Melanie Shouse and Angela Braly have a common bond: both women have been dependent on the health insurance industry, but in very different ways. Angela Braly, CEO for Wellpoint, has been heralded by Forbes Magazine as the highest paid insurance CEO in the US and listed as one of 100 most powerful women in business. In truth, Braly is merely another corporate suit placing profit over people. Her name could be 'Jack the Ripper,' and the effect would be the same.
Melanie Shouse was a crusader. She devoted herself to two political passions: medical care for all (as implemented by a vibrant public option such as the Conyers-Kucinich bill and HR676, aka Expanded Medicare for All) and electing a little known Illinois Senator, Barack Obama, president. Nationally known as a grassroots healthcare activist, she has been the modern-day equivalent of a female Moses, working to bring medical care for all home.
Melanie died from breast cancer on January 30th. More specifically, she died most probably from delayed treatment and policy rescission caused by her insurer: Wellpoint.
Melanie had insurance. Not the 'cadillac' type enjoyed by Congress, but the individual policy for catastrophic illness, replete with a mandatory $5000 deductible. No benefits kick in until the five thousand is paid. As an individual, this was the only type of insurance open to her. Who among us can afford five thousand dollars before any benefits become active? It is wage slavery.
Melanie plainly stated this fact at a healthcare rally this past November. She probably knew this would be her epitaph:
We need to take on the big insurance monopoly and liberate American families from the SLAVERY of skyrocketing insurance premiums and canceled coverage, which leave millions of us in a state of perpetual fear and insecurity.
Melanie's care was delayed by deductibles and co-pays expensive enough to bankrupt most of us. In addition, her policy was 'rescinded' after beginning her third round of chemo. Though her treatments were approved by the Siteman Cancer center, a premier research institution considered one of the top centers in the world, her provider Anthem (under the umbrella Wellpoint), rescinded or canceled her coverage. Fortunately, for Melanie, she had coverage by the Public Plans of Medicare and Medicaid (after a 2 year waiting period) by that time. Without the public plans of Medicare and Medicaid; Melanie would have died much earlier. Wellpoint had sent her the equivalent of a death sentence.
Melanie did all the right things. She earned a biology degree with honors, became an activist for those less fortunate, ran a small business with her partner and paid her taxes. She was so well-known and respected by President Obama that he heralded her efforts for healthcare justice in a speech at the Democratic National Committee Annual Meeting. In addition, the president sent a personal letter of condolence to her life partner, Steve Hart. Steve is having the letter framed and hung in a place of honor, as well as the envelope where the return address is simply "The White House." Her only 'crime' was not being wealthy.
I wanted to better understand how insurers can defraud so openly and found five major practices that are working in a perfectly orchestrated manner to steal our money and deny us medical care. In Part 2 of this post later this week, I'll delve into them, and discuss the enormous importance of this cause.