Why we fight

A woman loses her job due to carpal tunnel syndrome. Her small-business-owner husband is uninsurable because the had cancer. When she gets the flu, she can’t afford to see a doctor. By the time she’s sick enough to come in for care, she’s too sick to save. She dies, leaving her family with crushing medical bills.

In case you’re tempted to let up in the fight for health insurance reform, read the account below. It’s from an email sent by a friend to Susie Madrak of Suburban Guerilla:

Late this afternoon I was gobsmacked by a Facebook announcement that a high school friend had died. I tracked down the story, and it is an absolute textbook example of everything thats wrong with our health care system – so knowing that we share a passion for this topic, Ill share it with you.

She was 49 years old and in good health, other than a propensity to develop bronchitis. A couple of weeks ago, after a trip to Disneyland, she came down with a terrible flu. After running a high fever for four days she knew she should see a doctor, but she didnt – no insurance. Her husband, who owns his own business, had cancer a year and a half ago and is not insurable on his own. She originally had insurance through her job, but had been placed on disability after developing carpal tunnel syndrome (she was a transcriber). Eventually she was no longer eligible for insurance through her employer, other than COBRA, which she could in no way afford – her husbands business had been hard hit in the recession.

So. She waits six days before finally dragging herself to an urgent care clinic, but the wait is so long and she feels like shit on a stick so she goes back home. Eventually ends up in ICU with pneumonia, and, as it ends up, tested positive for H1N1. By then the infection had gone too far, her organs started failing, and after a week in the hospital she died this morning, leaving a teenage daughter and a husband who dont know what hit them. As though grieving isnt enough of a burden, imagine the hospital bills theyre going to face. This man is certain to lose his business, his home, and anything else he ever had – on top of losing his wife.

Its heartbreaking, completely unnecessary, and absolutely infuriating

Until the opponents of reform are prepared to say exactly what they think ought to be done to prevent cases such as this one, no one should pay attention to any of their other arguments. If they’re willing to condemn women such as this one to death and their families to penury, let them say so. If not, let them say how they intend to prevent it.

Now, what do you intend to do to to fight back?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com