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I should say from the get-go that I am lucky enough to have a good health plan from my employer. The co-pays on office visits and prescriptions have gone up over the years (oh $15 co-pay, where have you gone??), but my insurer has been good to me thus far.


But I have seen how much health care can cost for just one patient. One four-year old patient. And if this ever happened to someone with no coverage, the ramifications would be massive.

I have written about it here before, but if you don't know my four-year old daughter was diagnosed with cancer back in March. It's a very rare form called pluero-pulmonary blastoma (PPB). About 10-20 kids get it in the US each year. There is no set protocol for its treatment due to its rarity; in many ways, my daughter is creating the protocol. Thankfully, she is responding incredibly well to treatment right now and is amazing all her doctors with his energy and fight. If it wasn't for the hair loss and the chemo line in her chest, you wouldn't know she was sick.


One day back in April an envelope came to the house from the hospital. In it was not a bill, but a statement of benefits; i.e. everything that my daughter had needed during her initial stay in the hospital and the costs for each. The amounts were staggering. Thousands of dollars per day for a room, thousands more for the doctors and the scans and the tests. She was in the hospital for roughly two weeks. My insurance covered all of it.


All $67,000 of it.


I was floored by that amount. That it cost more than the median yearly income in the United States to stabilize and treat my daughter. And while I was grateful my insurance covered it...how many families have a small girl that is sick and don't have insurance? Or the means to pay that kind of money?


And the statements keep coming. Nursing services, medications, weekly chemo, monthly hospital stays...costs between a couple of hundred bucks and over $10,000 when my daughter has to go into the hospital for a longer chemo session. She has easily received services that have cost in excess of $100,000 so far, and her treatment schedule involves surgery that hasn't happened yet and more chemo that won't end until early 2010. All told, her total treatment cycle will likely cost over $500,000 when all is said and done. And all I have had to pay for that is the co-pay cost for prescription meds (including some chemo drugs) and clinic/office visits. And while that isn't cheap, it's doable.


But there are millions of families out there with no insurance. And soon, it is likely one of those families will find out one of their kids has cancer. Or heart disease. Or some other god-awful ailment. But they won't be able to afford everything their child needs because they have no insurance. Yes, they'll get the critical care at the hospital. But will they be able to buy anti-nausea meds? Or antibiotics to reduce the chance their child gets pneumonia? Will they have the means to buy plenty of hand sanitizer so the overall chance of an illness spreading in the house is lessened? What will they have to set aside? What product, that their child needs to improve their chance of survival, will their parents have to not buy because they are putting all their money towards medical bills?


It sounds stark but it is the simple truth; sick children die because their parents don't have healthcare. And in the United States, especially in the United States, that is a completely unacceptable outcome.


I shouldn't consider myself "lucky" for having good healthcare. It should be expected, a known quantity in my life. I shouldn't have ever worry if a procedure will be covered for my daughter, or if a medication will be approved. I shouldn't have a nagging fear at the back of my brain worrying that one day the insurance company will decide my daughter is too costly and will try to drop us.


There needs to be a public option, a way for everyone to get affordable, comprehensive coverage. What is more costly to this nation over the long haul; a health care plan for all Americans or our current broken system that costs lives, causes bankruptcies and destroys families in the process? Which one costs this nation more?


I think the answer is obvious. As obvious as the fact that the time has come for a comprehensive public health care plan for all Americans. So that in the future, when another little girl gets sick, the envelope her parents open isn't a bill, but just a statement of benefits.

Originally posted to dave3172 on Tue Jul 07, 2009 at 08:48 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'm glad your daughter is doing well. Let's hope (4+ / 0-)

    that we get genuine healthcare reform so everyone's little daughter (or son) will have the same chance at life when a devasting illness like this strikes.

    Hugs to you and your family.

    Some people fight fire with fire. Professionals use water.

    by Happy Days on Tue Jul 07, 2009 at 08:57:24 AM PDT

  •  My God, the contrast is frightening... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    importer, Sychotic1, ladybug53, alethea

    A close freind of mine recently was diagnosed and treated for cancer.

    All he ever worried about was getting better.

    He didn't fill out one damn form or wonder if any procedure would be covered.  He had zero "co-pays".

    Why is it so difficult for Americans to get the same type of care and coverage that the rest of the world enjoys and expects?  

    I wish for all the best for you and your brave little girl.

    All evils are equal when they are extreme. - Pierre Corneille

    by LiberalCanuck on Tue Jul 07, 2009 at 08:58:23 AM PDT

    •  Most Americans sitting around thinking (4+ / 0-)

      they have "good health care"; hopefully, will not have to find out just how good it is. If all you ever do is get the occasional check up and a visit to the doctor for some common problem, you won't know how good your insurance is.

