Oklahoma Woman Tells GOP Lawmakers: Without Obamacare, ‘I Will Be Dead Before My 27th Birthday’

BY TARA CULP-RESSLER ON OCTOBER 7, 2013

26-year-old Kendall Brown

26-year-old Kendall Brown [CREDIT: COURTESY OF KENDALL BROWN]

As the deadline approached for Congress to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government funded, Republicans refused to strike a deal unless it defunded or delayed Obamacare. Now, a week later, GOP lawmakers still seem unwilling to compromise unless they are able to dismantle some of the health reform law. One Oklahoma resident wants them to understand the human impact of that political position.

On the eve of the looming government shutdown, 26-year-old Kendall Brown published an open letter to the lawmakers who wanted to delay Obamacare for one year before agreeing to pass a funding bill. Brown didn’t mince words. “I am dying, because of the political games you are playing right now,” her op-ed began.

The Oklahoma resident explained that she was born with Crohn’s Disease, an inflammatory bowel disease that has no cure. When Brown was in college, she was removed from her mother’s health care coverage. Since her illness prevented her from being able to take a full course load, she couldn’t meet the credit requirements to qualify as a student to remain on the plan. During that time, she could only afford a limited student health plan, and she accumulated thousands of dollars in medical debt.

Once Obamacare allowed young adults to remain on their parents’ plans regardless of their academic status, Brown was able to return to her mother’s insurance. That provision of the health law was enacted at a crucial time — not long afterward, Brown needed to undergo emergency surgery to remove two feet of her intestine that had swollen shut. She wouldn’t have been able to afford the procedure otherwise.

But Brown is now 26 years old, and no longer qualifies for coverage under that Obamacare provision. Although she’s currently employed full-time at a nonprofit, the small organization can’t offer her any health benefits. She’s tried to apply for insurance plans on her own, but she’s been denied because of her pre-existing condition. She cannot currently afford the lifesaving treatment to manage her illness, a form of chemotherapy that costs $15,000 for each infusion. She is desperate to enroll in the health law’s new marketplaces so she can have the coverage she needs.

“I tell you this because I am tired of being reduced to a number, a statistic or, even worse, being described as a freeloader that wants to live off of the government health care teat,” Brown explains in her open letter. “I tell you this because if you defund Obamacare, or delay it even for one year, as you are debating today, then this will be my last letter to you. I will be dead before my 27th birthday.”

In an interview with ThinkProgress, Brown explained that she had been following the political drama in the lead-up to the current shutdown, and she decided to write her letter “out of incredible hurt and anger.”

“I don’t think that our elected officials are willfully terrible people — I think they are just so caught up in the game, so dead set on doing whatever it takes to get those votes next re-election season, that they forget that they’re talking about actual people,” the Oklahoma resident explained. “That’s what I wanted them to remember from reading my letter.”

Brown believes that Obamacare has already saved her life, because it allowed her to receive surgery while she was covered under her mother’s plan as a young adult. “Without that surgery I would have died a very painful death,” she noted. And with the law’s state-level insurance marketplaces opening to the public, Brown says her life will be saved all over again. She’ll be able to afford her medications and her regular chemotherapy treatments. She’ll hopefully be able to avoid another surgery.

But she’s still disappointed in her lawmakers. Congress ultimately failed to delay Obamacare’s marketplaces from opening for enrollment, but the federal government has still ground to a halt. And in Brown’s home state of Oklahoma, politicians are still resistant to health reform. Some Republicans continue to fight against the health law’s optional Medicaid expansion, which would help extend coverage to the state’s considerable uninsured population. Seventeen percent of Oklahoma adults don’t have health coverage.

“I am a very proud Oklahoman, and I plan to make my career and raise a family here, but I do not feel that our state elected officials are serving our best interests,” Brown told ThinkProgress, saying she’s “baffled and saddened” that her elected officials have dug in their heels against health reform.

“That, to me, is not in the spirit of being an Oklahoman,” she continued. “I grew up in a small western Oklahoma town, where you took sick neighbors casseroles and you offered to watch each other’s children. In short — you helped out your fellow man. And that’s what Obamacare is about, for me.”


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

Advertisements

A Century of Healthcare Reform

by Rich Dunn, NVRDC 2nd Vice Chair

1912: Former President Theodore Roosevelt champions national health insurance as he unsuccessfully tries to ride his progressive Bull Moose Party back to the White House.

1929: Baylor Hospital in Texas originates group health insurance. Dallas teachers pay 50 cents a month to cover up to 21 days of hospital care per year.

