Social Work

My Letter to Congress

7 Oct ’09

LetterPost_b

Dear Congress,

I am a 28-year-old graduate student living in Atlanta, GA. I grew up reading books – hundreds of books, because I loved to read. My family was middle-class, but not wealthy. They couldn’t afford to buy all the books I wanted to read, so I got my books at the public library. I could check out up to 10 books at a time, and I could even get movies and music and foreign language tapes!

Thanks to all this reading, I did fairly well in school. I went to public school, which my parents really appreciated, because it didn’t cost much money to send me there. I took A(dvanced) P(lacement) classes in high school and received over a semester’s worth of college credit…for free! My parents were also happy about that, because it saved them some money when I went off to college in Massachusetts. I was able to graduate a year early and join the AmeriCorps program.

Since I got all these free books and education, I thought I should give back. So for a whole year I worked 50+ hours per week for a nonprofit agency in Arizona, and only made $800 a month. It’s not easy to live on that amount of money, but I met so many other low-income families who somehow managed to make ends meet, that I figured I could do it, too. And I managed, with some a lot of help from friends and family. AmeriCorps provided me with health insurance for that year. It wasn’t great coverage, but at least I didn’t have to pay an arm and a leg for it, because there is no way I could have afforded insurance on only $800 a month.

After my year of service ended, I worked for nonprofits for a few more years before I decided to go back to school for my social work degree. I had just started grad school full-time when the doctor found some pre-cancerous cells that needed to be removed. I had two quick outpatient procedures, each lasting less than 30 minutes. I had really good insurance, so I wasn’t worried. Insurance would cover 80% of the cost, and for two short procedures, I figured the cost couldn’t be that high.

I was wrong.

The hospital bills (just the portion I owed, after insurance covered its 80%) totaled over $5,000. I was a full-time student. I received a $500/month stipend for being a research assistant. How was I supposed to pay $5,000 in medical bills? I had to beg and plead with the billing staff to let me pay just $50 a month – and even that was more than I could afford to pay. I thought I was going to have to drop out of school and just work full time.Except the economy tanked and no one was hiring. Luckily, I was written off as a charity case, after months of threatening letters from the hospital, tearful phone calls, faxes of bank statements, and letters from my school.

And I’m one of the lucky ones.  I know my story is nowhere near as sad or infuriating as many of the stories out there – and I’m so thankful for that… but this whole ordeal was such an eye-opening experience for me. Up until last year, I just assumed that should I or any of my loved ones need medical attention, we’d just…. get it. Without having to go into serious debt, have our credit scores threatened, or have to stress out about how to pay for it. We have insurance, and that is supposed to cover our health care costs.

BUT IT DOESN’T. NOT BY A LONG SHOT.

So please, ladies and gentlemen of Congress, please, please, please listen to the PEOPLE you are supposed to be serving. Hear our stories. We need affordable health care. We need our insurance companies to be kept in check. We need you to pass legislation for health care reform. And we need you to do it NOW. We don’t have lots of money to sway your votes or lobby aggressively. We’re too busy trying to find jobs that will pay for our insurance and health care costs. You have been elected to serve us, and, excuse my rudeness, but – I’m talking to you Senators Chambliss and Isakson – you’re doing a piss poor job of it!

We need a public health insurance option. We need regulation for private insurance companies.

The public library and my public school education have served me well. Extremely so. Can I please get public health care, too? I will gladly and willingly pay more in taxes for this service. And all you tea-party folks – well, I will save that letter for another day.

Sincerely,

Your displeased constituent,

Leah T.

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8 Comments

  • Reply James Adamthwaite 7 Oct ’09 at 2:47 pm

    ** STANDING OVATION **

  • Reply Deonne Parks 7 Oct ’09 at 9:40 pm

    I hope you mailed this. I know you mailed this.

  • Reply Paralee 8 Oct ’09 at 11:02 pm

    Seriously lady, I could kiss you. Great letter!

