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So, we're coming down to it.  The shape of health care reform (with or without irony quotes) in America is being debated now. Soon, we'll start to have a clearer idea of what our representatives will be voting on, what the President will ultimately be signing.

After a few days of trying to find the time to put my thoughts about this situation in order, I was finally able to sit down and write a letter to the President expressing my thoughts about the health care debate.  I don't normally write letters to the White House or to Congress. I worked in DC for a while, and I saw box after box of constituent mail left unread, phone call after phone call reduced to a tick mark on a spreadsheet, email ignored.  So, I'm cynical.

But this is personal, not only for me but for you.  This issue touches on the most uncomfortable, the most intimate, and the most difficult issues in all of our lives, whether we're talking about getting a butt exam or sweating over a bill with more than one comma.  So, despite my cynicism, I sucked it up and hammered out a letter. Maybe it won't be read. Maybe it'll tip the debate.  I don't know, but I've said my piece.  

I will have one intermediate comment, but otherwise I'll let the letter speak for itself.  Also, I might snip out one or two personal facts, but the letter will be substantially the same as what I sent today.  So, here goes.  *clears throat...

Mr. President:

I am writing regarding the current health care debate. I would like to express my strongest encouragement that you back a robust public option.

This is, in my opinion, the most important part of a constituent letter like this. Sum up the issue and your position as concisely as possible, right at the start. That way if a haggard clerk reads just this paragraph, you'll be put in the right pile.

Mr. President, I have excellent health care. I am an attorney with a good firm in Atlanta, and I am lucky enough to have insurance coverage that is, generally speaking, inexpensive and comprehensive. I am single and I have no children.  It is unlikely that I would enroll in a public option if one were available because my private plan covers me adequately.

My sister, on the other hand, has no health coverage. She has two children and her husband is unemployed because of the current construction downturn. She lives in wrenching fear that something will happen to her children, her husband, or to her and she won't be able to pay for needed health care.  If something does happen, my family will pull together and do whatever needs to be done to make sure she is covered, but not all families are so lucky.  

Mr. President, you referred in one of your speeches to doing health care reform according to American traditions. I applaud that, because this is a great country.  We can do anything we put our minds and hearts into.  But we also have a tradition of bringing in the best of the rest of the world and making our country stronger for it.  

I have lived in a country with a robust public option. My mother lived in New Zealand for much of my childhood and teenage years.  When I was 20, my mother had what she thought was a stroke.  She was paralyzed on her left side. Her speaking was slurred, but her mind was still sharp.  She was taken to a public hospital, checked in, and found to be suffering from an aggressive brain tumor.  I flew to New Zealand, and we stayed with my mother as she went through consultations and treatments.  She had a private hospital room for several months.  She had exceptional treatment from doctors and nurses who fought as hard as they possibly could for her and for us.  I never, ever felt like my mother was receiving anything but the best care.

My mother died from her cancer. It was simply too advanced for treatment. But, Mr. President, during the whole ordeal, through all of the exceptional care given to my mother, there was never a moment when we worried about how to pay for it all, not because of private insurance (which is an option in New Zealand) but because of public care.

I've thought about what might have happened if Mom had gotten sick in the US. Her husband was a farmer, she was a painter.  I doubt they would have had quality health insurance.  Would my mother have died before she could say goodbye because she couldn't pay for care? Would my family have been able to pay for plane tickets if we'd been scrounging every penny for bills?  Would we have been saddled with crushing debt after Mom died?  

Please, Mr. President, recognize that we are a great country with great traditions, but we can borrow ideas that work from others and make them even better.  Please give other Americans the same opportunity I had in another country.  Please do something to remove the financial horror of crushing medical bills.

Let's embrace the proudest American tradition: neighbor looking after neighbor.  Please pressure Congress to enact comprehensive health care reform with a strong public option.  It won't be easy, it won't be safe, but it will be the right thing.

It's not the best letter I've ever written. The style of the "what if" paragraph makes me cringe. But, unfortunately, every concern I raise is warranted.

Mainly, though, I've tried to strip this down to the essentials. Minus all the rhetoric and posturing, minus all the language and charts and grandstanding, this is about life and death. Let me say this again: this is about life and death. If we continue the way we are going, people will die unnecessarily in a country that could easily pay for their care. People will suffer, whether illness or financial hardship, in a country that could lessen their suffering with relative ease. Hell, I wouldn't mind a completely government-run system, but I just don't think that's possible. And if my taxes have to go up to pay for it, it's worth it.

Thanks for reading. Please go fight. Justice demands it.

Edit I: The Phantom Edit: Please add your own letters in the comments. Some folks might be looking for ideas for how to get a letter started.

Edit II: Attack of the Moans: I knew I should've put something about boobies in the title and posted a picture of Newt and HardonBoehner

Edit III: Revenge of the Pith: Crap, I knew I'd forget my best line. "Americans all over this country have stories like this. But too many of them end badly. Mr. President, let's do something to make these stories something we tell about a dark, sad past."

Originally posted to socratic on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 05:42 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips for a full recovery ... (26+ / 0-)

    of our sense of obligation to each other.

