but government healthcare will pay for abortions. This is probably true, but I don’t think a women’s right to have an abortion is going anywhere anytime soon. Despite all the pro-life people I’ve seen in office, I’ve never seen them change anything)
    6.) As a business owner, it just makes sense. To grow our business we need to hire more people. We can hire less people when we have to pay for salaries AND health insurance.

    Due to my aforementioned lack of news watching, I don’t know if what is being proposed in Congress is good or bad. What they have in the plan, etc. I just know that ANYTHING has to be better than what we’ve currently have. And if other countries can do it, so can we.

  2. Melissa I agree with you. This is such a divisive issue and the misinformation campaigns have been so very successful. We do need reform. Not everything is perfect and the solution will not be perfect for everyone, but change does need to happen. The challenge is presenting the FACTS of healthcare reform in such as way that they are misinterpreted. This is such a hot button issue for so many. I am thankful that my family is for the most part healthy, but I do know that that can change in an instant.

    Take care

  3. Julie- I just want to hug you right now. The pro-life thing is so true. The pro-life issue is being used as a sticking point and it shouldn’t be. Not because I am not pro-life but because Roe v. Wade is NOT going to be overturned, no matter who is in the President’s office. People need to stop making that a do or die issue. I am pro-life for humanity (babies and the rest of us) Thank you so much for your comment!

    Gail- thanks sweetie! I appreciate your support and willingness to acknowledge that any of us could be in a bad position if a medical crisis strikes our family.

  4. I applaud you for going out on a limb. I agree that reform is necessary. I just think we should NOT reform just for the sake of reforming. Be sure it’s done right and isn’t going to end up making things far worse than they are already. Welfare was supposed to be the answer for the poor. Well look what happened there. Now people choose it as a career rather than it helping those who really need it. I don’t want to see something like that happen to health care.

  5. Hey Michele: Thanks for commenting! I think we are past the point of reforming for the sake of reforming. There is genuine need, for sure. I look forward to seeing what Congress can come up with in terms of a compromise.

  6. You and your family have been so fortunate that these health issues didn’t break you. As you said, so many people aren’t that lucky. It’s so scary to me. I’m lucky because my husband is able to work a second job (part time, no less!) that gives us health insurance. I am disabled due to chronic migraines and he is a barber, so otherwise we’d be blowing in the wind.

    I hope we can come up with something good and get it passed. We need this so badly.

  7. Amen!

    We all need to tell our stories and make sure that people understand that reform must come. No reform is going to be perfect or appease everyone, but we have to do something.

  8. My mom pays about $1400 per month for health coverage for just herself. I’m sure you can imagine. Yes, I agree there needs to be reform! I used to work for an insurance company…and they will NEVER do the right thing unless they are forced to.

  9. Thanks for commenting ladies!

    Leah, you make a great point. Reform does need to focus on changing the way insurance companies operate. They won’t do the right thing unless they have to (as is the case with most big business). Thanks for that thought!

  10. GOOD FOR YOU for posting about YOUR views–it is nice to see a bloggers opinion on things like this–makes me respect you more for knowing your thoughts and reasonings behind your beliefs 🙂 Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  11. Thanks Clarissa! It is important to share why we believe what we believe. I think that in doing that we can cut down on the misunderstandings and partisanship that surrounds issues like this. Thanks for stopping by!

  12. Melissa, I’ll tell you flat out that, since my 2005 stroke, I don’t have the attention span or the ability to comprehend a 1000 page bill so kudos to you for doing it! Health care reform is absolutely necessary. My husband is only taking SOME of the meds he needs to be taking for his diabetes and the kidney complications caused by it as well as his congestive heart failure. I spent over $500 on meds JUST FOR HIM this month — and that’s only getting SOME of what he needs. I just don’t know what the right health care reform would be. So you’re just getting agreement and no slams at all from me!

  13. Melissa, I’m standing up clapping along with everyone else! I can’t be more articulate than Gail and Clarissa and Beth and Diana Lee and…so I’ll just add my “Amen” to the group.

    If we all keep digging in and asking questions, I believe we can make a difference, even in Washington D.C. — hence our ongoing series of health care policy conference calls with legislators on Stories like yours prove that the fine print in these bills will have an enormous effect on our lives…

  14. Too funny, Shelby. It took me a looong time to read and comprehend and I took a lot of notes.

    Lisa- the conference call with the Senator (sponsored by blogher) was the impetus for this post and I look forward to next week’s call with the Congresswoman.

    Thanks for stopping by ladies!

  15. When I hear these people who are so vehemently opposed to health care reform, I try to imagine what their families or lives are like that they are seemingly untouched by rising insurance costs. Do they not know anybody who has had cancer, a chronic illness or a child with disabilities or health issues?

    I’m chiming in late, but I’m there with you. We need accessible, affordable care!

  16. Diane Smith says:

    I applaud you….your post was well written… a mother of a child with autism I have been through all the red tape involved with getting him what he needs…a very frustrating process. We do need health care reform and I cannpot understand why people are so against it.

  17. I guess I just don’t see what the huge hub-bub is about….

  18. I saw this on Maryland Mommy Bloggers first. Great post. It looks like a great first step has been made this weekend. Health care reform passed the House. Maybe not prefect health care reform but health care reform none the less.

    Thank you for sharing your story. My MIL just passed away from MS so it is a topic close to my heart. I also have a chronic health condition. Luckily my Chron’s has been in remission for 7 1/2 years but I know it won’t last forever.

    Take care!

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