Thursday, September 3, 2009

Texans Tell Democrats "Git ‘er Done" Regarding Health Insurance Reform 2000 Texans tell Democrats "Git ‘er Done" regarding Health Insurance Reform and a Public Option. 2000 reform supporters from across Central Texas attended a rally with Congressperson Lloyd Doggett in Austin this past weekend to show unwavering commitment for health insurance reform and a STRONG and ROBUST Public option!

DailyKos: There were plenty of speakers at the Doggett event, which was really more of an educational forum than a rally. Pastor Jim Rigby spoke about our ethical obligation to provide health care. Chris F., a veteran, spoke about how one third of vets in Texas lack health insurance, and many can't access the VA because they live in remote, rural areas. Brittany M., a college student, told her heartbreaking story of losing her mother to heart disease, and the medical debt of her parents she assumed after their passing. Every story made it clear time and again that our health insurance system is broken, and we need real reform.

picture of Ms. Van Auken used with her kind permission
On Monday Texas G.O.P. Reps. Sam Johnson of Plano, Joe Barton of Arlington, and Jeb Hensarling and Pete Sessions of Dallas hosted a town hall at the Eisemann Center in Richardson.

During the meeting Barton said. "We do believe the president's proposal is a radicalization and some would say socialization." He said the best option would be to defeat the current plans.

Kelley van Auken (pictured above) attended the Eisemann Center town hall to voice her support for Health Insurance reform.

"Most people [who oppose health insurance reform] were actually quite nice, but there's an abundance of misinformation," said Ms. van Auken. She said that one opponent of health insurance reform told her that she doesn't need health insurance, rather, she just needs to go to church for help with health care costs. Ms. van Auken, who is confined to a wheelchair, commented that opponents of health insurance reform believe, "there are churches that will cover my $72k/year drug costs and other medical expenses." In a CBS 11 news interview Ms. van Auken said, "I've been disabled my whole life and I've been fortunate to have access to healthcare, unfortunately there are a lot of people like me or with less ailments who don't have it and really do need it."

Many opponents of health insurance reform believe private insurance companies provide all the health insurance coverage America needs. Many of those who have health insurance and are "satisfied" with their coverage, in fact aren’t “insured” from the financial burdens of rising health care costs or an unexpected costly illness.
“Under-insurance is the great hidden risk of the American health care system,” says Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard law professor who has analyzed medical bankruptcies. “People do not realize they are one diagnosis away from financial collapse.”
A national study released this year found that while medical debt contributed to 62 percent of the bankruptcies in 2007, 78 percent of those bankruptcy filers had health insurance but “still were overwhelmed by their medical debt.” No government agency keeps an official count of the under insured.
A 2007 survey by the Commonwealth Fund, a New York-based nonprofit that studies health care issues, estimates 25 million under insured Americans can't afford to cover the gap between what their insurance covers and their medical bills demand, up from 16 million in 2003.
Tens of millions more Americans may not realized they are under insured by their current private health insurance because they and their family members fortunately have not needed to call on their private insurance company to pay for a serious and costly illness.

From the
Cathy Kerns has multiple sclerosis. The drugs she takes are lifesaving, she says, but they cost more than $5,000 a month -- and she must make a 20 percent co-payment. Her specialized physical therapy costs $600 per half-hour -- and she pays 20 percent of that.

``If I call and plead with the insurance company that I need more therapy so I can walk, they say, `Sorry, it isn't in the policy,' '' she says. ``I'm paying more than $30,000 a year out of pocket. I'm running through my savings.''

Kerns, 60, who is retired and lives in Orlando, represents hidden millions in America's healthcare crisis. She has insurance -- but she is underinsured.

In that category she joins a California woman who was bitten by a rattlesnake, ran up a $73,000 hospital bill for medicine and an overnight stay, and learned her insurance would pay only $3,000 of it. And a Miami woman whose policy won't cover her diabetes because it was a preexisting condition.

The underinsured include the working poor whose employers don't provide full coverage, people who lose their jobs and their employer-subsidized insurance, and those who fail to understand the fine print in policy contracts and end up with less coverage than they expected.

``People often become underinsured because they lose their jobs,'' says Lori Parham, Florida state director for AARP. ``They can't afford to continue the good insurance they had through their employer, so they shop around for cheaper coverage -- policies with low cost, but so many limitations.''

Under the federal law known as COBRA, people who leave their jobs can continue their employer-provided policy for up to 18 months. But they must pick up the entire bill -- so if, as an employee, they paid 20 percent and their employer paid 80 percent, under COBRA they must pay 100 percent.

Kerns, who was a hotel-restaurant marketer in Orlando, left her company in 2000 and went into a COBRA plan that let her keep the insurance by paying 100 percent of its cost. She now pays $14,500 in premiums a year with a $5,000 deductible, and more than $12,000 a year in co-payments for her expensive drugs. ``Premiums keep going up,'' she says. She has been trying to get cheaper coverage, but can't because of her multiple sclerosis.

Although she is sick, she must do what she can for her husband Gary, 69, who survived esophageal cancer but now has congestive heart failure and just entered a hospice.

``It's horrifying,'' she says. ``I'm a human being. I'd like to enjoy what little time I have left.''

Even when people do find less expensive policies, they often come with limits -- higher deductibles, lower maximum healthcare payments, more exclusions for preexisting conditions and other restrictions.

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