The Health Care Crisis: Letters From VT and America (Sen Sanders)
I (Vt Sen Bernie Sanders) sent an email to my Senate mailing list requesting support for a single-payer Medicare-for-All system, and for personal stories describing the problems people are having with their health care coverage. Within a few weeks, some 40,000 people signed the single-payer petition and more than 4,000 sent in their personal stories. I want to thank all of those who responded.
I collected some of the letters in a booklet, “The Health Care Crisis: Letters from Vermont and America.” In poignant and heartbreaking terms, the letters describe the pain and outrage that people are experiencing within our dysfunctional health care system...
Sen Bernie Sanders
Date Posted: 06/22/2009
I pay $12,000+/yr for family health care insurance. I have what many would consider good health coverage. We are also a pretty healthy family and don't go to the doctor much or use many of those health care insurance dollars. However, when we do need it, we face a nightmare of double and triple billings for medical services that should be covered. Expenses we are told are not covered or require a new deductible that wasn't present before. Re-billing and re-billing with the apparent hope we will pay rather than try to figure out the labyrinth billing system. It has taken us literally years to straighten some bills out with our insurance company. Talk about choice --we are restricted to the doctors "in system". Unless we can get prior approval to see a doctor "out of system" we are out of luck -- it is not covered.
My younger brother, a combat decorated veteran of the Vietnam conflict, died three weeks after being diagnosed with colon cancer. He was laid off from his job and could not afford cobra coverage. When he was in enough pain to see a doctor it was too late. He left a wife and two teen aged sons in the prime of his life at 50 years old. the attending doctor said that if he had only sought treatment earlier he would still be alive.
I have been a health care lawyer for 30 years working with physicians and hospitals on regulatory and contract matters. The administrative costs and time they spend on billing all the insurance companies and dealing with denied claims and coordination of coverage is extremely wasteful. This time and money could be better spent providing health care.
No question, just a statement. I am a physician and I cannot continue to practice with the current insurance system. I am spending up to 2 hours a day on the phone or writing to insurance companies for prior authorizations for medications or services.
N. Bennington, VT
I just want to say what anyone on Medicare will say, Medicare is a single payer insurance, and it works much better that the "private" insurer I had before! Enough talk about "socialized" medicine. People that we know in Canada have nothing but good things to say about their health care system. It is past time for Americans to enjoy the same kind of care!
I will be 65 this year and would like to retire but there is just no way my husband and I can be without insurance. Almost half of my paycheck goes to pay for this insurance, from a job that pays under $23,000 a year. The average man and woman of America need help. I have worked all my life and have paid into social security and Medicare for many years. Why can't I retire in peace with the knowledge that when we need medical coverage the most, and have paid for it, we will have it?
I recently had to take a friend of mine to the ER. He had been suffering severely debilitating dizziness & vertigo for several weeks, so bad that on several days he could not go downstairs to the kitchen for food. He had finally managed to see his doctor the previous day. She recommended that he see 2 specialists to find the cause of the vertigo. He told her that he was on disability and his insurance would only cover visits to a primary physician, not a specialist. She then suggested that he go to an ER in order to get the tests he needed. I knew he had no other option, so I offered to take him. He hated to do it, since he had no hope of ever paying the bills, but his life could quite literally have been at stake, so we went. It was incredibly costly & wasteful for him to receive absolutely necessary care in this fashion. We even discussed which local hospital could best absorb the loss before we decided where to go. The system is sinking, and God help those without a raft.
In 1992, when I was between jobs and could not afford COBRA I had severe pain but did not go to the doctor because I had no insurance. I had appendicitus which because of my delay required 2 reconstructive surgeries that put me $25,000 in debt.
I am paying more than $3,200 per month for our high deductible family plan--Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of NJ. It costs more than I earn and so we have to use our IRA money to pay for it . My husband left me and is getting a divorce because he is sick of paying "my Cadillac health insurance that has not resulted in me getting any better."