    Someone is wrong on the Internet! To the Kosmobile!

    by socratic on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 05:41:21 PM PDT

  •  My friend worked in the White House (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    socratic, ladybug53, Wary

    Correspondence Office last spring.

    They got some crazies ...

    "i find the resemblace of DemocraticLuntz and Arken to Disney style yapping jackals to be astoundingly accurate"

    by DemocraticLuntz on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 05:49:38 PM PDT

  •  Keep on Fighting! (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    socratic, ladybug53, Wary, jm214

    We gotta let everyone in Congress know that we ain't gonna back down off of a strong public option.

  •  Thank you for your powerful story and thanks (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    socratic, ladybug53, Pluto, Wary, redding888, jm214

    for writing the letter to President Obama.

    One Nation, One Health Plan. Doctor and Nurse Recommended Single Payer Health Care for All!

    by ludlow on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 05:52:54 PM PDT

  •  Here's my own letter, sorry if it's (10+ / 0-)

    bannable or something as too long or should-be-a-diary, sent to HELP and with slightly different header to various legislators suggested in earlier posts and the White House:

    Dear Leaders:

    I have a comment, which I hope is one among millions. To save you from having to actually read the whole thing, I am in favor of single payer universal coverage, but might be willing to accept a TRUE "public option" that is not just more sleight-of-hand.

    I am a nurse, and I see every day the waste and idiocy and cruelty and foolishness that is the present "health care system." You are smart people; you make like you care about "the little folks." But what's shaking in the game now playing out in the "health care" arena is just a lot more of the same.

    You folks have great "health insurance." Do you really know or care about those who are not so blessed? Who shoulder the thirty-plus-percent "tax" of administering private "insurance?" Who face $2,000 or $5,000 "deductibles" and ever-increasing "co-pays?" Who stay with horrible jobs to keep any semblance of employer-provided "coverage," knowing that it can be withdrawn at any time? Whose "premiums" eat a bigger share of income every year? Who are arbitrarily denied "coverage" of treatments? Who learn that some faceless persons have incomprehensibly decided to remove the med they need from the "insurer's formulary?" Or to force a "trial" of, or proof of past failure of, another medication that their doctor knows is not right for them but has to spend effort to "prove" or on writing an "appeal of denial?"

    To me, this "debate" looks like TARP and Bailout all over again, where the entrenched interests play rope-a-dope with real Change, always angling to protect their "share" and extract even more of the nation's real wealth as they lobby away. You folks inside the Beltway know how quickly people have to move on to other issues, and get on with earning a living, somehow, and making terrible choices of how to work their way around "donut holes" and whether to pay rent, or buy life-giving medicines or preventive care. What you are doing seems simply to be protecting the income streams of moneyed special interests at the expense of the public at large.

    Do any of you appreciate the irony in the insurer-pharmaceutical-"conservative" drumbeat against supposedly rationed and inferior "socialized medicine" as an unmitigated evil, when those same interests plan to force maybe 25 million "policy-holders" EVERY YEAR to become, in their perverse phrase, "medical tourists"? We will have to fly, with consequent carbon emissions, to countries with "socialized medicine" and single-payer systems, for surgeries and other treatments that are suddenly "as good as what they get at home," just because that care is less than a quarter of what it costs in America and because the "insurers" can pocket the difference? And then we "tourists" will have to try and find a US doctor willing to provide after-care. What kind of shell game is this?

    I'm a Viet-vet, and I am fortunate to get VA health care. As you know, that's a cost-effective single-payer system, not "universal" due to funding decisions and not without its own problems. The latter seem to stem largely from the hypocritical "Walter Reed" condescension and cheapness with which Congress, and the last administration for sure, treat "Thank you for your service, Support our Troops" GIs. I benefit from a unitary electronic medical record, inexpensive medications, and great primary, specialist and most important, preventive care. My doctors are on salary, and the Federal Tort Claims Act spares them the predations of personal injury lawyers. The staff is not snowed under and grossly overworked in the name of "cutting costs" and pursuit of "profit." As a result, there really is "medical care" there, with the emphasis on "care."

    I have had "medical coverage" from "HMOs" and "PPOs" and "nets" in both federal-employee and private-employee settings. I have been denied coverage, had meds changed on me, experienced the "virtual office visit" with less than two minutes of physician face time often driven by his or her need to repay med school loans or just simple greed. I've sat "in the room" while the doc talked with his broker, billing that time as an "office visit" with me.  I see the billing "workarounds" that have to be used just to keep the clinic or hospital doors open, and the actual cases of real fraud on the system. I spend a significant fraction of my day trying to prod "the system" into actions that qualified and caring doctors know are needed but require "medical reviews" or are simply barred.

    I have seen the horror that is Medicare "insurance," for older folks who have to go broke to qualify for "care" in Medicare "nursing homes." Where they are over-medicated, left to lie in filth, tied to chairs or beds, "cared" for by overworked and overstressed nurses and techs and CNAs who often neglect and abuse. I’ve seen terminal patients kept alive against their wishes, just so a provider can keep billing off their "care." I also know that a lot of what is wrong with Medicare-Medicaid is the warpage caused by lobbying by drug companies, hospital corporations, "insurers" and other interests.
    There are functioning single-payer, potentially universal models here, in place and operating right now, that might work as well as those in other civilized countries.