      It is the catastrophic event that is the real test, and people won't know until they are confronted with it which is way too late to do anything about it.  

      My husband was 23 years old and came down with a rare disease that took six months to diagnose.  He survived the "terminal" disease - first one in the medical books to do so, but spent the next 20 years of his life in and out of hospitals before he finally died of a brain tumor.  It was 1965 and he was still in the Air Force, he was in military hospitals and then VA, then he went to a big research facility that studied him for twenty years.  I can't even comprehend what the cost of his treatment would have been if we had to pay it or if he would have survived the initial phase that was so critical.  

  •  Our mealymouth Congress. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ladybug53

    What should be frightening all supporters of a public option are the borderline, wishy-washy statements coming out of Washington. These statements are open to interpretation about whether they support public option or not. Words like "goals", "wedges", "unfair competition" and "future option" are the politicians way of falling on both sides of the fence.

    This muddy language is how politicains vote against the expressed demands of their constituents and still present themselves as supporters of issues they actually voted against. They do this by the clever misuse of language.

    In a 300-page bill lobbyists wil influence the inclusion of a single phrase or condition or exclusion that negates the bill's original intent. Then, when the politicians are through peeing on your leg, they'll tell you that it is raining out.

    Voters, be watchful and hold our public servants to the fire of a public option component of health care reform.

  •  I'm glad that your daughter has gotten the care (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ladybug53

    she deserves.

    This is going to be rambling and free-flow, so bear with me.

    There is a strange dichotomy in this country between insurance and no insurance.  I'm in the gray area, I have "catastrophic" insurance, meaning that if my family has $10,000 worth of medical bills in a year, my insurance pays 100% of everything after that.  SO, last year, when I was in the emergency room for extreme stomach pain, and had to follow it up with a colostomy to rule out chrone's disease, we ended up paying the $7000 bill out of pocket.  Oh, sure, they billed the insurance, but of course it was denied.

    Here's the grey area:  If you pay cash, you get a break on the fee.  If they bill the insurance, you don't.  You cannot have them bill the insurance AND pay cash (to get the discount knowing the insurance won't pay), even though you know it won't be covered.

    We NEED single payor in this country to get rid of all the games.  Short of that, we NEED a public option.

    And if you've read this far, can I get you to go to http://www.careforkelly.org and check out her story?  She's a customer of mine.  I don't know how updated the site is, but I do know the "insurance" (state) will no longer pay for her meds, the only thing keeping her even slightly functional.

    •  Many catastrophic policies have many loopholes (0+ / 0-)

      That's why some companies target poor people, because they know that they can't afford lawyers to fight them. They rarely pay.

      That Obama supports that model seems really wrong. Those companies don't offer a "choice".

      Its a bad choice for anybody who gets sick.

      Recently, more and more mainstream companies are doing the same kind of thing.

      There's a good movie people can rent that is about that kind of insurance.

      Its called The Rainmaker, it was directed by Francis Ford Cuppola and it stars Matt Damon

      it's a very good film

  •  It can happen to anyone (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ladybug53, Calamity Jean, virginwoolf

    Thats never addressed in the news media.  My daughter was diagnosed with APL leukemia last year (she is doing well, too).  She did nothing to cause it.  Its not caused by toxins in the environment.  There is no hereditary factor known.  Just as I am sure is the case with this very rare cancer your little one had, the cause is random.  Thats what our doctor told us:  the occurence is random.  One analogy I heard was that its like if you put people in a room and had them copy War and Peace, there would be errors - T's that didn't get crossed, misspelled words, words left out.  So, too, the cells of our bodies are doing so much that there are errors.  An error in a cell signal caused 2 of the chromosomes to produce abnormal cells in our daughter's bone marrow and science doesn't know why.

    It can happen to anyone.  Everyone needs health insurance.  Our daughter is 22 and in less than 3 years, we will not be able to maintain her on our employer-provided policy.  She has to be able to have health insurance or she can't plan a normal life.  

    The one thing I'm concerned about is affordability for most Americans.  If there is a public option or even if there is an agreement on community rating and no pre-condition exclusion, our family's problem is probably solved.  I'm guessing that a single person policy would be about $5,000 and we are willing to pay that because we know that she needs that insurance.  And we can afford to pay it.  In a family without a serious health problem history where money is tighter, will they be able to afford the cost of what Congress and the President deem to be "affordable" health insurance?  

    Single payer is really the only thing that will solve health insurance.  I'm looking to see what they get done this year but am a bit torn that our problem likely will be dealt with but the larger problem for so many American families is probably not going to be dealt with.  

