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Health Reform: A Matter of Life and Death

October 16, 2012

Access to insurance is a matter of life and death for some.

In this poignant New York Times column, “A Possibly Fatal Mistake,” Nicolas Kristof tells the sad story of his childhood and college friend, Scott Androes, who made a bad choice and may pay with his life.

That choice was not purchasing health insurance when he was marginally employed and realistically able to do so. For Scott, like many Americans, the thought of buying an individual policy in a high risk market seemed too expensive and unnecessary.

But after months of warning signs and a trip to the emergency room later, Scott realized how costly taking that risk would be. This year, he was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer and a treatment plan that is upwards of $550,000. It would appear that his days are numbered.

In his piece, Kristof compassionately writes about the bigger picture of this issue and how health care reform and politics play a major role in individual stories like his friends. He characterizes one presidential candidate’s philosophy, opposed to most of the health care reform proposals, as seeing this outcome:

“…as I understand it, is that this is a tragic but necessary byproduct of requiring Americans to take personal responsibility for their lives. They need to understand that mistakes have consequences. That’s why, he the candidate, would repeal Obamacare and leave people like Scott to pay the price for their irresponsibility.”

Kristof goes on to say:

“To me, that seems ineffably harsh. We all make mistakes, and a humane government tries to compensate for our misjudgments. That’s why highways have guard rails, why drivers must wear seat belts, why police officers pull over speeders, why we have fire codes. In other modern countries, Scott would have been insured, and his cancer would have been much more likely to be detected in time for effective treatment. Is that a nanny state? No, it’s a civilized one.”

The key point that Kristof makes is how crucial it is to put our partisan bias aside and consider the millions of U.S. citizens who are currently affected by our broken health care system. Which presidential candidate will actually work to fix and prevent stories like this after the election?

“So as you watch the presidential debates, as you listen to those campaign ads, remember that what is at stake is not so much the success of one politician or another. The real impact of the election will be felt in the lives of men and women around the country… Our choices this election come too late for Scott, although I hope that my friend from tiny Silverton, Ore., who somehow beat the odds so many times already in his life, will also beat this cancer. The election has the potential to help save the lives of many others who don’t have insurance.” Read more…



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