If You Think Doctors Don't Want Health Reform, Read Their Stories

"I am a pediatric oncologist. All of my patients have a catastrophic illness. Patients who are uninsured experience delays in diagnosis and gaps in care that jeopardize their chances of cure..."
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I am an advisor to Doctors for America, a group of progressive physicians. DFA is circulating the below petition among physicians and medical students:

Dear Representatives John Boehner and Eric Cantor:

We are physicians and medical students who serve patients across America in all 50 states.

Every day, we see a broken health care system that is failing patients and health care providers.

That is why we stand behind the Affordable Care Act as an important first step in fixing our health care system.

We know that you have proposed to weaken or repeal the Affordable Care Act as one of your top priorities in the new Congress.

We believe repealing or weakening the Affordable Care Act will move our health care system backward - and we strongly urge against it. Instead, we ask you to work with us in building upon the Affordable Care Act, making it stronger, and ensuring that we can crate a health care system that works for all Americans.

The Affordable Care Act will cover 32 million more Americans that otherwise would fallen through the cracks of our health care system. It takes the biggest steps in history to improve the quality and reduce the cost of health care. It protects our children, our seniors and our sickest patients from the past abuses of the insurance industry. These are just a few of the reasons why so many doctors and patients support the Affordable Care Act.

(You can sign or contribute here.)

Alongside the hundreds of signatures, many physicians and medical students left short personal stories. These stories convey very well why people on the front lines of health care and primary care strongly favor health reform. I can't excerpt them all here, but the below caught my attention.

I have had breast cancer twice. I am a private practice physician. I see patients every day like me. I do not have health insurance (although I might have been approved for the PA health option that was offered to people with pre-existing conditions), because of my breast cancer history. I have paid into the system for 35 years.... I am appalled each time I hear some one with insurance saying they want to repeal the healthcare bill, especially those who enjoy the benefit of excellent healthcare as a result of our taxpayer dollars. I welcome Mr. Boehner and Mr. Cantor to go without healthcare for one year, then pray each and every day that they or one of their loved ones don't get sick.

I have seen patients avoid going to the emergency room or getting their prescriptions due to lack of insurance. They have died or gone into heart failure.

An adolescent female of our clinic was having heavy periods which had been controlled my medications. When her mother's insurance (and subsequently her insurance) interrupted due to cumbersome paperwork and provisions of her health insurance, they worked for two months to get insurance so they could afford the medication again. In that time, the patient bled enough that she had to be hospitalized for blood transfusions....

My niece, age 25, is likely to die in 6 months or less, of metastic adenocarcinoma of the esophagus despite heroic treatment at a major university hospital. Living alone, with a bare minimum wage income she ignored here symptom until she had almost complete esophgeal obstruction because she did not have health care insurance and made too much money to qualify for Medicaid. Without insurance, she could not get an appointment with a physician.

I am a pediatric oncologist. All of my patients have a catastrophic illness. Patients who are uninsured experience delays in diagnosis and gaps in care that jeopardize their chances of cure. Adolescents who have to leave school because of cancer and its treatment will lose their health coverage from their parents' insurance because they are not students. They too be at risk of delays in care that are potentially life-threatening.

Our clinic's population is primarily insured through Medicaid. Our patient population has grown significantly since the economic downturn. These are people whose lives are already difficult due to poverty and chronic stress. Please, before you dare assume what the American people truly want, come speak to the American people served at our clinic.

Representative Cantor- I look forward to driving up the Shenandoah Valley to be in Virginia once again in the house my mother and father have lived in for four decades... I am a doctor who takes care of children with cancer and with hemophilia, a bleeding disorder that costs on average $100,000-300,000/year for drug costs alone... I am deeply upset by the refusal to take part in the legislative process that so many in our government cynically display as a badge of honor. It is my request that you put your considerable energy and influence into moving the country forward.

All of my patients depend on health insurance to see me, from the disabled schizophrenic to the anxious architect. Since Massachusetts guaranteed health insurance for all, it has become possible for well-trained psychiatrists like myself to "do well by doing good" and forego cash-only practices.... One need only look at how Massachusetts has weathered the storm of the recession to see that our healthcare plan is both morally and economically the right thing to do.

I take care of college and university students at Yale. A recent graduate noticed a lump in his testicle about a month after he had graduated and his student health insurance had expired. He was working a menial job in NYC to pay his bills and had no health insurance. It was heartbreaking to see that I could only offer him my services and exam gratis, but could not do the Ultrasound or labs that he needed desperately to rule out a cancer.

I have a patient who can't get the medicine she needs and is now suicidal...

A Saturday morning free clinic where I work, even in a town full of doctors, has difficulty getting primary care providers or specialty services for patients and the demand grows every week.

I recently saw a young woman who was denied insurance coverage for her thyroid disease. She is a successful entrepreneur in Atlanta who has been creating new small businesses and hiring hundreds of Atlantans despite the economy. Yet insurance companies would not cover her only medical problem. This is a crime. The Affordable Care Act fixes gross immoral actions such as these for patients like mine....

Every time I have a patient who defers a screening test because of concerns over the cost of the copay, I can't wait for the ACA provision to take effect. Every time I get a call from a patient who is having trouble obtaining new insurance because of a pre-existing condition, I am thankful for the ACA....

Not only do patients struggle to get into the system, but as a provider, I had struggled to navigate the most vulnerable patients through the system once they are "in". It would be a shameful act to relinguish the government's duty to provide a standard of health care as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I hope that politicians put politics and profits aside to ensure that lives are not jeopardized.

One of my patients who was admitted to the hospital with sepsis looked at me and my resident with utter desperation when we told her she was not yet stable for discharge home. She said, "I made $16,000 last year. I have no insurance. I can't stay in the hospital. I'm sorry, I have to be able to eat." We convinced her to stay, but we just spent her annual salary on a 2-day hospital stay.

I have had several student patients who were able to get coverage through their parents plan because of the expansion to age 26. This has been an enormous relief/benefit both to the parents and the students.

My patient is on dialysis waiting for a kidney transplant for many years. He was generously approached by a friend who expressed a willingness to donate her kidney... One of the potential "complications" of donation is the inability to get insurance subsequent to donating her kidney (she would have the "pre-existing condition" of a nephrectomy - one kidney removal). The potential donor was very concerned about the ramifications to her of this policy.

I am a physician, and the patient story I share is about myself. I have Common Variable Immune Deficiency and my IV's and meds cost more than $6000/month. I have a $200,000 lifetime maximum coverage which will soon run out. If that happens, I cannot possibly pay for the medication.... With the health reform, my lifetime maximum will be eliminated and I will be able to continue to work in a medically underserved community.

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