In 1981, when my mom got stage-four breast cancer, I remember going with her to the hospital for her to get chemotherapy. I was 11 years old. Each time we went, the receptionist made sure to tell my mom she owed money on her bill. I remember the receptionist being angry, but most of all I will never forget how upset Momma was as the receptionist embarrassed her (as there was a full waiting room).
My mom was the sole provider of my family. She worked 50-plus hours a week, yet never had enough money to have health insurance. All my mom wanted was to have the chance to live and to be there for her children.
After her chemo treatments, Momma would have to pull off the road to throw up at least twice before making it home. She told me they had medicines to help her, but she couldn’t afford to pay for them. I cannot tell you how she suffered. She never wanted to steal or take anything from anyone. She was only fighting for her life.
WHEN HER CANCER returned in 1985, her doctor wanted her to do radiation and chemo. Because she had a pre-existing condition (having already had cancer), no insurance company would take her. When my mom died in 1986, after months of being in excruciating pain, she owed more than $200,000.
While she could, she paid $200 a month toward her bill, but it never made a dent compared to the bills she was accruing. The amount she owed was huge in 1986, and I know there were, and are, many others like her. That’s a lot of money that we as taxpayers end up paying – even before Obamacare.
I feel very strongly as an American we need to make sure each of us has health insurance, because no child should ever see their loved ones suffer because they can’t afford medical care. The billions of dollars of unpaid bills that already exist is a huge reason many of us are forced to pay more – and more than many of us can afford, that’s for sure.
PRESIDENT OBAMA’S health-care plan actually will reduce the amount of unpaid health-care bills, which ultimately will reduce the amount we are all paying. If we are not helping our fellow Americans get health care, whether we like it or not, the amount of unpaid bills will continue to increase, which will affect us all anyway.
The bottom line for me is that everyone deserves quality health care. No one should have to suffer because they can’t afford medicine, nor should they have to choose death because they can’t afford treatment. I feel strongly that my mom would be here today if she had had that opportunity of good health care.
Each and every life that exists is special. I would never suggest that if one has no money then one deserves their fate of possible death. I will never succumb to the ideology that it is those with money who deserve not to suffer. Sometimes we are unlucky. Sometimes “loving thy neighbor” isn’t so easy – but it’s the right thing to do. It’s what I call being a mensch.
(The writer is an Augusta resident.)