My Letter to Congress

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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