Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Time to Write about Wrongs in Health Care

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Time to Write about Wrongs in Health Care

Article excerpt

GERALDINE WIDEL of north St. Louis County was distressed when she called. She had just read a story I'd written about the problems that some cancer patients had in getting insurance coverage for their treatment. She knew just how they felt, she said.

For 37 years, Geraldine and her husband, Tom Widel, had paid their premiums. The cost kept going up. It hit $15,000 a year. The Widels paid it in quarterly installments.

"We got a letter that a man in our group" - the Widels bought their coverage through a small-group purchasing arrangement - "had $1 million worth of claims," she said. The next year their premiums would be $17,000. The Widels, both in their 50s, could not afford it.

"We have no coverage now," she said. "What are we going to do if we get sick?"

I don't know, I told her honestly. In the national debate on health care, the Widels are among the statistics: two of the 37 million uninsured.

Please, I advised her, write me a letter. Maybe there's something in your situation, I said, that might help me and others - I had in mind members of Congress - sort through the confusion about health care. It was small comfort to her. But, yes, she said, she would write. "We've got to do something," she said.

Then I heard from Julie Kroeger in Grover. She is 32. She has breast cancer. It has spread to her bones. Twice her ailments have been misdiagnosed. Now, her insurance company does not want to pay for her controversial high-dose chemotherapy treatment. Before the breast cancer she filed one major claim, for the birth of her son.

She is being run ragged. Her coverage calls for her to stay within a network of certain doctors and hospitals, something like an HMO. She's been going one place for her treatments. But now the insurance company has changed its network and wants her to go somewhere else. Frustration is what she feels.

Write to me, I asked her, too.

And now, I'm asking you to do the same thing. Write to me. Tell me your concerns, your frustrations, your worries, your feelings about our health care system and what we should doing about it.

Some of you already have written or called, like the man whose letter included a checklist of strange things his family has been billed for over the years, from $1,506 for brain scans he never had to $150 for the circumcision of his newborn grandchild. …

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