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Ali's Story: Uninsured in America

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Ali Vatter works very hard. As part of the catering crew on this summer's blink-182 tour, she was among the first to get up in the morning and the last to go to bed at night. Everyday Ali helped set up a mobile kitchen, prepare and serve four meals a day for hundreds of people, and stock dressing rooms and buses, only to pack it all back up and repeat the process the next day. About two months into the tour, at a show in Florida, she took ill and was rushed to the hospital. There the doctors determined she required emergency surgery to remove her appendix.

Three days later, Ali walked out of the hospital and rejoined the tour. Out on the road, Ali and I discussed her surgery, and she informed me she was uninsured. My initial reaction was disbelief. Why would you not have insurance? Especially while on tour? Turns out I was asking the wrong question. The real question is: Why are you unable to get insurance?

Talking to Ali more, she has been trying to get health insurance for years, but companies keep rejecting her. She has pre-existing conditions that insurance companies either cover while requiring crippling premiums, or flatly refuse any coverage whatsoever. In any case, Ali has for years been trying in vain to get proper health insurance. Her luck ran out in Florida. Then the bills arrived.

Ali's surgery and hospital bills exceed $48,000. There is no way for her to afford that payment. What are her options? Try and secure a loan? Declare bankruptcy? At wit's end, Ali put together a website explaining her situation and asking people to donate any money they could to help her pay off this debt (www.thealivattermatter.blogspot.com). To try and help raise the needed money, I took to my Twitter account to say that I would personally match every dollar donated until her bills were repaid. Time will tell how much money Ali can raise through the kindness of strangers.

Ali's situation is a small portrait of a much larger issue being debated in national headlines and the hallways of Washington DC right now. Health care in America. The question is systemic in nature and problem: How do we as a nation provide quality health care to all of our citizens?

It seems like a simple enough question. But yet, every day too many Americans go about their lives without proper coverage, with the risk of serious injury and financial ruin looming over their head if they fall ill or require surgery. This past month, I have seen the effect of unavailable and inadequate health insurance firsthand. Does anyone believe that the current system still works effectively? How and in what way do we change our current structure?

Every day, while our elected officials and corporations argue over the best way to fix the problem of health care in America, more people like Ali are falling through the cracks, into bankruptcy and inadequate care. Mr. President, members of congress, hospitals, doctors, and insurance companies, there has to be a better way. When a person's best option to pay for healthcare is to take to the internet and ask for small donations from strangers, bold changes need to be made.

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