Two Colorado Stories That Politicians Considering the “Fiscal Cliff” Need to Hear

Since the day after the election, Working America’s Denver team have been talking to working families all over the state of Colorado about the so called “fiscal cliff” and the impact that it will have on the workers of this state. We have heard countless, heartbreaking stories from individuals who depend on programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and don’t want to see them used as a bargaining chip so that the wealthiest two percent can keep their tax break. These are two such stories.

Hannah suffers from a rare disease called severe fibromyalgia. This disease causes debilitating pain all throughout the body. Doctors know little about the cause and there is no cure. Because of this, Hannah is unable to work and recently moved back in with her parents. This disease has caused her to also suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which makes her day-to-day activities even harder on top of her pain. The medications that her various doctors have prescribed her help moderately with the pain, but are not able to arrest symptoms completely and cause unwanted side-effects like drowsiness and challenges to her short term memory and fine motor abilities.

Hannah has hit a dead end in the search for a Rheumatologist to help her find an adequate solution to her problem. She has been dropped as a patient four times within the last year because her doctors no longer want to accept patients on Medicaid, which is the only way Hannah and her family can afford care.

Jan, a Working America activist, is Hannah’s mother and primary caregiver. Her schedule and livelihood revolve around Hannah’s in many cases. Jan receives no compensation or support services for being Hannah’s caregiver. “I have other added fiduciary duties that I must perform to meet for Hannah’s needs.  Often I do my own case work as well.  What is offered to Hannah is sorely inefficient and often puts more demands on me than if I just did it myself in the first place.”

Elise is a physical therapist in Denver who works at a local hospital. She was able to contrast the services provided by non-profit organizations, like her hospital, and private healthcare providers. She said the main reason that patients get denied or dropped from services is because these professionals do not get reimbursed or compensated as well through Medicaid as they do through private or other insurance plans, and often times lose money.

Elise also explains the frustration that comes with other factors strictly controlled by Medicare, like the amount of care and time a patient is eligible for, barring the health care providers from maximizing their abilities and knowledge. While it is obvious these government-controlled payment structures are lacking in some areas, Elise still agrees that more Americans are able to receive care with them than without them.

If more money is cut from these programs, less money would be available to reimburse the clinicians, resulting in less care for the sick and suffering. And while often thrown in the middle of the Medicare/Medicaid debate, health care providers are workers too contributing to the same economy. “I believe a lot of good people who want to serve others often become healthcare providers, but we’re also human and want to be compensated for the care we provide and the education we’ve worked hard for.”

These are only a few stories of hard working individuals majorly affected by a vital program that has already faced dramatic cuts in funding. If our politicians, who were elected to represent all of us, decide to compromise and cut funding further for programs that keep many afloat, we all suffer. From the health care providers to their patients, these are services we depend on to maintain a strong population.

On Monday, December 10, our team took Jan and Elise’s stories – and hundreds of others in the form of hand written letters  - to both Senator Michael Bennet’s and Senator Mark Udall’s offices.

If you have a story of your own, or would like to get involved in holding our politicians in Colorado accountable, please send it to Alice Gardner at agardner@workingamerica.org.