Health care is at the top of my political agenda, and I mean health care for all — not the patchwork job the Republican Party has been creating for the sake of tax cuts for their wealthy sponsors.
Health care rose to the top of my agenda when I suffered a stroke in April. I am lucky today to be alive, functioning normally and enjoying health-insurance coverage.
Technically, as an MRI later showed, I had six small strokes, five white dots lined up on the right side of my brain and one in the cerebellum. There was no other sign of an actual blood clot.
One of my grandfathers had a stroke at my age and never recovered, dying two years later in his nursing home bed.
On the morning of April 12, I awoke with a dead arm, somewhat slurred speech and a crooked smile. Just before 7 a.m., I walked into the emergency room at Olympic Memorial Hospital and into the urgent hands of an able staff who determined that my medications precluded chemical treatment to attack any possible clot.
They decided I should go to Swedish. There was a problem with the weather: helicopters were not flying. What ensued was an ambulance ride to Fairchild Airport, a Lear jet flight to Seattle and another ambulance from Boeing Field to Swedish.
At this point, I had not even been treated yet at Swedish and I could see the cash register wouldn’t be able to handle the costs. Fortunately, however, we have excellent insurance coverage so I simply let things ride, so to speak.
I haven’t seen any bills yet, but I will be surprised if the cost for the transportation alone does not exceed $5,000.
At Swedish, it took a while to get me a room and even longer to have a doctor actually see me. In fact, I did not see the neurologist until the next day, an oversight for which he apologized. Meanwhile, I underwent an MRI (what fun!) and a transcranial doppler exam (very weird), frequent blood pressure checks, frequent nursing visits and hand squeezes with everyone who entered my room as they tested for my left-side strength.
The good news was that I was recovering quickly. By the next day, my smile returned to normal, my speech returned to normal and my left arm worked, though not yet normally or at full strength.
If we did not have excellent insurance coverage, I can’t imagine what shape we would be in financially. We are blessed both by Medicare (which we pay for) and by Aetna Alaska Care, a retirement benefit.
Before President Obama’s Affordable Care Act was passed, thousands of people commonly went into debt that cost them their homes, life savings and continuing debt because they suffered serious illness and the treatment costs that accompanied it. This has been much less common under “Obamacare,” although it has continued with some who still refused to insure or who were denied such insurance in states where Republican governors prevented the establishment of federal health-care exchanges.
Unless the U.S. Senate acts (or has acted by the time this is published) to repair the flaws of the House Republicans’ “Trumpcare,” anyone who is not wealthy or not well covered with insurance will again be at maximum risk of financial devastation.
If you are interested enough to want to know whom the Republican representatives are serving, if not their constituents, start by reading “Dark Money” by Jane Mayer. Her thoroughly researched work traces the funding supplied by the Koch Brothers and others among the uber wealthy to set up so-called “think tanks” (consider the Cato Institute), to finance conservative-oriented programs in university schools of business and law, and to promote euphemistic cover stories for health-care reform intended only to save money for rich people through tax breaks.
This is all done in the name of libertarian ideals and the “freedom” to be responsible for no one but yourself.
“Trumpcare,” in the worst cases, will make the cure as bad or worse than the illness.
As just one recent stroke survivor, I want to ask conservatives, especially the Christians among them: How does your conscience allow you to support a proposal that will end or drastically reduce health coverage for millions of people? I want to ask Republicans in Congress: Would you exchange your own Congressional health coverage for the version recently passed by the House of Representatives?
I thought you wanted to make America great again, and now you’re going to increase the national debt and leave more people with weak or no health insurance.
This is not looking great.
JOHN MERTON MARRS is a writer and retired editor who happily pays federal income taxes and county taxes on homes at Lake Sutherland and in Port Angeles.