Politicians Fiddle While the Health Care System Burns

As our politicians in Washington dicker and bicker over the details of health care reform–over how the CBO will score this, or how many votes can we get for that, or how can we deal the president a political blow on this, or what can we vote for and still keep the campaign contributions flowing on that–here’s what happening to REAL people in the REAL world.

A husband and father in Wisconsin, Bill Caudle,  has to leave his cancer-stricken wife Michelle and their 14 year-old daughter and join the army, just to get health insurance to cover his wife’s chemotherapy.

“In March, he was laid off from his job as a raw materials coordinator for a plastics company called PolyOne, where he’d worked for 20 years. His severance package had provided several months’ salary, but by August the paychecks were winding down. Soon the cost of his family health coverage was going to triple, then a few months after that, nearly triple again. They needed coverage so Mom could fight her cancer.

Dad’s solution: a four-year hitch in the Army.

…But for weeks before enlisting, Bill had sought other options. He revised his résumé. He answered “help wanted” ads, then watched the companies cut workers instead of hiring them. He interviewed for one job that would have paid $13 an hour – less than half of what he was making at PolyOne. He didn’t get the job.

…The president’s stimulus bill was helping laid off workers pay for the health coverage they had while employed. Between this assistance and Bill’s severance package from PolyOne, the Caudles initially paid $136 a month for their coverage.

But in September, when Bill’s severance package ended, they would pay $497.

In January, when they would be on their own: $1,370.

 …Bill’s mother, Marguerite Hemiller, accompanied Michelle to her cancer treatments. Hemiller, a nurse for 27 years, remembered that during the first months of chemo, Michelle would stand in the parking lot crying, not wanting to go inside. Now, Hemiller felt conflicted about her son’s decision to join the Army.

“One half of me says, ‘Go.’ The other half says, ‘You’d better stay,’ ” she said. “I know he’s got to do it. He’s got to get that insurance.

This is the system our elected officials don’t think needs a complete overhaul. And these are the tactics of the insurance companies many of them are fighting to protect:

“What if a health insurance provider told you that before it would insure you, you would have to be sterilized?

That’s what a Colorado woman told U.S. senators during a committee hearing last week. McClatchy Newspapers reported that Peggy Robertson read a letter from her insurance company. Here’s an excerpt from the McClatchy report:

Robertson testified that because she had already given birth via cesarean, when she tried to get an individual policy in Colorado, her insurance company considered it a pre-existing condition and wouldn’t insure her unless she could prove she had been sterilized.”

Forced sterilization as a pre-requisite for insurance. In the United States of America. We should be ashamed. 


  1. AstrosGirlKel says

    On a personal note, a friend of mine got a notice that her 5 year old son failed his hearing screening at school. Both her and her husband were laid off months ago and insurance ran out last month. The solution? Take on more debt she may or may not be able to pay back.

  2. Shortstuff says

    Forced sterilization. That sounds like something out of Nazi Germany.
    But the GOP is right on board with that, aren’t they? Because the insurance industry which is making such horrific demands is padding their wallets handsomely.
    And they have the unmitigated gall to compare Pres. Obama with Hitler. They need to look in their mirrors, the bastards.
    What the hell is wrong with these people???

  3. Bobo Amerigo says

    Our so-called reps start from the wrong premis, that the legislation has to come in under a certain cost.
    Any number of plans could come in under an artificial limiting factor. But would they meet the country’s needs? That doesn’t seem to matter.

  4. Miemaw says

    What dropped my jaw was listening to the testimony of the woman, who had lost her job, lost her insurance, and lost her son to cystic fibrosis.
    She wanted to file for bankrupty, because of the mountain of debt her family incurred, during the time her son was alive, and being treated for his condition.
    Filing bankruptcy required a $1300 filing fee. They had to borrow that. Mandatory credit counseling was also a requirement. So, shortly after laying her son to rest she had to subject herself to the humiliation of someone asking “why she didn’t do better finanical planning” so as to avoid her situation.”
    One of the most outrageous thing I’ve ever heard.
    Replayed on Keith Olbermann last night, from a Senate hearing conducted by Senator Whitehouse, to overhaul the bankruptcy laws.
    The only people who find it easy to declare bankruptcy in this country are corporations.
    On a personal note: Most of you know I spent several months this past year, in and out of hospitals. Five in all — over a span of five months.
    My medical debt (even with Medicare) is in the thousands of dollars.
    Hospitals and doctors send me bills, with the notation that each one is to be “paid in full – upon receipt.” Five hospitals, probably 40-50 doctors etc.
    Where this will ultimately leave me..other than up to my eyeballs in debts,.. I don’t know for sure. I know it’s been an interesting, and enlightening experience.

  5. SSTMelon says

    Oh no, SS – forced sterilization is FINE because – hey! – it’s a private company that’s demanding it. And, moreover, no one’s FORCING her to be sterilized. No, it’s only if she wants insurance from that company that she’d have to be sterilized. It’s the free market at work, with rational actors all in equal positions of power freely contracting with others to meet their respective needs at the best prices. God bless the free market!

