I am a visual person who is prone to gazing off into the future with, on occasion, almost prophetic clarity, surprising myself when the vision comes to pass. Oh, I am not talking now of the time I bought a wreck of a condo that no one else would touch with a ten foot pole. (I saw a haven and turned it into a comfortable home for me and Anthony on a single mom’s budget and a lot of free help from friends who thought I had lost my mind but were too loving to say so out loud.) Or the time I gazed down into the crib at my son and just knew that one day this one was going to somehow make a difference in the world; what exactly that difference would be I could not pinpoint at the time, but I knew just the same. Now I know.
No, I am talking about the vision that appeared in front of my spiritual “third eye” as I gazed down at the hospital bill for Anthony’s eight day battle with that monstrous infection last month, the one that came close enough to claim his life if not for Divine intervention. Amount charged – $30,000.00. Allowed billable – $16,190.69. Co-pay – $1,619.07. And there will be more bills like this because we are newly diagnosed with a chronic illness, a lifetime of medical expenses. This one alone wipes out my meager savings so it’s a good thing I work multiple jobs.
The vision . . . me sitting at a long table in front of a Senate subcommittee on health care reform, facing down a panel of well meaning senators seated in their privileged class cluelessness high above a cluster of frenetic photographers who are crouched below them, low to the floor, nervous, ready to pounce on the next ten o’clock news sound bite. The moment, tense; it is as if a knife is suddenly thrust deep into the heart of the elephant in the room as the opening line is lobbed my way and lands on my ear; “Ms. Greco. Please tell us your story.” Haltingly, in a daze of unbelief at the situation I find myself in, I begin as only a parent of limited means with a chronically ill child can; I name my greatest fear.
If and when my vision comes to pass; if and when someone in a position of power really, genuinely, cares enough to hear what I have to say I will tell them this on behalf of the countless other parents like me–
“Senators, do you know what it’s like to hear the ticking of a bomb that you know will explode all over you and your child and you feel helpless because you do not know how to stop it from happening? Do you know what it’s like to hold your critically sick, sobbing child and know that your resources to help are limited? Do you know what it’s like, Senators, to watch a greedy gaggle of pharmaceutical and health insurance lobbyists create a mindset that only some in this country, the United States of America, are eligible for health insurance –obscenely expensive health insurance at that? Excuse me for buying into that line that we are all “under God” around here and that the life of every American matters, all lives because, quite frankly, I don’t believe you for a minute. Your actions just don’t match your words.
Since the day I was able to put my 24 year old adult child back on my insurance, I have given thanks every day for President Obama’s gift to us, the Affordable Health Care Act. Because of this visionary president, my son, along with 2.5 million young adults age 19-25 now receive medical insurance. (Retrieved from http://www.bloomberg.com. Bloomberg. December 14, 2011) Esteemed Senators, I am stunned as I further study this amazing, astoundingly comprehensive, well written act (yes, I have read all 974 pages) and the Bloomberg reports on it, that this president’s administration struggles to “convince Americans that the overhaul will be beneficial.” I struggle because you see, that’s where all of you come in. It is your job to take the message of “benefits” to the people. It is your job to say this is not about an “overhaul,” it is about doing what is right for every single one of our citizens, especially the least of these, the most vulnerable. It’s your job to tell everyone that the “benefit” of keeping this Act in tact is that everyone, every life is valued in this country – that is what you say when the cameras are rolling – that every citizen matters. Do you mean it when the cameras are not rolling? Prove it.
Panel of Senators, you will fight like maniacs for the life of an unborn child, yet you dare to hesitate to make affordable insurance available to the mother, dare to stand in the way of making this a reality by threatening to kill the Act if your party is successful at the polls. Heck. You won’t even give her birth control to help prevent an unwanted pregnancy. Nope. The poor, marginalized women of this country, women who live in a different world than you do are not real to you. They have no names, no faces. They are just data on a spreadsheet to you so it is easy to discount them by imposing your paradigm of them on them instead of trying to understand their plight. May I ask how many unwanted children have you adopted lately?
Please. Please help me understand your thought process regarding your animosity toward this Act because I really want to know. I want to know so the next time I am behind a senior citizen at the CVS and I have to hear them ask the pharmacist to only give them 7 pills of their monthly prescription because they can’t afford all their pills and plus keep the heat on or buy food, I’ll know what to say, or do because I can no longer afford myself to step around them to the counter and add some money to theirs.
You see, Senators, my son has been recently diagnosed with a chronic illness and his time on my insurance runs out this December and I need to save every penny for his future medical needs. You want to know why I’m panicked about this? I asked my human resource department how much I would have to pay to keep my son on COBRA when January 1 rolled around and they told me anywhere from $700-1,000.00 a month! And you know what, Esteemed Senators? I’m not really sure, since you have really good insurance, some of the best I’m told –I’m not really sure that you are aware that if my son goes uninsured for 90 days he’s basically uninsurable due to his now “pre-existing condition.” That is, unless you get behind this health care act and make insurance for him and others like him permanent in this country of great abundance, amber waves of grain and purple mountains majesty. If you can’t, then I demand that you to look him in the face, address him by his name, Anthony, and I want you to explain your logic to him as the quality of his health care declines once he is no longer age-eligible for this Affordable Health Care Act as it stands. I want you to help ease the guilt he has taken on as he watches his mother struggle even harder to come up with an extra grand a month for the COBRA which will eventually run out. Oh, and did I mention the co-pays and medical supplies on top of that extra grand a month? And did I mention that when all that runs out, if he can’t find a job that can insure him we are sitting ducks? And what about those who have no job, no insurance to piggy-back on to, no one to help them pay for their medical care or no access to even a community health care clinic? What are they supposed to do?
Senators, I will close with this; I am so disgusted, disillusioned and disappointed in you all for not caring enough to place America’s health over the profits of pharmaceutical and health care organizations or- dare I say it – your own political or business interests and take a stand and do what is morally right and just. I am angry that you would dare to argue with the President about such matters because to argue with him is to also look me in the face and argue with me, the parent of a chronically ill child. To argue with the President is akin to looking into my son’s eyes and telling him he isn’t worth protecting. I am infuriated that you would allow people to do without medications or languish in pain and many to die because you are “up there” and we are “down here” and you, for some inexplicable reason, just don’t get it. Please. Please explain it to me.”
If and when my vision comes to pass; if and when someone in a position of power really, genuinely, cares enough to hear what I have to say I will tell them this on behalf of the countless other parents like me.