Thursday, July 16, 2009

Do you know anyone who's uninsured?

Posted By on Thu, Jul 16, 2009 at 12:27 PM

It's easy to oppose the public option while sitting on top of a nice insurance policy, subsidized by your employer. It's just as easy to judge those who don't have, or can't afford, insurance if you've never heard their story.

But what about all of those people who do have insurance, get sick and still can't afford medical care — or end up in bankruptcy court because of it?

What about small businesses that either can no longer afford health care because of years of premium increases, or can't afford to offer bonuses or hire as many people as they once did due to those increases?

What about the legions of recently unemployed whose COBRA coverage is about to run out? Assuming they can still afford it, anyway.

We must figure out a way to care for our citizens. All of our citizens, not just certain classes. We are a rich, intelligent, compassionate people. We can do this. We must do this.

As things stand, we are all already sharing the costs of an ineffective system.

A week after the Washington trip, Robinson relaxes between her classes at N.C. Central University. At 44, she looks like her fellow students, who are half her age. She's working on a bachelor's degree in business administration, with a minor in political science. Her business plan is a nonprofit that helps at-risk kids. She wants to run for local office. She has a 24-year-old son, a 15-year-old daughter, and epilepsy.

Epilepsy is a hereditary disease, Robinson explains, one she didn't know she had (though two aunts had it) until she suffered a stroke at age 32. Her condition is known as cerebral heterotopia—a brain disorder that's caused by such stimuli as flashing lights or a bright movie in a dark theater—and can cause tremors, dizziness or, in extreme cases, seizures. A grand mal seizure can be fatal.

Fortunately, Robinson says, her episodes have always been marked beforehand by an aura,—a recognizable sense of "déjà vu" that warns her to lie down, relax and sleep if she can. Some people with epilepsy have such auras, neurologists have told her, but not all.

Unfortunately, though, the episodes have been happening more frequently, Robinson confides, perhaps because of the stress she feels without a job or insurance.

Robinson should be under a neurologist's care, but she isn't. She hasn't seen her neurologist in a year. Before, she was taking two prescribed medications, Neurontin and Keppra, which helped limit the severity of attacks. Now she's not, because they cost almost $800 a month and she can't afford them.

She did buy a month's supply toward the end of last year, she says, and stretched it out over three months. Since then, though, she's gone without.

Robinson's story is familiar except, that it is, to borrow Obama's term, uniquely American: In no other industrialized nation would a person's health be jeopardized because she's lost a job.

More from The Independent Weekly.

Here's another story, from a small business owner in Wisconsin:

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