I could tell you about the lunch I had in Berkeley yesterday with MinistryOfTruth (aka Jesse LaGreca) and a bunch of Bay Area Kossacks. Or the stunning view we showed him of the Bay and San Francisco from the lookout on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge. Or our quest to find Jesse a belt (as in a thing with holes in it) on the streets where his mother was once a flower child. Or the hours of interviews and exchanges Jessse participated in once we made it down to #OccupyOakland.
But I will not. Other Kossacks took lots of pictures and are likely better storytellers than I. One or more of them will likely be posting. Instead, I will tell you how Jesse might have indirectly saved someone's life last evening, with a little help from his (hopefully newly-made) friend.
As Kim, Sven, Jesse and I arrived at #OccupyOakland -- making a beeline towards the resurrected portapotties -- a young woman came walking towards us. She had a sign which had something to do with health care. She and Jesse (who's goal in life is to talk to every single #Occupier in the country!) started engaging her in conversation. I heard bits and pieces of it.
She was involved in some kind of health advocacy (I never did get exactly what it was). She had a pre-existing condition, and had been unable to obtain health insurance. She really needed medical treatment. My spidey-sense started tingling, but I did not act on it; acting rather on a more primitive level, I headed for the portapotty.
About an hour later I saw the woman again in the General Assembly area still carrying her sign After she ended her conversation with her cellphone I approached.
(Everything is, of course, paraphrased)
Me: "Do you know about pre-existing condition health care plans?"
She had looked at the California, non-federal plan, which was far too expensive (and doesn't cover costs beyond a relatively small limit, something like $75,000 a year).
Me: "Do you know about the Federal pre-existing condition health care plan?"
Her: "Never heard of it."
Me: "Have you had insurance in the last six months?"
Me: "Then you're eligible. It might cost you around $300/month plus out-of-pocket, but if you need medical treatment..."
Her: "I'll look into it. What is it called again?"
Me: "PCIP. Google it."
Her: "Thank you, I will. Why isn't this program being publicized?"
Me: Well, it was when it started. But now no one is talking about it."
Her: "When did it start?"
Me: "A year and three months ago."
Her: "I was totally out of it at the time. I have a number of conditions, and really need treatment. This might help."
Me: "Yeah. You can get treatment for six months, then drop out if you have too. And then, hopefully, in 2014, unless the health care law is repealed, you'll be able to get subsidized insurance from the new health care law."
Her: "How do you know about this?"
Me: "I'm a nerd. I've written extensively about the Federal PCIP plans and have followed the program since the new health care law was passed."
Her: "Well, I will check it out!"
as she typed the information into her cell.
And so it goes.
A program created by the new health care law which was projected to be able to help some 300,000 people has only some 30,000 to 40,000 enrollees.
There are likely a significant number of people out there in this person's situation. Consider another story I read yesterday, that of Miran Istina, now #Occupying San Francisco. She has myelgenous leukaemia, and her insurance company refused to pay for treatment because it was a pre-existing condition. She needs hundreds of thousands of dollars of treatment, and neither she nor her family could afford it.
As she puts it
corporate greed is going to cost me my life.
She should be eligible for the PCIP program. It would pay for these treatments. Is she now enrolled? Does she know about the program? The article doesn't say, but implies not. It does say
Health professionals from the San Francisco General Hospital are providing round-the-clock care for Istina, who needs strong pain killers and constant monitoring of her condition. Earlier in the month she suffered a kidney malfunction which required urgent hospital treatment.
so she is getting some kind of help, though it may not be the kind of treatment that could save her life.
When I got home I checked out the rates for the California Federal PCIP program (PDF). The young woman I talked to couldn't have been more than 40 ($264/month), and was likely significantly younger ($237/month for ages 30-34, $164/month for ages 19-29).
Will she actually check it out and enroll? Who knows? Somewhat foolishly we didn't exchange email addresses or anything so I could follow up, but she seemed like a competent sort of person. Maybe I will see her again at #OccupyOakland and be able to ask her.
So how did Jesse possibly save her life? By being willing to engage. Had I been alone, I probably would have walked right past her; I'm not the kind of person to strike up a conversation with someone I don't know. But he did, and I happened to overhear key parts of the conversation.
There are a lot of other lives that might be saved, and people who might be helped, if they knew they were eligible for this program (or others at a Federal, State or County level, for that matter). If we all engage a little more, we might just end up helping a few of them.
9:43 AM PT: Other aspects of the health care law that might help you:
-- tax credits for small businesses who insure their workers.
-- children can get insurance regardless of pre-existing conditions
-- adult children can stay on their parents' health care plan up to age 26
-- reduced Medicare donut hole payments
-- removing lifetime limits on coverage; restricting annual limits
-- community health centers