    All the best to your family.  After the experience we went through last year, I keep catching myself and thinking how sweet every ordinary thing is.

    •  Lois, I just found some stuff you might want to (0+ / 0-)

      check out this search on PubMed for acute promyelocytic leukemia resveratrol

      Trans-resveratrol, the active part of resveratrol - an increasingly studied chemical in red wine- available as a supplement -seems to act against acute promyelocytic leukemia in some situations (its been studied as an ajunct to chemotherapy)

      You can buy it- it might help your daughter- its a potent anticancer agent.

      •  Thank you for that link. I will bring (0+ / 0-)

        it up next time we have a doctor's visit.  The medicine that she takes in combination with chemotherapy is ATRA All Trans Retinoic Acid --- Vitamin A.  Its a treatment that was developed in Shanghai in the late 1980s.  Our doctor said that originally US doctors pooh-poohed the Chinese results but then the results were duplicated in France and the treatment was fast tracked.  This is a form of leukemia that was deadly for 90% only 25 years ago and now, the cure rate is 90% and our doctor says they will get to 100%.  And they actually use that word "cure," which is rare with leukemia.

        She also had a 5 week intravenous arsenic trioxide treatment and that, too, was developed in China.  I read an interesting thing on that --- these treatments might never have been discovered without the "cultural revolution" in China, which we usually think was going backwards and repressive.  The scientists in China were pushed to study old Chinese remedies and arsenic had been used in Chinese medicine for a long time.  

        I always want to tell people about the treatments being developed in China to say, "Those people are not our enemies.  They may save your life or the life of someone you love."  (I don't personally meet people who are callous or disdainful of people in other countries but you sure do get an impression from the media that Americans have an attitude that the rest of the world is of no use to us.)

        All the best!

  •  A close friend has lymphoma (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ladybug53, Santa Susanna Kid

    Because he served in the Armed Forces he gets treated at the VA, where he feels they are doing a good job.

    Otherwise he'd be out of luck.

    My thoughts are with you and your family, too.

  •  We need either public option or single payer. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ladybug53

    Single payer is a better choice, so let's push politicians to support that, too.  Public option is merely a compromise.  Let's not compromise just yet.

    •  Huge difference in affordability - (0+ / 0-)

      If you can't afford COBRA now, how will you afford public option?

      Many people won't be able to, they will miss payments and they will end up completely naked.

      Single payer ends up being the only workable solution for that reason, especially if the economy keeps shedding jobs.

      The "Public Option" vs. Single Payer Compared

      Single payer is the real change that they are trying to stop.
       Single-Payer"Public Option"
      Number InsuredUniversal Coverage for All Americans. (Automatic enrollment)Millions could remain uninsured or underinsured because of rules or costs. "Health reform may simply be a mandate to purchase insurance, with few if any changes to make it affordable for all. Public plan if it emerges may be unaffordable or limited to some groups, like the uninsured, only.
      CoverageCoverage for all medically necessary services. Improves quality of care for all Americans, rich and poor by putting patients needs first.Insurers continue to strip-down policies and increase patients' co-payments and deductibles. Drug coverage may be nonexistant or limited to generics or an arbitrary formulary. No limits on uncovered costs as a percentage of income. Government plan, if it survives, may be mandated to only offer "level playing field" underinsurance.
      CostRedirects more than $ 350 billion in administrative waste to care; No net increase in health spending. Incease efficiency by merging Medicare, VA system, all others into new national entity. Drastically reduce billing infrastructure. Could act as stimulus, one study predicts 2.6M new jobs.Already acknowledged to increase health spending more than href=" trillion over 10 years. Weak or no controls on cost increases. Insurance price increases keyed to age will continue to cause layoffs of Americans over 40. Families that miss payments due to uncovered costs will find themselves without coverage.
      SavingsPrevents more than $ 350 billion in administrative waste. Further systemic savings achieved through negotiated fee schedules with physicians, global budgeting of hospitals, bulk purchasing of pharmaceuticals, transparent planning of capital expenditures, etc.Adds further layers of administrative bloat to our health system through the introduction of a regulator / broker 'exchange' to conceal inadequate affordability.
      SustainabilityLarge scale cost controls (global budgeting, capital planning, etc.) ensure that benefits are sustainable over the long term. Proven track record on long-term cost reduction in many other nations around the globe.Uncontrolled costs ensure that any gains in coverage are quickly erased during economic slumps as government is forced to hike spending or slash benefits. Like state high risk pools, high suceptibility to adverse selection will result in a sicker risk pool. Public option's lack of cost control means that it will be much more expensive. To saddle the public option with a "self sustaining" requirement will result in a death spiral.

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