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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A High Cost of Living With Health Care? No Way!

Over the past few months, the subject of healthcare has been relatively remote in my mind. After it was pulled off the table three months ago by House Speaker Ryan, the healthcare reform bill all but up and hibernated for a while.

A month ago or so, the long-awaited subject re-surfaced, this time as a healthcare bill reared its ugly head in the House. From the outset, it seemed like perhaps the most cruel and poorly thought out set of ideas that had neither "health" nor "care" in mind in it's creation.

This bill was informally described as a sham that house legislators threw together with the idea that the Senate would fine-tune it prior to voting, then approving, then presenting to the president. Nobody seemed to take it seriously.

Understandably, as a Medicaid recipient, I looked toward the provisions set forth in the Senate bill in terms of what it meant to me, alone. After all, other than my beloved service dog, Sophie, I am a household of one.

So, I watched and waited with interest to see what our great minds in DC would come up with.

Over the past few weeks, under which this bill has been created in secrecy by a GOP caucus, I have paid very close attention. And, like many Democratic senators and my fellow countrymen, I expected something that was worth the wait.

In fact, no such worthy bill was introduced two or three weeks ago. What emerged instead was what I can nicely call a bloody waste of time and, as I'm far more inclined, to less gentlemanly consider a terrible insult to all Americans. Those with a pulse, anyway.

Given that any bill affecting Medicaid benefits would also affect me personally, I am inclined to take legislation in this regard personally.

It's irrelevant whether I am someone who is "Living on the dole," or "Living off the system." I am brand-new to Medicaid, having been introduced to it as a supplement to my Medicare benefits through Social Security disability, and cannot conceive of being without it now.

Without this additional Medicaid benefit, which covers my medical co-pays, I would not survive month-to-month.

This evening, however I watched a YouTube video of Senator Al Franken presenting to the Senate results of a town hall meeting in his home state of Minnesota.

In it, he articulately described the term "survive" in its most elemental form; life and death. He made the straightforward and logical case for what Medicaid means to people in general before mentioning two specific cases.

The first story was that of a young man, now 17, who was born 15 weeks premature. Franken mentioned how the newborn's arms were so underdeveloped that his mother's wedding ring could slide right over one of them.

More complications facing the child quickly became clear, from cerebral palsy to a condition that allowed fluid to collect inside his skull, causing brain damage.

Within the first 24 hours of the child's life, Franken stated, the hospital afterwards informed the parents that costs of the childbirth exceeded $1 million. It'd added a further traumatic realization, he said, to an experience he described as already harrowing.

For the record, the boy recently passed his first college-level course and one day aspires to work at the hospital that saved his life at a time when he was as vulnerable as any human being can be.

But because of Medicaid, he is thriving today.

Then, Franken mentioned another constituent, a woman who, like me, survived a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

She was on her way to work in her SUV, hit a patch of ice, and the rest is history. But it's her conclusion that stuck with Franken and, also with me right now.

The woman said that her experience, though not fatal, brought home the fact that any of us at any time are only one accident away from needing medical care, or one diagnosis away from hospitalization, or even just a trip to the doctor.

Without Medicaid, as in the case of the two aforementioned people, overwhelming medical bills would add even greater stress to the experience of being injured or ill.

That, in itself is reason to reject the most recent addition of the Senate bill, which cuts over $800 billion in Medicaid funding.

In an America where there is little to find in the White House in terms of exemplary behavior in anyway, shape or form, the lack of Republican majority support for this healthcare bill is a comfort.

It shows me that, despite the embarrassing circus the Trump administration has portrayed to Americans and the world alike, the United States leadership might still show that it can, in fact, come from a place of good sense.

That's not just good news to Americans who, like me, depend on programs like Medicaid and Medicare for our very survival.

Rather, it's good news to everyone, anywhere who looks to the United States as an example of a democratic system, one ultimately governed by a time tested system of checks and balances, that works for, not against its citizens.

Though the final scenario has yet to play out, I'm hopeful that legislators, like Franken, will disregard partisan ties in favor of human compassion. At the very least, putting aside reelection aspirations so they may do the right thing.

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