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Friday, February 4, 2011

Self-employed, uninsured and dead from a heart attack at 54

This story was originally posted by Eve Gittelson on Daily Kos.

This unspeakable tragedy, was just brought to my attention, I'm at a loss for words.

Melissa Hall was a self-employed, freelance writer and editor. She didn't qualify for, and couldn't afford to buy very expensive private junk insurance in the individual market.  Because she was petrified of huge medical bills, despite feeling very ill, she didn't seek medical attention and died of a heart attack.

This was written by a friend:

Melissa was a long term friend though we rarely saw one another, only when I got to Fort Worth, which was not all that often. But we were in touch a lot and we had long, soulful conversations. We wrote a short story together we never sold, and edited one another over the years. She was simply one of the loveliest of friends, a true mensch.

I am appalled and devastated by her much-too early death which I lay directly at the feet of the ghastly health insurance scam we have right now in this country which punishes the poorest amongst us.

She would be alive today if she’d had been able to afford insurance.

You can read more about Mia and her tragic and untimely death here.

Here's a snippet:

In light of a federal court judge's decision yesterday to overrule the Obama healthcare law, it's hard not to turn our thoughts to Melissa who, like most self-employed Americans, was responsible for acquiring and paying for her own health insurance - a luxury she simply couldn't afford. She knew she needed medical care, but feared a visit would result in a lengthy hospital stay that would "ruin her credit rating."

Just a week ago, Melissa wrote Harley the following:

Right now really hurting. Hurt my chest/back last night lifting Daisy wrong...she's too heavy and I pulled muscles I guess. I thought at first I was having a heart attack it was so awful.
Tonight I'm really hurting still. Ibuprofen's not helping much. Using heating pad. It's been a long painful day and hard to concentrate on much. Why now?
Sigh...xoxoMM

As I mentioned in another diary, I was in Washington last week at the Families USA annual meeting where we were honored with an appearance by President Obama.

During my three days there, I spoke to many people all of whom had tons of information about the Affordable Care Act. The most frightening assessment of where we are, and where we could be headed, came from Ron Pollack the genial and battle scarred executive director of Families USA.  He told me in tones as somber and grim as anything I'd ever heard that, "Obama is our firewall". He mapped out with impeccable precision, the scenario many "insiders" fear is looming. In a nutshell: In 2012, the Republicans pick up the Senate, and repeal the ACA using reconciliation.

Yes, you heard correctly. The Republicans will use the legislative tool--reconciliation--to repeal the ACA. Fifty-one votes is all they need. Republicans will use reconciliation, the tool that Democrats refused to even consider to get us either a Medicare buy-in or the Public Option into the ACA.  If God forbid we lose Obama in 2012, we lose the ACA. But we lose even more. The radical right will make every effort to privatize social security, Medicare could easily turn into a voucher program, and Medicaid would be block-granted back to the states, with each state then to replace it with Medicaid vouchers for the purchase of private health insurance. And we haven't even discussed the Supreme Court.

 Our future, our very survival depends on re-electing Barack Obama.  I am one of those not happy with many of the decisions he's made or the policies and direction of the Administration.  I fear and expect he will move further to the center as the campaign begins in earnest. Despite all this, I believe we still must coalesce around Obama.  The stakes are simply enormous.

The Affordable Care Act is not what I wanted. It is woefully deficient, and it makes us all victims of the predatory for-profit insurance corporations. But it is beginning to help some, and if it survives the ongoing vicious assaults from the judiciary and the Republican Party, hopefully in 2014, 30 million Americans will get access to some form of healthcare.

As I told you, in late December, I was voted onto the Board of California OneCare, I am fighting to bring single payer to California. But all that said, I agree with Ron Pollack, Obama is our firewall.
Tragically, there will be many more needless deaths and tremendous suffering because healthcare remains a privilege in the richest country on the planet. There will be many more just like Melissa Mia Hall, until healthcare becomes a right. And we are far, far away from that righteous goal.