My husband is being treated for high blood preasure and high cholesteral. He has a doctor he likes and trusts but this doctor just dropped out of our insurance plan. His reason? Too much red tape when dealing with billing this company which happens to be Blue Cross, one of the more respected insurance companies. We are being told that single payer is not good because we may not be able to chose our doctors, but we can't even keep the doctor of choice with our current plan. Also with the current uncertainty of both our jobs, I with the airlines, and his in retail, I fear being unemployed in the future and being without any healthcare.
I need a colonoscopy every 5 years. This year, I need to do it. My wife needs one too. We are insured by BC/BS, and these procedures are not covered and beyond what we can afford, so we are not getting them. It is a bit like Russian roulette, and we know it, but times are tough, and we can't afford it. We need help because we are under-insured. Please help!
S. Pomfret, VT
Recently I passed out from a week long illness. I fell and hit my head so hard I had three seizures. When I came to, I was in a hospital and owed $31,500 dollars for treatment. I can't go back to get additional treatment I need because I have no health insurance. I have always been healthy until now. At this point I must declare personal bankruptcy. I'm an unemployed IT worker with 10 years work experience.
St. Louis, Mo.
I am self-employed and my wife is chronically ill. Medical expenses, including insurance, are our largest monthly bill -- bigger than food, housing, anything. What's more, in the last year our insurer (VT Blue Cross Blue Shield) has repeatedly tried denying payment for services… It is clearly the insurance companies' policy to try denying coverage as often as possible, for any reason or no reason, and then to give in and pay when someone fights back hard enough and long enough. People who are too sick or inexperienced or uneducated to fight that hard get stuck with the bill -- which translates directly into income for the insurer. In a for-profit healthcare insurance system, this is totally logical. Money is made by denying care, not giving it -- how else?
I am currently unemployed but even when I was employed, I could not afford insurance for myself let alone my wife and three boys. I am 49 years old. I haven't been to a doctor is 15 years. If I get sick... I do over the counter. I've gotten cut and actually sewed up the injury with a needle and thread myself. Sad but true.
After having breast cancer in 1988, I found it impossible to obtain health care insurance because of a "pre-existing condition". My husband quit his partnership in a law firm and took a job with a national accounting firm so that I could receive good health coverage.
I am a retired rail worker. I had United Health Care. Not a year past when at least one of my family's claims were disputed or denied. The most common denial was that the doctor's bill was excessive for my area Montana. It was never true but I was defrauded nonetheless. Medicare has been wonderful for me. I know it is possible to get a raw deal from any bureaucracy, public or private. The big difference is that the government is not intentionally trying to screw me.
I can tell you a story about a beautiful, intelligent, hard working small business owner who died because she couldn't afford to buy health insurance for her family nor her employeess. She was 53 and I will never forgive my county for allowing the greed of the insurance companies to limit her opportunity for preventable healt care. A colonscopy at 50 would have saved her life.
When my wife was pregnant, she had a bad reaction to medication used to help her through the nausea of morning sickness. She could not breathe, suffered immobility, and we were both frightened. I took her as fast as I could to the nearest emergency room. This emergency room was not "covered" by my insurance, and I had to pay $1400 out of pocket for the visit. Later, when my company switched insurance plans, my wife's OB GYN was not "covered" by the new plan. We had to drop a doctor that we respected and trusted, the doctor who delivered my son, simply because he was not "covered" by an insurance plan. Why must we make these choices? We were convinced my wife's very life was in danger, so we went to the nearest medical facility, and were penalized for it. We had to drop the doctor we knew, trusted, and indeed loved because some company arbitrarily did not cover his services. These are decisions that go to the very core of our existence - why must we put these decisions into the hands of corporations motivated by profit?
Mount Hope, Kan.
I am 66 and looking at health plans. I still work and insure my husband and myself. The first thing that slapped me in the face was: The $2,700.00 cap for percriptions each. My husband is on two types of Insulin and will eat that up fast. Then I will have to pay for Insulin the rest of the year. I am too frightened to retire! How do people deal with all of this? Why can't Insurance companies work to help people?
(Support for H.R.676 can be expressed to yuor Congressman at 202 244 3121)