Arthur in OhioA Real Life Scenario for A Future Under the GOP Health Plan
By Arthur Lavin, MD
(This is based on real life experiences in my practice, but names and details are changed to protect privacy)
My toddler lies in my arms, and my husband and I know these are our last moments with him.
His story began 3 years ago when we found out that after many years of trying, I was finally pregnant, what a time to remember the joy we felt, the doors opening to a future with a child. We were so happy then.
About 3 months prior to delivery of our son, we found that he had a rare heart defect, but the good news was that there were surgeons in the country who could fix the problem. In the same day we were terrified and offered real hope.
My husband works hard, as do I. Each of us have a job in the insurance industry, doing mostly clerical work. We work hard, but don’t make that much money. Before our son was born, we were never all that worried about health insurance, after all we are young and healthy, who needs to worry?
But once we found our son had such a serious health condition, one that held his precious life in its grip, we began to see insurance as one of the most important resources, one that held our son’s life in balance.
During those incredibly tense times, we were so glad to find out that recent legislation opened the door to hard-working families like ours to obtain insurance that would open the door to our son getting his life-saving surgery.
It turned out to be more difficult that we ever could imagine. Soon after he was born, a law passed some years ago in Congress went into effect. Our family lost its insurance. We were told when it passed that a brilliant future awaited, that we would chuck government provided insurance and we would see the flowering of new plans that the free market would create. I don’t know much about how all that works, all I know is that now, when our child’s life hung in the balance, the GOP health plan has cut us off.
Without insurance we have spent all we could raise to see specialists, and we have depended on the free care ER’s have had to provide during the emergencies we experienced. Our son has spent his whole life very blue, since his heart condition keeps oxygen from getting to his body. The specialists have helped, they have prescribed medicines that have kept him alive for the first months of life, and the ER’s have taken life-saving actions. But Andrew can’t live without the special surgery, and that surgery costs over $250,000. We don’t have the money, and our country has told us they cannot help.
Who can believe it, but solely because of a law passed, my husband and I are now sitting at home with our dear Andrew on our laps, watching him struggle to breathe. Over time, the lack of oxygen has stunted his growth, so although he is 15 months old, he barely weighs over 10 pounds. What makes this all so unbearable are memories of sitting in our specialist’s waiting room and seeing older kids with a similar problem, who had insurance before the GOP plan went into effect, who got their surgery, and are running around the office.
That could have been Andrew, but instead, Andrew has been sentenced to this tragic end. As we prepare for the last moments, we try to comfort Andrew who is far more blue than ever, each breath takes all he has just to get it in and out of his frail body. He is clearly so uncomfortable. As he has gotten older, and his body was withered, his eyes seem to get bigger and they turn to us with all the love he has always had for us. There is some comfort in that connection.
Soon, his breaths become more irregular, and turn into gasps. His body shakes, and we know the end is near. After a few hours, he eyes close and we begin to hug him goodbye. A few more gasps and Andrew is no more.
This scenario represents one of the estimated 46,000 deaths that will occur if the GOP health bill becomes law. We know the official estimates establish that 23 million Americans will lose health insurance as a result of this bill, and that about 1 in 500 people who lose insurance will die as a result of this happening. Andrew’s story will be one of these 46,000 stories.
What sort of country, what sort of people, would support stripping Andrew of his life-saving surgery, and handing that $250,000 over to a handful of already astoundingly wealthy people? Apparently that country is America, and those people are us. We have a lot to answer to the Mom and Dad of Andrew. May we find the courage and ability to stop this from happening to them.