I wanted to say “THANK YOU” to Jimmy Kimmel for speaking out against the Graham-Cassidy bill that is attempting to pass in the Senate in the next few days. Jimmy commented on the fact that people will think he is “politicizing my son’s health problems” but he unapologetically states he is doing just that. He feels he has to since his son was born with congenital heart disease. Jimmy saw first hand what happens when families who do not have health insurance are faced with health crisis. When I first got involved in patient advocacy, I never wanted to be political. I have very strong political leanings, but was not comfortable debating my beliefs….probably because I lose my temper. Instead, I respected the opinions of others, but respectfully agreed to disagree. I soon learned that in the world of chronic illness, I had to speak my mind because politics impacts all of my treatments. Prime example: I had to “fail” multiple drugs before I could be approved by my insurance for a biologic drug. I mistakenly thought that I could only take a biologic drug if my disease got severe enough. Oh no….it’s not that at all. Insurance companies don’t want to pay the ridiculous costs of biologic drugs, so they reject coverage of the pricey drugs they deem “less safe” than the cheaper drugs. I say the insurance company wanted me to take drugs that were less effective in treating my condition because it saved them money. I lived in severe pain for 7 years waiting for my first biologic drug. The difference in pain control was immense but I was not allowed what I needed by insurance, which for all intents and purposes, is excellent. You see the insurance and pharmaceutical industries are huge political backers. It puts regular people at a disadvantage when we try to get our politicians to listen to what we want instead of what big corporations want. It also puts doctors at a disadvantage when they can’t recommend treatments they know their patients need but can’t access…..but I digress…
Why am I so concerned when I don’t use ObamaCare and have private insurance coverage? I’m worried because the insurance world isn’t a creative one. It’s black and white. It doesn’t re-invent the wheel. When the government issued insurance goes into effect (like Medicare and Medicaid) private insurance tends to follow. If the new Graham-Cassidy bill eliminates protection from insurance caps, then it’s probably likely that private insurance will too. I wrote about this in a previous blog called Time to fight….In that piece, I wrote how insurance caps will devastate people living with chronic illness, especially children. Once you have reached your cap (yearly or lifetime) that is it. You are out of coverage and better hope you win the lottery.
The Graham-Cassidy Bill also claims to protect people with pre-existing conditions; however, when you look closely at the bill, you can see that we (those living with chronic illness) are hung out to dry. NPR pointed this out directly to Senator Cassidy on Twitter. Seems he doesn’t even know everything that is in his own bill. The bill says we can’t be denied coverage; however each state can waive consumer protections and Essential Health Benefits (go back and read Time to fight)….which would raise rates for people with pre-existing conditions. Basically Sen. Cassidy, your mouth is writing checks that your butt might not be able to cash. It all depends on the state in which a person lives.
No one knows exactly how premiums will go up or down as per disease because it will vary from state to state. Nothing, however, guarantees people with pre-existing conditions are protected from outrageous surcharges. We may be offered coverage but at higher costs. Here is one resource floating around that predicts the costs of pre-existing conditions surcharges per premium. The last time I checked, I don’t have an extra $25,000 in my bank account to cover this cost. Do you??
I feel like NPR did a great breakdown of the Graham-Cassidy Bill that is fairly non-biased. Check it out for yourself. Latest GOP Effort To Replace Obamacare Could End Health Care For Millions.
I’ve met Senator Cassidy. He seems like a intelligent man who’s genuinely interested in figuring out how to improve healthcare; however, I think where he loses his perspective is that 1) he is not in need of health care coverage and 2) he probably wouldn’t have any problem paying for his health care if an issue popped up (God forbid, of course). I’d love to see a panel made up of politicians, doctors, pharmaceutical reps, researchers, insurance reps, AND PATIENTS who all sit down together to figure out this healthcare issue. Having all the stake holders at the table….hmmmm….what a concept!! Come on politicians, other countries have figured out how to provide health care to their citizens, and it’s a fallacy that those countries have sub-par healthcare. The Graham-Cassidy bill is supposed to lower cost by promoting more competition. I think those of us living with chronic illness already figured out that competitive health care has NEVER driven healthcare costs down. Prices continue to skyrocket as corporations get richer while patients get poorer (ok…I’m not sure if that is a word and honestly, I’m too tired to look it up.)
So thanks Jimmy Kimmel. Lending your voice to this issue does have an impact. Please know that you are now a hero to many living the chronic life. Now it’s time for the rest of us to also take up the fight.
What can you do? Call your senators (202) 224-3121 and let them know where you stand. It’s crucial. If you don’t know who to call, Common Cause will help you out. The last bill that went to the Senate floor had only 12% approval nation wide and it didn’t pass through the Senate because three GOP senators stood up for what is right. The Graham-Cassidy Bill is not what our country needs. It’s not what people with pre-existing conditions need. It’s time to fight again. I head to Washington DC on Sunday to represent my state of Pennsylvania for the American College of Rheumatology. Stay tuned for my posts.
For those who haven’t seen Jimmy Kimmel this week, enjoy!
Jimmy Kimmel on Bill Cassidy’s Health “Care” Bill
Jimmy Kimmel fights back against Bill Cassidy, Lindsey Graham, & Chris Christie.