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Just talked to my cousin. The one with cancer. The one with supposedly good insurance. The one whose insurance won't pay for one of her chemo drugs.

When I had cancer, this cousin drove me to some of my treatments. I had just moved to the Bay Area, and didn't know a lot of people. Before I moved to the Bay Area, I had seen her maybe half a dozen times, in my life. But she kept calling and telling me that if I needed a ride to that week's treatment, she'd drive. And the driving time alone, from her home to mine to the hospital and back, was at least a couple hours. And she was squeamish about medical stuff. In other words, she was a saint. Just because. She is a saint. Just because.

Her prognosis now is fairly good. But her insurance wouldn't pay for one of her chemo drugs. The Republicans talk lies about death panels. The Republicans talk lies about government bureaucrats making medical decisions. The truth is that the private insurance industry already makes medical decisions. The truth is that the private insurance industry often turns out to be the real death panel.

My cousin is lucky, in that she can pay for the drug out of pocket. She's a single mom, and doesn't have a lot of wiggle room, but this is something for which she will find room. But she shouldn't have to. And if she couldn't- barely- afford to, she'd suffer for it. Maybe die for it. Leaving two small children without their mom.

Denial of treatment is and will remain the dirty deadly secret about health care reform. Insurance is not health care. Mandating that people buy insurance is not providing them with health care. A lot of people still don't understand that.

Once this bill becomes law, it will require a lot of fixes. The Republicans and some Conservadems and Blue Dogs will try to prevent any fixes. They also will try to repeal the entire bill. We need to work even harder, in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead. We need to keep moving forward, even as the Republicans and some Conservadems and Blue Dogs try to move us backward. Addressing denial of treatment will be one of the most important issues. Passing a public option would help. But the first step should be repealing ERISA Section 514.

People are dying from denial of treatment, and the current bill won't do enough to stop that from happening. Pass the bill, and then let's get on with fixing it.

Originally posted to Laurence Lewis on Sat Mar 20, 2010 at 12:49 PM PDT.

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