Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Open Letter to Sen. Grassley: Real Health Care Reform

Dear Senator Grassley:

My monthly health insurance premiums are killing me, literally.

I wish I was speaking hyperbolically. And no, I’m not a hypochondriac: Who could afford to these days with skyrocketing health care and insurance costs, especially in the midst of an economic crisis?

One of my biggest fears, other than Congress sabotaging a golden opportunity to reform health care (If only we could sue our elected officials for Political Malpractice, eh?), is my mailbox. You heard me right Sen. Grassley: my mailbox. But before you file me away under “Crazy Constituents” and cast aside this letter, I implore you to hear me out.

It’s not that I’m afraid of mailboxes per se, rather it’s what’s lurking in them that scares the living bejesus out of me: bills. I am especially afraid of reconnaissance bills which attempt to lessen the inevitable financial and subsequent psychological blows, claiming they are not bills with “THIS IS NOT A BILL” emboldened in the letterhead. Not yet, anyhow.

In March I received one of these non-Bills in my mailbox from my health insurance provider, Wellmark BlueCross Blueshield of Iowa informing me they want to raise my monthly premium 17.3 percent from $529 to $641, which covers me and my three sons (ages 1, 4 and 7). Given the effective change date was to be April 1st, I initially thought Wellmark was playing an April Fool’s Day joke on me. After all, what reputable, legal business can jack their price up 17 percent and still stay in business during an economic crisis? Reputability aside, Big Health Insurance and Big Pharma are the only industries that can pull this off, while Our employers, The Big Three Branches of Government, haggle over policy proposals while We sit by and watch our savings accounts bleed to death, one painful payment at a time -- hoping to elude Bankruptcy’s knock at the front door.

Speaking of which, according to a recent Harvard Medical study that will be published in the August issue of “The American Journal of Medicine” indicates that Bankruptcy will come knocking on an estimated 1.5 million American doors this year and 60 percent of these will result from an inability to keep pace with incoming medical expenses.

But who am I to tell you, Sen. Grassley, about bankruptcy. After all, as Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, you helped usher in the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (BAPCPA), which makes it more difficult for individuals to file for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. Shame on the uninsured and under-insured consumers for taking advantage of our country’s vulnerable and financially unstable health care business, eh?

Like you, Sen. Grassley, I’ve served the public my entire adult life, working at all levels of the government. I served two years active duty in Germany with the Army, followed by working seven years with the City of Iowa City as a swimming pool manager during college, and I have been working the past twelve years teaching high school English in Iowa City. Moreover, I’ve been coaching junior high swimming to help fill the financial gap and pay my monthly insurance premiums.

Unlike you, however, my employer’s health care benefit is no longer an option. Although the school district pays for an individual premium ($485/month), I would have to kick in an additional $750/month for a family plan (that’s $1235/month, which is more than our mortgage payment and property taxes, so I’ve had to purchase my own policy).

Unlike you, I have been struggling to pay my monthly health insurance premiums for the past seven years, and I’m on the verge of dropping into the health care casualty pool of the uninsured, thus driving up the costs of the insured – unless drastic reforms are implemented soon.

Now, since you are technically one of my employees, I thought I would tell you what needs to be done to help draft and pass real health care reform that is more cost efficient, affordable, and accessible. Ideally, a single-payer system, where all working Americans buy into the system makes the most sense, especially since it removes for-profit incentives from the equation which is immoral in the first place. I realize National Health Care scares some folks, who feel threatened and turn to their Socialism crutches as an only retort and feel the need to resort to fear mongering.

Like my mailbox phobia, these fears seem irrational, since we already implemented a similar system: Medicare. My 73-year-old mother, a lifelong Republican who worked as a billing receptionist for a neurosurgeon, always complained about how difficult it was to get payments from the private industry compared to Medicare. She also contends that the biggest causes of the problems facing this industry are when health insurance became attached to employment and when Big Health Insurance and Big Pharma hopped into bed together.

To help legitimize and rationalize their fears, I’m sure opponents of a public option are out researching industrialized countries with a national health care program, scouring for health care horror stories. If that’s the case, I suggest they start digging in our own back yard and talk to the survivors of the estimated 22,000 Americans who died last year because they didn’t have adequate health care coverage.

But I also realize you’re under a lot of pressure from lobbyists representing Big Health Insurance and Big Pharma, who fear they will be driven out of business if the government sets up shop, so I’m willing to make a compromise and let you push through a public option. That way, those who are afraid of the S-word taking over their lives can stick with their current policy. Personally, I’m more afraid of whether or not I will be able to pay my premium next month and what will happen to my any one of my sons, should we lose coverage in the near future, than being called a Socialist.

If anything I have conveyed to you in this letter does not make any sense, maybe I can simplify and condense my message into Twitter format, something you are more familiar with, Sen. Grassley:

"Sen Grassley u got nerve sayin u bipartisan u only partisan to BiG Hellth INsurnce and PharMA. Put da profit hammer down start actin morally"

T.M. Lindsey
Iowa City, IA