Sunday, March 21, 2010

A meditation on love and healthcare reform.

I know that the group of people I am inviting to read this are nothing if not politically diverse. As far as I can tell, there are about equal portions tech-head Libertarians, tree-hugging liberals, and a significant group of social conservatives. So, I know that many of you will have problems with what I'm about to say, but I hope you will read on...

I love a woman who is broken. She is strong, courageous, funny, irreverent, generous, creative, and many other wonderful qualities, but her brain - and by relation, her body - is broken. When I first met her over 6 and a half years ago, she struggled as a mother of two high-needs boys. About halfway through that time, she was diagnosed Type 2 Bi-Polar. Prior to that time she was sure her condition was due to stress-related thyroid/adrenal failure, and was using TCM and thyroid compounds to treat it.

Due to her formerly mis-diagnosed thyroid issue and now-known neurochemical imbalance, she has never been able to work according to the expectations of American culture. Above and beyond the fact that the boys really need a full-time mom and advocate for their needs, no employer would accept what they saw as 'erratic' or 'undependable' attendance, an employee who takes too many sick days. So, since separating from the boys' father 8 years ago, she has squeaked by on wisely-spent child support combined with the small income she could generate from work-at-home self-employment, and modest material support I've contributed for several years. She has never had more than about $10,000 gross income per year.

For the last 18 months I have worked at a solid job with good benefits. This means I have about the same insurance coverage as most working adults my age. The boys are covered under their Dad's insurance.

She has none. She has had none for the last 8 years.

She cannot benefit from mine because we are not legally bound to one another through marriage. It's a long story, but suffice it to say divorce is a long and complicated journey nowhere near its conclusion. She is lost in a legal and financial shuffle all too many women have known at some point in their lives.

Soon after her diagnosis, she began a cocktail of 2-3 expensive drugs, which at standard pharmacy rates would total around $4000 per year. That is a THIRD to HALF of the money she receives each year. The only way she gets what she needs is by being so close to the edge that she qualifies for a free medicine program through Country Doctor, supported by several large pharmaceutical companies. Country Doctor is always hanging by a financial thread, and the pharmaceutical company could pull the plug at any time through profit-driven motives. In other words, it's not a program that creates any peace of mind.

Her biggest and most constant fear for the boys is that something will happen to her. She'll get hit by a car while bicycling. She'll fall and break a leg. Complications of an old, but serious, back injury will worsen over time. In short, something might happen that would make her unable to parent them. These are the improbable but unforeseeable events we all face, and yet for her they are a source of almost overwhelming anxiety because any accident would mean immediate financial ruin.

I'm telling you this because tonight, after all the misinformation, fear-mongering, lies, accusations, and political idiocy, the decision made by just over half of the United States House of Representative means she will no longer live with this gnawing fear. She will be able to get health insurance. She will not be turned away for her pre-existing condition. Her coverage will not be cancelled if she gets sick or her present challenges increase. She will be able to go to the doctor when she needs to and not stay away - exacerbating her condition - for fear of the cost. She will not feel the guilt of being a possible burden to those who love her.

This is what I have won tonight. This is what the boys have won tonight. This is what thousands and possibly millions of other people in similar circumstances have won tonight. We have won a loving woman and mother who will know the medical security and peace of mind most of us take for granted.