The Need for a Public Health Insurance Option

My son, 5, canvasing for health care reform

My son, 5, canvasing for health care reform

Here is a letter I wrote to Senator Ron Wyden this summer about why our family, like over 45 million other Americans, has no health insurance. My biggest concern in the health insurance debate is that we will let the public option go. If we do not have a public option, the fight for health insurance will amount, in my opinion, to a colossal waste of time. I want Obama to be strong on this issue and to stand up to the insurance companies and business interests.

Senator Ron Wyden
310 West 6th Street
Room 118
Medford, OR 97501

June 21, 2009

Dear Senator Wyden:

I am the mother of three children, ages 9, 8, and 5, and I am pregnant with my fourth child. I am a hardworking, responsible, healthy person. My husband and I own our own home.

My family does not have health insurance. Every time I research a private health insurance plan, I get so demoralized and depressed that I give up. We live a very frugal lifestyle in order to stay out of credit card and other debt: we do not buy new clothes for ourselves or our children (we get hand-me-downs or go to Goodwill), we do not eat in restaurants or buy coffee in coffee shops, we have only one car and we try to use it as little as possible, and we are very conscious about our energy and water usage. The cost of private insurance is prohibitively high and, although I worry that we are uninsured, I do not see how we can afford to pay at least $300 (really much more) a month for a system that does not work.

In the past I have always been insured and I have been very unhappy with the quality of care we have received as a result. In the year 2006-2007 I had two private insurances at the same time. In spite of this, and in spite of the fact that everyone in my family remained very healthy and we were not hospitalized for any reason, we paid more than $9,000 out of pocket for medical expenses. Why? Because neither insurance would pay for the only anti-malarial medication that our family could take (we were living overseas for one year), which cost $3-$5 a pill. In the event that we contracted malaria, the insurance would have paid for our treatment. Yet the private insurers refused to pay for the prophylactic that kept us all healthy.

In 1999 I had an even worse experience with the health insurance system in the United States. I was a graduate student at the time and I was pregnant. I had a healthy baby in July and a few weeks after she was born the hospital sent me a bill for $6,000, saying that my insurance denied my claim because my pregnancy was considered a “pre-existing condition.” At the time I made $11,000 a year. I had been insured the entire time through the private insurance plan that the university I attended provided to students. Yet my pregnancy was pre-existing. I fought the denial and won but the psychological toll of having a newborn baby and being told I owed what amounted to more than half my yearly salary was enormous. It was devastating and I have never forgotten it.

It is these unethical, unfair, and psychologically scarring incidents that I associate with private insurance in the United States. My number one first choice is to have a health insurance system in this country that is provided by the federal government so that everyone in America will be insured regardless of age, economic status, or medical health. If we did this, the government would quickly and in earnest begin to fight childhood obesity, bring healthy, organic, whole foods into the public schools (instead of the junk that is given to children to eat today), and find federally mandated ways to get people out of their cars!

In any case, it is clear that we need a complete overhaul of our insurance system and I fully support President Obama’s fight to change the health insurance system in this country.

I urge you to stand up against business interests and support President Obama as well.

Jennifer Margulis

Dr Alan Bates, Oregon State Senator, is a strong supporter of health care reform. Here he addresses activists in Ashland, Oregon

Dr Alan Bates, Oregon State Senator, is a strong supporter of health care reform. Here he addresses activists in Ashland, Oregon

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  1. Hurrah for you! I agree 100%. We have health insurance, but we pay probably over $5000 out of pocket when all is said and done – high deductible, co-pay, deductible, etc. I am still trying to get a $500 bill from my husband’s doctor straightened out. Both my husband and daughter have medical conditions that require monthly or bi-monthly meds that cost over $1500 per month. Health insurance is the main reason my husband left his consulting business and took a job with health insurance. We could not afford to pay $500 in premiums each month.

  2. Thanks for sharing. I loved the photo of your son ringing doorbells.

    It is so unfair and outrageous what insurance companies get away with. I am with you 100% on this. Joe Lieberman, Independent CT, has said he will oppose a public option, although most people in CT disagree. Jon Steward reported on this yesterday. I live in MA, but I’m writing Lieberman today about his opposition. Incredible!

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