Dear Representative Bean,

Last April, my mother went in for a colonoscopy. Her doctor recommended it because she was presenting with anemia and having some gastro-intestinal discomfort. She’ll be 70 years old next month.

The colonoscopy revealed cancer near the cecum (at the appendix end of the lower intestine). The doctor said that it seemed small and looked like it could be resolved with surgery. Mom would need a CT scan to determine the extent of the cancer as the colonoscopy can only show the inside of the colon. She was able to get the CT scan scheduled within a couple of weeks. The CT scan indicated that the cancer was contained within the colon and surgery was scheduled for May 11th.

The surgery was a great success. Because the surgery was laproscopically assisted, Mom was in the hospital only from Monday to Thursday. She had only three small incisions above and below her belly button and a small 3 inch incision on the right side, under her ribs. Friday, the doctor called at home and told us that he had removed all the cancer and tests showed that Mom would not need chemotherapy or radiation. She was cured.

My sister, who has Irritable Bowel Syndrome, had already scheduled a colonoscopy and endoscopy for May 1st. As a result of Mom’s cancer, I scheduled a colonoscopy for myself for May 6th. Both of us were clear, but with the history we have of gastro-intestinal issues, with the history of my father succumbing to esophageal cancer in 2002, and now Mom’s cancer, we need to be checked out more frequently than the usual 10 years between colonoscopies.

I worry that under plans currently being considered in congress we may not have had such a good outcome. I worry that some of this testing may not have happened, or not happened as timely as it did. Mom was having issues, doctor ordered tests which found a very early stage 1 cancer. Surgery resolved the issue.

What if she’d had to wait months or longer for the colonoscopy? What if, after waiting for a colonoscopy she had to wait again to schedule surgery? Her cancer may not have been caught as early as it was. It may not have been as easy to excise the cancer. The cancer may have spread to lymph nodes or other organs as well. She may have needed radiation and chemotherapy as well as the surgery. All that would have cost a lot more than a colonoscopy, a CT scan, and a quick and effective surgery.  And that’s just the monetary cost. Just imagine the pain and suffering Mom may have had to endure had she had to wait. Add to that the radiation and chemo side effects.

By being able to get these services in a timely manner, all that was avoided and she is cancer free. This is what we need. Not a single-payer option, not a ‘public’ option.

I understand that Congress will not avail itself of the public option should that be included in the final markup of a health care reform bill. How about you open up the insurance choices that Congress has to the public? Allow us to have the same choices you have. Wouldn’t your premiums go down too, if there’s a larger pool of people paying in?

Another problem I have with the options that are being considered has to do with my daughter. She is 18 years old and special needs. She has epilepsy, is developmentally delayed, has a moderate hearing impairment, and a few years ago she was also diagnosed with lupus. She is on medications for her chronic conditions. Because of her developmental delays, she is more like a five-year-old. except that her verbal skills are not even at that level. She can make her needs known somewhat, but cannot communicate even like a normal three-year-old. She can dress herself, use the bathroom, and feed herself. She needs help showering, she cannot cook or make a sandwich or use the microwave. She cannot cut food. She needs assistance at a certain time of the month. She can swallow her medications with water, but she is incapable of determining which medications, in what dosages, and at what time she needs them.

She knows how to put a DVD or CD into the built in DVD player in her TV. When she’s playing a CD she calls it her ‘radio’. She can put puzzles together. One with large pieces she actually puts together upside down, so all the pieces are white. She loves music and movies. She loves Barney and Dora and Blue. She calls Ice Age “elephant”, Ice Age II: The Meltdown is ‘elephant in the water’. She tries hard to say Ice Age and Ice Age 2. We’re waiting for Ice Age 3 to come out on DVD so she can have the whole trilogy. She loves going to Six Flags and riding all the rides. She isn’t afraid of any of them.

I am concerned that someday, somebody will decide that resources are being wasted on her. That perhaps she doesn’t need this medication or that medication because of the cost. What on earth will happen to her after I’m gone? She’ll never be a “productive’ member of society. I hate to think that someday in the future someone may decide that she needs ‘end of life counseling’. She’ll say yes to a lot of things because she doesn’t quite understand.

She’s a loving girl. She loves listening to music. She’s concerned when she thinks someone is sick or in pain. She’s been known to ask people in wheelchairs if they are okay. Most see that she is special and take her concern as it is intended and tell her that yes, they are okay. We went to my cousin’s wedding and she called the bride “princess”. She also called Mrs. Mary Todd Lincoln (a re-enactor at the annual Civil War Days at Lakewood Forest Preserve in your district)  ‘princess’ because of her long dress. We bought her a pioneer type bonnet there and she calls that her princess hat. She would touch the hat and say ‘princess’ and I’d say yes and she’d say, ‘me?’ I’d tell her that yes, she is a princess.

We’ll be seeing a lot of ‘princesses’ at the Bristol Renaissance Faire tomorrow as well. We can get her a pointed princess hat with ribbons so she can be even more of a princess. She is our princess and we don’t want to see her treated as anything less.

Let’s make sure we think everything through before we make a law regarding health care. Let’s make sure that by “fixing” parts of it we don’t “break” other parts. Let’s try not to regulate it to death.

Open up insurance. Get rid of the ties to employment. Let employers pay employees more and let employees purchase health insurance like they do auto insurance, homeowners/renters insurance, life insurance. COBRA was mandated by congress years ago as a bridge for people between jobs. I’ve been given the choice of COBRA. I have never availed myself of it. I think most people decline. It’s way too expensive. If insurance isn’t tied to employment, one would know exactly how much it costs and be able to budget for it while between jobs just as they do their auto and homeowner’s/renter’s insurance. Open up insurance so people can buy a policy from any state.

Let people pick and choose which coverages they want. Let the young, single, career woman choose insurance that will cover annual women’s wellness exams and birth control should she so choose. Let the post menopausal woman drop the coverage for childbirth. Go ahead and mandate a minimum catastrophic insurance like states already do for auto insurance.

Increase and promote Health Savings Accounts. Allow rollover of these accounts. Currently, if I don’t spend what’s in my Health Savings Account this year, I lose anything left over. Ours is currently used for prescription co-pays. At the beginning of the year I had to estimate what my costs would be and set a monthly amount to go to the account. No changes are allowed. One of my sons was on a medication that did not have a generic equivalent. The co-pay for that one was $50 a month. Halfway through the year the medication became available in generic form. That dropped the co-pay to $10. So now I have to find something that will be approved for payment from the Health Savings Account in the amount of $40 per month or I lose that money. $240-$280 that I will lose if I don’t use it by December 31st.

 Health Savings Accounts are a really great idea, but only if they roll over year to year and one doesn’t lose the money one doesn’t spend in a particular year. The 25 year-old single guy who takes the minimum catastrophic plan could put some money into an HSA every month. Then, when he gets bronchitis, he has the funds to pay for a regular doctor visit and the medications prescribed. If he doesn’t get sick that year, the funds roll over to the next year when he sprains his ankle and needs x-rays, pain meds, crutches…

Please take the time to read the legislation that comes out of this process. Please insist that it is published online and allow time for public debate before laws that affect something as important as health insurance are voted on. Health insurance is a very personal matter to most of us. Let us have some input.

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