So I got to bend Tom Allen's ear for a few minutes last night at a fancy-schmancy fundraiser thing here on MDI. Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell was there, as were at least one other sitting US Senator and a retired ambassador. (For my far-away readers, Tom Allen is a Democratic Congressman running to defeat incumbent US Senator Susan Collins. He's running an uphill battle against an incumbent with a zillion-dollar war chest. Donate to his campaign here.)
The thing I told Tom about? Health care. Or the lack of it.
See, I don't have health insurance. None. Nothing. I get hurt, the hospital will send me the bill for the whole thing, not just the deductible.
So I do what I can to stay safe, considering what I do for work. When I climb, I tie off. I wear gloves and safety glasses and ear plugs and steel-toed shoes. I do what I can.
But I've got a family history of heart disease. My paternal grandmother had several heart attacks before she died, and my father has had bypass surgery.
I have high cholesterol. The doctor prescribed Lipitor years ago, and it worked pretty well. Then I got a new insurance company that wouldn't pay for the top-shelf Lipitor, so I got put on a generic version. Only it nearly killed me. It felt as though my muscles were being dissolved from the inside out. I bruised dark purple at the slightest touch. It felt like I had the flu, but worse. When we read the fine print on the literature, it cautioned that severe muscle pain was a rare side effect and that the medicine should be stopped immediately. So that's what I did.
The doctors tried to put me on another generic thing, but that made me feel about as bad, and I stopped it. At the time, I was employed by a company that provided health insurance, so we decided to wait until the new insurance kicked in and I'd go back on the Lipitor.
Only I lost that job (seems I am not a boat builder!) and now I have no insurance. At all.
So I don't take the Lipitor. And I worry. I don't eat the stuff I should, I know, but from what I have read, diet really has very little to do with cholesterol levels - as little as 10 percent of the overall level is affected by diet. Frankly, that's not enough to convince me to eat sprouts and wheat germ and give up real food like butter and beef.
So I told Tom about this. About how I have no insurance. How I am self-employed and cannot afford what is out there. And how I can't afford the Lipitor I need and how I can't take the generic stuff. I asked him to do something NOW, please, to make it so I could have health care again. I told him that it was IMMORAL for anyone to make a profit providing life-saving care. Health care should be a right, not just something the wealthy can afford. I deserve to be able to take the medicine that may well save my life.
I don't want more money, I want health care when I need it. I want to know that the medicine my doctor prescribes will not be overridden by some bean counter in an insurance company high-rise hundreds of miles away. That's offensive to me, and it ought to be illegal for anyone to override a physician's directives.
In the meantime, we are tightening our belts, which may result in us eating better. More rice and beans and less meat will be on our plates this winter. I just spent nearly the equivalent of a month's rent to HALF fill the oil tank. The thermostat is going to be turned way back this winter. Any money we've got is probably not going to pay for Lipitor. It's just too expensive.
So we hope. We go forward and we hope that an Obama administration will do something that will allow me to have health insurance. We hope that the US Senate has enough Democrats to force the Republicans to play nice.
We hope I don't have a stroke before that happens.
As I told Tom Allen last night, I'll vote absentee just in case.