1935: President Franklin D. Roosevelt favors creating national health insurance amid the Great Depression but decides to push for Social Security first.

1942: Roosevelt establishes wage and price controls during World War II. Businesses can’t attract workers with higher pay so they compete through added benefits, including health insurance, which grows into a workplace perk.

1945: President Harry Truman calls on Congress to create a national insurance program for those who pay voluntary fees. The American Medical Association denounces the idea as “socialized medicine” and it goes nowhere.

1960: John F. Kennedy makes health care a major campaign issue but as president can’t get a plan for the elderly through Congress.

1965: President Lyndon B. Johnson’s legendary arm-twisting and a Congress dominated by his fellow Democrats lead to creation of two landmark government health programs: Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for the poor.

1974: President Richard Nixon wants to require employers to cover their workers and create federal subsidies to help everyone else buy private insurance. The Watergate scandal intervenes.

1976: President Jimmy Carter pushes a mandatory national health plan, but economic recession helps push it aside.

1986: President Ronald Reagan signs COBRA, a requirement that employers let former workers stay on the company health plan for 18 months after leaving a job, with workers bearing the cost.

1988: Congress expands Medicare by adding a prescription drug benefit and catastrophic care coverage. It doesn’t last long. Barraged by protests from older Americans upset about paying a tax to finance the additional coverage, Congress repeals the law the next year.

1993: President Bill Clinton puts first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in charge of developing what becomes a 1,300-page plan for universal coverage. It requires businesses to cover their workers and mandates that everyone have health insurance. The plan meets Republican opposition, divides Democrats and comes under a firestorm of lobbying from businesses and the health care industry. It dies in the Senate.

1997: Clinton signs bipartisan legislation creating a state-federal program to provide coverage for millions of children in families of modest means whose incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid.

2003: President George W. Bush persuades Congress to add prescription drug coverage to Medicare in a major expansion of the program for older people.

2008: Hillary Rodham Clinton promotes a sweeping health care plan in her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. She loses to Obama, who has a less comprehensive plan.

2009: Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress spend an intense year ironing out legislation to require most companies to cover their workers; mandate that everyone have coverage or pay a fine; require insurance companies to accept all comers, regardless of any pre-existing conditions; and assist people who can’t afford insurance.

2010: With no Republican support, Congress passes the measure, designed to extend health care coverage to more than 30 million uninsured people. Republican opponents scorned the law as “Obamacare.”

2012: On a campaign tour in the Midwest, Obama himself embraces the term “Obamacare” and says the law shows “I do care.”

Obamacare: Signed, Sealed, Delivering …

Watch the Obamacare videos & get the facts

Obamacare is making health care work better for all of us, even if you already have insurance. It puts the health of your family first—ensuring access to free preventive care and protecting consumers from insurance company abuses.

71 Million Kids & Adults With Private Insurance Have Received No-Cost Preventive Care.
“HHS estimates that, as a result of the ACA, 71 million children and adults with private insurance, and 34 million Medicare beneficiaries have received no-cost preventive care. Enhanced federal matching funds in Medicaid are available to states providing all USPSTF-recommended preventive benefits without cost-sharing, but, to date, few states have made the changes required to gain the higher match rate.” “Health Reform-The Affordable Care Act Three Years Post-Enactment,” Kaiser Family Foundation, March 2013.
Discrimination By Insurance Companies For Children With Pre-Existing Conditions Was Banned.
“Coverage exclusions for children with pre-existing conditions were prohibited as of September 23, 2010. Insurers are no longer permitted to deny coverage to children due to their health status, or exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions. Protections for adults will take effect in 2014. In addition, lifetime limits on coverage in private insurance have been eliminated and annual limits are being phased out.” “Health Reform-The Affordable Care Act Three Years Post-Enactment,” Kaiser Family Foundation, March 2013.
Consumers Received $1.1 Billion in Rebates From Their Insurance Companies.
“Insurance companies that don’t spend at least 80 percent of its customers’ premium dollars on health care are required to provide rebates to policy holders. In 2012, the first year this rule was implemented, 12.8 million consumers received $1.1 billion in rebates.” “Health Reform in Action,” WhiteHouse.gov, accessed 6/5/13.
3.1 Million More Young Adults Have Health Insurance Through Their Parent’s Plan.
“Under the law, most young adults who can’t get coverage through their jobs can stay on their parents’ plans until age 26.” “Health Reform in Action,” WhiteHouse.gov, accessed 6/5/13.
Seniors Have Saved More Than $6.1 Billion on Their Prescription Drugs Since 2010.
“Seniors who hit the gap in Medicare’s prescription drug coverage, often called the ‘donut hole’ now receive 50 percent discounts on covered brand name drugs. The new health reform law will provide additional savings each year until the coverage gap is closed in 2020.” “Health Reform in Action,” WhiteHouse.gov, accessed 6/5/13.

