Geoff Schoos, columnist for the Cranston Herald and President of the Rhode Island Center for Law and Public Policy sends along some great information on what it’s like to be low-income and insured in the United States:
In the midst of the health care “debate,” the lives of real people often get ignored or summarily discarded. Clearly, during the August of our discontent, allegations and accusations were made only to instill fear and further political agendas. This has been repeatedly demonstrated through the conduct of some participants at Town Hall meetings and the statements by such “leaders” as Sarah Palin.
Palin’s widely publicized term “death panels” inflamed the fear felt by many of our elder citizens. It was a lie then and continues to be a lie today. Making the lie worse is the fact that people promoting it know that it’s a lie. The reason for the lie, aside from instilling fear, is to distract attention from real proposals to address a real public policy problem. However distracting, lies must be addressed. Thus my August 19 column in the Cranston Herald.
On September 3, Beacon Communications published an op-ed piece from Professor Victor Morawski. I won’t even attempt to describe this particular slander. I’ll let the Professor speak for himself.
As this slander was published on my birthday, and as a contributor to Beacon Publications, I refused to let this op-ed piece stand unchallenged. Thus, this was published on September 10.
Last Wednesday, President Obama addressed both chambers of Congress and the American people to outline his principles and goals for national health insurance. As we all know, the toxicity of the last months has seeped into the most sacred of our institutions when South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson loudly called President Obama a liar.
The next day, ABC6 called my office to elicit a response on the whole health care debate. We met at noon on the Warwick City Hall steps for a 15 minute interview. Although we spoke of many health reform topics such as private option, competition, expanded access and various economic benefits that reform can have, the focus was on the venomous discussion of health care.
One hour after the taping of that interview, I met a new client. He came to me with a variety of issues, mostly concerning his economic situation. As we delved into his issue, I asked about his expenses. He and his wife are senior citizens. The have only their monthly social security on which to live. They reside in subsidized housing.
At the conclusion of our initial interview, it became apparent that the cost of their health care consumed a significant amount of their monthly income. When the rent is paid, their disposable monthly income is approximately $ 690 per month. Out of that amount, they pay another $ 96.40 for their Plan B Medicare coverage. Additionally, they pay another $ 35.00 per month for Medigap insurance.
Since both suffer from serious medical conditions, they pay approximately $ 50.00 on co-payments for doctor’s visits. In order to control the costs of co-pays, they schedule doctor visits so that they have no more than two per month. For example, the wife, who suffers from cancer, must schedule appointments with the radiologist and the oncologist so that they don’t coincide on the same month. Otherwise, the husband, who suffers from heart disease, would need to reschedule his visit to the cardiologist. Somewhere in the mix they have to schedule visits to their primary care physicians.
Add to the above is their payment for mostly generic prescription medications. Add $ 50.00 per month in co-pays. The total payments for health related expenses, without any dire emergency situation, amount to $ 231.40. That’s out of a disposable income of about $ 690.00 per month. Put another way, that comes to 33.5% spent on health care. And that’s a normal month after juggling their access to health services in order to keep costs down.
While this isn’t the worst case I’ve seen over the last year, it is representative of what too many of our neighbors are going through. And they’re lucky. Although they do have access to health care, albeit limited, they are better off than the 11% of our fellow Rhode Islanders who have no health insurance at all.
Thus, as the discussion, evaluation, and debate on health care takes place over the next few months, we would all do well to remember those like my clients and the thousands locally and the millions nationally who share their predicament. In the end, when the sound and the fury have subsided, when the sloganeering has ended, and when the smoke has cleared, this is about the real lives of real people who through no fault of their own, struggle to survive in an increasingly complex and uncaring system.