The health care reality in one life

Not quite clear if Stalin ever said something along the lines of “a million dead Russians is a statistic; a single dead Russian is a tragedy,” but it is one of the truer formulations of human nature.  It’s easy to have an abstract response to 23 million people losing health insurance or hearing about millions with pre-existing conditions potentially losing coverage.  But hard to ignore one sad story.

A friend shared this on FB.  I couldn’t find anything else on this exact letter, but here’s a Daily Kos post that hits the same themes, so I suspect this is very much the real deal:

Senator Tillis,
I think you probably know who I am. I am the mother of a young man who died because he lacked access to health care. You had me arrested for trying to speak to you when you were Speaker of the House in North Carolina about the importance of access to health care. You were one of the leaders in the fight to withhold Medicaid from a half million people in this state, sentencing some 2,000 of them to death every year.

The ACA would have saved my son’s life because it forces insurance companies to not punish people who have pre-existing conditions.

My son had a birth defect. Like many young people, he decided to take a year off college when he was 19. Little did we know this common decision would be a fatal one for him. He was booted off my policy and then discovered he couldn’t buy insurance at any price because a birth defect is a pre-existing condition – as though he had decided as a zygote to have a birth defect.

This birth defect left him extremely vulnerable to an aggressive form of colon cancer, and he needed a colonoscopy every year. When he lived in New York, he had a doctor who would allow him to pay for his colonoscopies in monthly installments. By age 25, he had already had pre-cancerous polyps removed, so he had a near certainty of developing cancer if he couldn’t get his annual colonoscopies. But when he moved so he and his wife could go back to college, he discovered he could not get a colonoscopy unless he paid $2,300 in cash up front. No credit cards, no checks, no installments, nothing.

When he got sick he went to the ER three times and came away with three wrong diagnoses, three wrong medications and three large bills. You see – and I’m sure you know this – the emergency room only has to stabilize you; it does not have to look for the cause of your problem.

By the time anyone did anything, my son had stage 3 cancer. It was too late to save his life.
My son was a student, he worked 30 hours a week and he was a volunteer. He was an extraordinary young man.

But none of that mattered. He was sentenced to death – a slow and excruciating death – for having a birth defect. He had to leave his wife to get Medicaid and although he had applied for disability when he first became sick, his approval took 37 months and he was dead nine days before his first check arrived.
I tell you this story because, at the time he died, 45,000 Americans were dying every year from lack of access to health care, according to a study by Harvard Medical School that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The ACA has saved more than half of those lives. The uninsured rate in this country right now is at an historic low. The law is saving tens of thousands of lives every year, and to repeal it is tantamount to murder.

No, that statement is not overstating things. You are working on killing more than 25,000 innocent Americans every year. Those are human beings, Senator, and their lives matter a whole lot to me and to all the people who love them.

I have to face every damn day without my beloved son. I get up every morning longing to hear his voice again, devastated that I will never laugh at another one of his outrageous jokes or taste his cooking or have another late-night conversation about philosophy with him. I will never hear him tease me about being a Red Sox fan, or look for my chocolate stash only to discover he found it and left me just one little piece.

Perhaps it’s time to turn your back on your corporate overlords and become truly pro-life. Vote no on repealing the ACA. Vote to save the lives of the people who will die without insurance.

You have to know what you’re about to do is wrong.

If you go ahead with this, I hope and pray that you will burn in hell.

Leslie Boyd
Candler, NC


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

5 Responses to The health care reality in one life

  1. rgbact says:

    “You are working on killing more than 25,000 innocent Americans every year”

    I’m sure kind of this rhetoric will lead to thoughtful reform and won’t incite more shootings like yesterday. Really. Oh, and no one will ever get cancer again..

    • Steve Greene says:

      Oh, my. You’ve joined the liberal rhetoric caused the shooting crowd. I thought more of you.

      • rgbact says:

        You did? No, my point is more that HC arguments that start with “your idea will kill x number of people” aren’t very productive…..along with dehumanizing Republicans so people will want to shoot them.

      • Nicole K. says:

        Facts are stubborn things. Cutting of 23 million people will absolutely increase the number of people who would otherwise die. It would also have devastating consequences for people with chronic conditions that require ongoing medical treatment. There is no hyperbole in that. The stakes are that high.

        Republicans are threatening my ability to live life as a normal person. Without access to health insurance that actually covers expensive medical conditions and drugs, I am living life as a zombie. I spent a decade doing that before I got diagnosed, and, quite frankly, I’d rather be dead than live that way again.

        So, yeah, I’m sorry if it makes you uncomfortable to point out that cutting off people’s access to quality medical care will increase the amount of unnecessary death and suffering, but it is without a doubt the truth.

        At least some conservatives are willing to accept that truth. It may not change their desire to ruin health insurance, but at least they are honest about it.

  2. Jeremy Tarone says:

    I watched my patients die of treatable diseases because they were poor:

    “It is a big surprise that 20 percent of people with health insurance can’t afford to have the cancer therapy they need to save their lives,” said John Seffrin of the American Cancer Society.

    Yes, people will continue to get cancer, and other diseases, and in the USA many will go untreated because they can’t afford healthcare.

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