Two hundred people led by Take Action Minnesota marched to the front doors of the UnitedHealth Group headquarters on Tuesday, one of the largest private insurance companies in the country. The marchers, who like health care reform advocates at 150 similar events across the country that day, came with one message as they gathered in a circle around the front door: "Sick of it."
UnitedHealth Group and other private insurance companies have perfected the art of how to make the most money and take care of the least amount of people, and America is sick and tired of it.
We're sick and tired of paying escalating health care premiums and not getting covered for the care we need when we need it. Take the heart wrenching story of 16-year-old Codi Nicole Alexander of Gaithersburg, MD. In August, she was hit by an SUV while riding her bicycle. She was crossing in a sidewalk and wearing a helmet. Despite the helmet, she sustained severe brain injuries and eventually died. How did the insurance companies respond to this tragedy? By seizing money from the auto insurance companies that otherwise would have paid her funeral, burial plot and other associated expenses. This family's gift from the Blue Cross Blue Shield after years of paying premiums and in the face of horrible tragedy: a bill for deductibles, out of pocket expenses and a funeral.
This family's nightmare is just one of many. We're sick and tired of insurance companies denying health care coverage because of pre-existing conditions. Consider the case of Dian Bolling of Roanoke, VA whose first child was born with a half of a heart and has had to undergo multiple surgeries through out childhood. In addition, all three of her children were born with Fragile X, a genetic syndrome similar to Autism. After years of fighting with health insurance over their children's care, Dian's husband was unceremoniously let go from his job. This left them with no insurance and medical bills that bankrupted them. They still don't have family insurance because of their children's pre-existing condition.
It's clear to the majority of Americans we need reform. Despite the many heart breaking stories like these, insurance companies are spending millions to fight reform and keep things exactly the way they are. As the Senate Finance Committee continues to mark up its bill, we need to remember people like Codi Nicole and Dian.
We cannot allow special interests to get in the way of thoughtful legislating at a time when we need it most. True health care reform must be affordable, provide good benefits, end medical bankruptcy and create a public health insurance option to prevent private insurance companies from continuing the treatment Codi and Dian received.
As we speak, Congress is considering amendments that are bought and paid for by the private insurance. Senator Jon Kyl, for instance, proposes to protect the ability of insurance companies to discriminate based on pre-existing conditions, health status, and gender and allows insurance companies to drop the policies of enrollees when they get sick. Senator Chuck Grassley proposes eliminating even moderate assistance for the middle class, forcing families to continue to pay exorbitant private insurance costs. Senator Hatch wants to eliminate access to care for the lowest-income Americans.
The health reform advocates who marched outside the UnitedHealth Group carried 744 green balloons with dollar signs on them. That's one balloon for each $1 million in stock options UnitedHealth Group's chief executive received. Even more, the $1.4 million dollars being spent by the insurance lobby in the halls of Congress EVERY DAY is distorting this debate and taking our eyes off what this is really about: people who are being victimized by the profit incentive.
It's time for Congress to listen to real people and implement real reform because America is sick of it.
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