Two Visions, Two Paths

Last week, President Obama was in Ohio to deliver the first of a series of speeches that layout the clear choice voters will face as they go to the polls.  One vision will move us forward, creating an economy built to last, but the other would send us backward decades.

This fall, it will be up to the voters to break a stalemate between these two starkly different visions of how we should grow our economy, fortify the middle class by creating jobs, close the deficit and pay down our debt.

President Obama believes America prospers when hard work pays off, when responsibility is rewarded, and when everyone gets a fair shot, does their fair share and plays by the same set of rules. To create jobs, reduce our deficit and build a stronger economy from the middle class out, President Obama believes we need to:

  • [Education] Invest in good teachers and help more students go to college and get job training – not pack kids into crowded classrooms and slash scholarships. 
  • [Energy] Invest in promising sources of energy, like wind, solar, clean coal, biofuels, nuclear and natural gas, to create a market for innovation and good jobs of the future – not go back to relying on foreign oil or subsidizing Big Oil. 
  • [Innovation] Invest in our best scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs so they innovate here – not cede leadership to countries like China and India. 
  • [Infrastructure] Rebuild our roads, bridges, ports and broadband technology to attract businesses and create jobs here – not pet projects, bridges to nowhere and crumbling infrastructure. 
  • [Tax Reform] Reward businesses that create jobs here instead of those that send them overseas, and must ask the wealthiest to contribute their fair share again – not give millionaires another tax break at the expense of the middle class.

On the other hand, Mitt Romney and his allies in Congress believe that if you take away protections for consumers and workers and cut taxes even more for the wealthiest Americans, the market will solve all our problems on its own. Their refusal to ask the wealthiest Americans to pay even a nickel more in taxes is the biggest source of gridlock in Washington, and the reason we haven’t reached a grand bargain to bring down our deficit and Congress hasn’t passed a jobs plan that would put a million people back to work. Romney’s plan would:

  • Roll back financial reform and let Wall Street write its own rules again.
  • Repeal health reform, costing tens of millions their health coverage and allowing insurance companies to discriminate based on pre-existing conditions.
  • Provide a $5 trillion tax cut weighted to millionaires and billionaires, blowing a hole in the deficit and forcing cuts to programs critical to middle-class security, including education, medical research and clean energy.
  • Turn Medicare into a voucher program, when a similar plan showed it would increase costs on seniors by as much as $6,350 a year.
  • Encourage companies to ship jobs overseas by giving them tax breaks.
  • Encourage people of color to “self-deport” themselves elsewhere.

So as you can see, as we head to the polls this November, voters have significant power to set America’s course.  They alone will decide which path we take as a nation – not just in the next four years, but for generations to come.  We now have our work cut out for us to make sure each and every voter understands exactly WHAT is at stake.  Get active.  Step up to the plate … while we still have one.

Ryan’s P2P Just Another Salvo in GOP’s War Against Women

This week, the GOP-dominated Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments about whether the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) should be thrown out as unconstitutional, and the GOP-dominated U.S. House is debating Rep. Paul Ryan’s Path to Poverty budget proposal which would repeal all provisions of the PPACA and return everything to the way it was before it was enacted.

“Women continue to face unfair and discriminatory practices when obtaining health insurance in the individual market—as well as in the group health insurance market.  Women are charged more for health coverage simply because they are women, and individual market health plans often exclude coverage for services that only women need, like maternity care. Furthermore, insurance companies—despite being aware of these discriminatory practices—have not voluntarily taken steps to eliminate the inequities.  While some states have outlawed or limited these practices, only when the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented in 2014 will they end nationally.” — National Women’s Law Center

If either attack succeeds, women can kiss that 2014 promise of medical premium equality goodbye and expect to continue paying far more for the same health insurance policy than any man would have to pay.  If you’re a woman, and you don’t believe you’re nothing more than a pre-existing condition to be denied and overcharged, then you need to get busy.  If REPEAL is not what you want to see happen, then you need to learn all you can learn about the PPACA debate.  You need to write/call your representatives in Congress expressing your disapproval, and you need to encourage everyone in your circle of friends to actively stand against repeal.

If the Supreme Court decides to strike down the PPACA, women (and Americans, in general) will need to watch carefully to see what other pieces of legislation are adversely affected by the Court’s action.

RESOURCES PRESENTED TO THE SUPREME COURT