Notes from the field: Why were we talking about health care again?

Dan Heck — Working America Regional Director

This morning, I sat down in my office and saw a letter from Sylvia, a member from Chillicothe. It almost moved me to tears, even though I’ve heard this story countless times. Here’s what she wrote to her Representative, Zack Space:

“I’m a cancer survivor and have been in the process of healing for 10 years. In the middle of the ordeal, my health insurance doubled and we were left with bills we either couldn’t pay or a premium we couldn’t pay. I am a nurse and believe me, I worked long hours to not have any insurance. We as Americans need health care!! I want you to support a public option. However, real reform means not taxing our health care benefits.”

This is a story we’ve seen in countless letters, and heard from countless members. It is extremely widespread. Middle class people who think they have insurance suddenly lose it, or find the rates become unaffordable, when they actually get sick. Any system that does that is broken, and needs to be fixed.

Health care reform isn’t about whether we think corporations or the government are worse. It isn’t about message points and 10 point plans and mountains of policy details. It is about Sylvia, because we’re all in Sylvia’s shoes. Even those of us fortunate enough to be in the middle class are one illness away from financial ruin. Our homes, our kid’s college … they’re all on the line because of a broken system that takes advantage of people when they’re sick, instead of protecting them.

Anyone who bothers to look at the health reform package knows that it will help protect everyone who works for a living. It helps keep special interests honest, and helps focus our hospitals on healing us, instead of just making money. An American Public Insurance option is a necessary part of that, because it will bargain for us and set the standard for others to follow. And if it doesn’t do that, people will choose not to use it.

But ultimately, this health care struggle is a whole lot bigger than any single bill, or any policy. We’re fighting to get the best possible bill for Sylvia, and all of us who are in her shoes.

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