    I know that political decisions are now largely bought and paid for by campaign funding and the "special pleading" that always accompanies imperial government.

    But royalty, while it can force the taking of taxes, has at some point to take a little care of the peasantry that grows the food and tends the herds and makes the gewgaws that adorn the palaces and persons of that ruling class.

    It’s time to extend a single-payer, universal-coverage system to all the rest of us. If you have any empathy, any pity, even any desire to improve the competitiveness of American business, it is time.

    Or at least throw us the bone of a real and realistic "public option" that minimally extends health coverage to everyone, AFFORDABLY and fairly.



    "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

    by jm214 on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 05:56:45 PM PDT

    •  As a matter of fact, (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Pluto, Wary, whoknu

      because of your letter, I added a request for letters in the body. People should see what we're saying. Maybe give folks some inspiration to tell their own stories.

      (but, folks, if you take the time to tell your personal health care hell story here, please turn it into a letter so Congress and the White House hear about it too.)

      Someone is wrong on the Internet! To the Kosmobile!

      by socratic on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 06:00:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I wrote about my umteenth letter today (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    socratic, ladybug53, redding888, whoknu

    to the White House on this issue.

    I made is short and simple, understandable this time:

    I support a


    I said a few sincere things about being proud of him, and the country, best wishes to family and all, then to remind him:


    I'm for it and don't forget please


    I thought that was enough for today.

    This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. Barack Obama

    by Wary on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 06:17:19 PM PDT

  •  Here is my letter to both my Senators (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    socratic, ladybug53, Pluto

    Second one this week.

    Please respond and tell me your stance on the Public Option.  When a poll shows 3 out of 4 Americans want a public option included in healthcare reform it is critical that we have your support as OUR representative in the Senate.  We do not want more of the same old from the private health insurance companies.  We will pay the price no matter what either way.  We will pay more and more if the public option is not included.  Any health reform bill that does not include the public option is not reform.  It is only the status quo.
    If you support the Public Option then you are making the majority of the people who voted for change count.
    Thank You

    Nature's laws are the invisible government of the earth - Alfred Montapert

    by whoknu on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 06:21:02 PM PDT

  •  Thanks, socratic (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    socratic, Pluto

    and everybody else who has written letters. This is an issue that has taken on great importance to me in the aftermath of a bike accident I was in a few months ago. I'm very lucky to have good coverage, but too many people aren't so fortunate. I'm writing my letter now.

  •  Part of what I sent (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    socratic, Pluto

    :: ::

    About Insufficient Choice of Health Care Providers
    I could simply tell you the story of my wife's experience this last year over about an eight month stretch. How, when she was very ill and unable to work we depended on our HMO to treat her appropriately. We depended on her HMO specialist to prescribe the right care and regimen to lead her back to health. I could tell you about how far from the truth that was, how we had to kick down so many doors to get her in front of the right health care professionals - those that would recognize the disease, know what to do and do just what was needed. (Meanwhile, because of the treatment accorded in the interval of eight months she was unable to work - a significant financial impact to our household budget).

    No, instead I'll tell you an emblematic incident that happened during that months long path to gain access to the right treatment for my wife. It was after I had printed off reams of data showing what the optimum treatment protocol would be and showed them to her specialist, asking "why not this instead of that which has not worked? Why not this instead of making my wife suffer for another cycle of three months?"

    The specialists words were simple and undercut any pretense that employer supplied health insurance, even costly and purportedly high quality insurance such as we have, does not have rationing and exclusion.

    "Well," he said, "that would mean going out of network, and it would mean getting approval for a visit to a special clinic - and it would mean likely approval for the course of treatment they will recommend, a course they normally don't approve for payment."

    But, as the insurers so often claim, there is no rationing here - move along.

    Parenthetic: In the end the course of treatment which worked - almost immediately - centered on a very simple prescription.

    And a certain out of network (and truly wonderful) clinic will forever have a warm spot in our family's hearts.

    I closed by saying that absent single-payer, only a robust public option would suffice. One that might lead us to the benefits of single-payer in due course.

    •  I would prefer single payer ultimately (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Pluto, ItsSimpleSimon

      or maybe a "super public option" that has private insurance as an alternative for people who want it and can afford it (I know, that's a somewhat distasteful idea, but it won't go away as long as there are people willing to pay).  But, like public schools, everybody should have to participate.

      I already alluded to this, but I'm not only willing but eager to have my tax dollars go into a community pot. If my neighbor has health care, my neighborhood is going to be happier and safer. It's just obvious to me, and I'm happy to make the investment.

      Someone is wrong on the Internet! To the Kosmobile!

      by socratic on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 08:12:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is a Great Letter (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I learned a lot just from reading it. It gave me an idea for another avenue of research:

    Nation by Nation -- personal bankruptcies and bankruptcies due to medical bills.

    We know the stats in the US verge on the criminal... I wonder how we compare to the rest of the deveoped world.

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