  6. stexcat says

    This country is starting to resemble that described by Dante in the “Inferno”.
    The politicians have theirs and they don’t give a damn. The christian right which controls the Republican Party doesn’t care they have more important things to worry about. Mainly, just worrying about the black President. The Democrats don’t care because they don’t know how to fight the good fight and are just standing in the corner sucking their thumb.
    We are so screwed.

  7. Carolsb says

    Yes, we are screwed.
    I have completely given up hope of getting affordable health care. I realize now that it will not happen. The politicans worry about the “cost” (what will it cost their chances of re-election) and we have totally lost focus of the human factor and those that will be lost.
    There has to be a special place in hell for those in Congress that oppose this and for those that don’t have the backbone to stand up and fight for us.

  8. SSTMelon says

    It doesn’t appear to be their job to fight for us anymore. Money counts as speech under the First Amendment, and, as such, it seems to count for a hell of a lot more than the needs of the vast majority of actual human constituents.

  9. carguy says

    Excellent article! It does look like we’re down 8 points, late in the game, on our own 2 yard line, 48 seconds left and no time-outs.
    We’re gonna have to drive 98 yards AND convert a 2 point PAT just to tie the game.
    That’s a tough row to hoe.
    Anybody got Mighty Mouse’s cell number???

  10. SSTMelon says

    No no. You watch. We _will_ get health reform. It just may be one ugly SOB.
    Keep an eye on the “Medicare Part E” issue, though. I still don’t know if it’s a Trojan horse (Waxman seems to think it is), or if it’s a damn good idea that should’ve been floated long ago. It may be both, actually.

  11. tragicmagic says

    miemaw i watched this poor woman who lost her son to CF on cspan late last night, a hearing about medical bankruptcy. elizabeth edwards and a professor of law spoke to the issue compassionately AND rationally. then a couple of GOP insurance paid schills spewed some blather about “the mother has my sympathy, but” and went on to describe how “opportunistic debtors” would release credit card debt under revision of medical bankruptcy! thank god for al franken is all i could think when it was over, and he should be president! what really got me, gets me, and PISSES me off royally are the ludicrous comparisons of auto & home casualty insurance to health insurance. one of these “experts” sat there and said “car insurance doesn’t cover an oil change or wiper blade change”.. are they stupid, insane or both? i own neither property or automobile since my son’s cancer and don’t have this coverage. but i cannot “exit” my body or have my son do so without the act of DYING! why are they allowed to keep using this analogy? greyson had it correct: GOP health care plan for the poor/uninsured/disabled is to DIE quickly! now it seems the dems who can’t grow a pair or who are owned by the insurance lobby have adopted the same plan the GOP offers. they are undeserving of the seats they occupy and i may have to join the tea party to send that message to them! ps did anyone see the disabled guy in the news whose insurance company canceled him in a letter saying “we have to drop these dogs”?

  12. elowe says

    You left out this part from the story in the link:
    “The Caudles are not fond of politics. Michelle and Bill have paid little attention to the shouting this summer over health care reform. They have not gone to any of the town hall meetings. They are well aware that politicians and interest groups would like to trumpet their story or dismiss it to score points in the debate – and they would just as soon avoid all of that.”
    “We’re not activists,” Michelle said.
    Editor’s note: And your point is? Surely you are not advocating decent health care only for “activists”? Why would the Caudles have to be “activists” or “political” in order to get health coverage? The editor wishes that this reader would just once make a comment relevant to the published subject rather than just trolling for an argument based on strawmen assertions. That’s what the local paper is for.

  13. tragicmagic says

    dear elowe,
    if your point is this story’s compelling at face value, not gotcha fake reporting like a boy and girl posing as a hooker and pimp asking for money to run prostitution than we agree. if you are somehow attempting to malign a man so desperate to keep his wife insured for cancer care that his last resort is to join the service, forced to leave his wife when she needs him the most, then shame on you. while i do not shy away from debate, i do feel everyone has a right to his or her opinion and would truly appreciate your clarification. incidentally i sat in disbelief and watched eric cantor instruct his constituents to “fall back” on medicaid or to try and get charity care in cases of catastrophic illness. but when cancer is in your face your life is no less threatened than if a robber was holding you at gunpoint. pointless advice from cantor, as medicaid recipients must be under 200% poverty level, under 18, pregnant or over 65 in a nursing home/long term care facility. only other avenue is to be awarded SSI disability, and at least in texas chances are more likely you’ll win the lottery. there is no such thing as “getting on medicaid” for an adult who becomes acutely or critically ill without a court hearing and attorney which takes on average 3yrs. ditto for adults suffering chronic, long term diseases or chronically ill/disabled children who “age out” of child medicaid and 30 days after they reach majority, get dumped from the system. this happened to my son and he almost died, and i could not have joined the army as i have other children and i’m a full time caregiver. so please no plattitudes, no BS. after watching the town hall meeting on tv where a disabled woman in a wheelchair was shouted down and jeered, i made up my mind i would never allow this to happen to me or my child in public. probably why our story has never seen the light of day, except here which saves my sanity and at the chron where i have been treated most hostile and openly flamed.

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