LETTER: Current health care system prevents many from getting care

Tuesday, October 6, 2009 | 2:44 p.m. CDT; updated 3:56 p.m. CDT, Monday, October 12, 2009

Our health care system works better for insurance companies than it does for the American people. Tens of millions of Americans have no health insurance and live one accident or illness away from total financial disaster. Hundreds of millions of Americans who do have insurance live with the constant worry that they might lose it if they move, change jobs or lose their jobs — or that their insurance company might cancel their plan when they get sick.

I want to share a story with you written to me by a doctor about why we need reform:

"Two years ago, I took care of a businessman in Los Angeles. He had Crohn's disease, and his health and nutrition had been getting worse for over a year. He was seeing doctors at one of our private hospitals, but he lost his insurance, so he couldn't see his doctors anymore. Buying private insurance was impossible — no amount of money could have convinced an insurance company to cover him. He tried the county hospital ER, but the wait was 24 hours. He thought maybe he could manage.

"A few months later, when he could barely walk from his bed to the door, he tried the ER again. By then, he had kwashiorkor (the kind of malnutrition that famine-stricken African children get) as a complication of his gut disorder. Every organ system was failing. I remember that even in the hospital, he tried to keep up his work via his Blackberry. We tried to help him, but he rapidly deteriorated and died just six days after admission.

"I was devastated and talked to many colleagues about what I could have done differently to save my patient. He should have been living his life and being a productive member of society today, but he's dead. We could have saved him if he had been able to come for care sooner — instead of being deterred by his lack of insurance. Ultimately, I recognize that he died because the system failed him. In our great country, that is unacceptable."

Please don't let this happen to any more of our people. We need a better system. Support the Obama health plan.

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