  • Reply Imjussayin' 22 Oct ’09 at 1:39 pm

    I have a few questions….$5000 is too much for a life saving procedure? What would you actually be willing to pay for a medical doctor to remove cancerous cells from your body? $4000, $2000, $500, $10?? It is not the responsilbilty of your government to make things affordable for you. It is your job to provide for yourself those things that are necessities in life…food, clothing, shelter, transportation and healthcare if it is desired. If you are unable to do so there are public assistance options for food and shelter but not for every aspect of life. If you are a grad student you are more than capable of providing these things for yourself without help from your government. Why are you willing to pay more in taxes for the Public Option but not willing to pay more in insurance premiums to have the coverage you need?

    Your government is only here to protect your rights, liberty and your freedom. It is not here to provide goods and services that are readily available in the market place. I’m just sayin’…

    • Reply MarkRoX 22 Oct ’09 at 7:46 pm

      People should not have to die because they couldn't pay $5,000 or $4,000 or $2,000 or $500, or $10. Especially when we can feasibly implement a plan that would save many more lives and ease the burden for so many people all at once – instead of simply thinking about taking care of yourself, or 'your own' – we would all be taking care of as many people as possible.

      Also – you are not considering the many numbers of people who did have 'enough' health insurance AND earned considerable money and STILL couldn't afford to save their lives (nevermind insurance companies denying/delaying to pay health care costs).

      We empower our government through our participation or lack of participation –

      When you say 'It is not the responsibility of your government to make things affordable for you' – I would argue that our government is funded by our earnings and our government's sole purpose is to carry out whatever we the voters decide – and in this case, pay for.

      I am willing to collectively pay more in taxes in an attempt to save us all collectively – which is still paying less than I would as an individual to save only myself.

      There is little difference between paying taxes for the fire department or police – services that EVERYONE is entitled to – just two examples of organizations that if they were not 'public' – they WOULD be 'readily available in the market place' – as you say. However these two public services save lives across the board and at the costs of our tax money- why should healthcare be any different?

      And I am not 'just sayin' this. I really believe it.

      Mark

    • Reply MarkRoX 22 Oct ’09 at 7:47 pm

      People should not have to die because they couldn't pay $5,000 or $4,000 or $2,000 or $500, or $10. Especially when we can feasibly implement a plan that would save many more lives and ease the burden for so many people all at once – instead of simply thinking about taking care of yourself, or 'your own' – we would all be taking care of as many people as possible.

      Also – you are not considering the many numbers of people who did have 'enough' health insurance AND earned considerable money and STILL couldn't afford to save their lives (nevermind insurance companies denying/delaying to pay health care costs).

      We empower our government through our participation or lack of participation –

      When you say 'It is not the responsibility of your government to make things affordable for you' – I would argue that our government is funded by our earnings and our government's sole purpose is to carry out whatever we the voters decide – and in this case, pay for.

      I am willing to collectively pay more in taxes in an attempt to save us all collectively – which is still paying less than I would as an individual to save only myself.

      There is little difference between paying taxes for the fire department or police – services that EVERYONE is entitled to – just two examples of organizations that if they were not 'public' – they WOULD be 'readily available in the market place' – as you say. However these two public services save lives across the board and at the costs of our tax money- why should healthcare be any different?

      And I am not 'just sayin' this. I really believe it.

    • Reply Joshua 8 Nov ’09 at 6:12 am

      So then you're fine with removing the socialist institutions of the police and fire departments then, too? I'm sure the private sector can find a way to charge you an arm and a leg to put out your burning home, and when they don't do it fast or quickly enough you can complain to the gov't about that too….

      Your argument about paying taxes vs paying premiums is ridiculous. When I pay nearly $2,000 a year just for coverage, I will most likely never see any of that money returned to me by the time I pay all of the copays, meet deductibles and deal with "non-coverage" issues. If I'm paying more taxes, that money IS going somewhere, eventually, to help someone. Not to some CEO's pocket.

      I don't understand the foot dragging on some sort of gov't sponsored health care. it's working for SO many countries around the world, but our elitist, "we know best" american douchebaggery has us hellbent that we'll be the exception to the rule. So while we're the wealthiest country in the world, we'll just watch our citizens die of rudimentary illnesses so the fat cats in the 'marketplace' can continue to pad their wallets.

  • Reply Carrie Neal Walden 22 Oct ’09 at 8:40 pm

    Good post, L!!!

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