18 September 2012

An American Health Care Story: A Look at Those of Us Dismissed by Mitt Romney

I just returned from picking up my prescriptions. I also bought a 2-liter of Canada Dry ginger ale and a roll of  paper towels so generic they only say, "Paper Towels" on the wrapper. My bill came to $28.30. I want to break this down for you.

  • $2.60 (reg. $4.00) Lovastatin - for cholesterol
  • $2.60 (reg. $4.00) Citalopram - for depression
  • $13.80 (no discount) Vitamin D
  • $2.60 (reg. $67.46) Lamotrigine - mood stabilizer, to work with the Citralopram
  • $2.60 (reg. $4.00) Prednisone - for Crohn's disease
  • $2.60 (reg. $14.88) Amoxicillin - for treatment of an acute viral infection

$107.42 would have been my out-of-pocket expense this time.

How did I get these savings?

I'm one of the 47% of Americans dismissed out of hand so coldly by Mitt Romney in his private fundraiser remarks who leeches off society. In addition to Medicare, I also have a supplemental pharmaceutical plan through Humana and Walmart.

Why am I taking these medications?

Everything except the Amoxicillin is a monthly refill for me; so let's start with that. I donated blood on Saturday and haven't felt right since doing that. It's difficult to establish a causal relationship between the two events, but it's not at all out of the realm of reason to think that if I hadn't donated blood, I might not have the infection now.

The Prednisone is the only medication I've found helps with managing my Crohn's symptoms - though it has taken quite a toll on the rest of my body. My back and hips bear little resemblance to what they were just a few years ago. Similarly, I need the vitamin D supplement because of Crohn's. I'm limited in my dairy intake, and I do a poor job absorbing what I do consume. I can't necessarily pin the Lovastatin on the Crohn's (I am a Southerner, after all), but there's little denying that having to avoid the foods higher in fiber that typically help with cholesterol maintenance is a key factor in why I need this medication.

The most important pair on the entire bill - and the reason why I write this post now - are the Citralopram and Lamotrigine. See, I spent an entire year fighting suicidal depression because my need for help made me feel so worthless that I didn't want to even live any longer. Last summer, when the Tea Party audience cheered at the CNN debate at the prospect of letting the uninsured patient die, I didn't just find that in bad taste. It was a declaration that I had a bull's eye on me so far as those people were concerned. I became so terrified of even acknowledging the help I need - and yes, it very much is a need - that I refused to even discuss it with my own family and friends. I came to feel like how I imagine a fugitive feels, worrying every step of the way whether today would be the day I would be found out and punished.

Governor Romney would have you believe that I am cheerfully dependent on the government to provide for me by stealing from you, because I enjoy hiding behind a claim of victimhood that allows me to shirk personal responsibility.

I can only assume that Mrs. Romney's multiple sclerosis didn't cause their family to have to move in with their parents, and that it never led them to feel inadequate as human beings. That the Romney family, so cushioned by dollars snatched from the pensions of thousands of others, were able to focus exclusively on the health itself and not have to face the kinds of effects that health problems have on those of us who live in rest of America.

You think I enjoy having to answer the question, "What do you do?" when I meet someone? You think I spend my day gloating about how I've got it made? I'm a humiliated punch line! I spent an entire year unable to even be around the people who loved me, because rhetoric like what we've got on tape coming from Governor Romney made me feel I wasn't even deserving of being around them.

I do take responsibility for myself, Governor. I stay as well informed as I possibly can about Crohn's research and treatments. I avoid all the triggers I have identified for my disease, and yes, I take my medication as prescribed. I'm not a patient who puts off maintenance when he feels well - which, incidentally, it took me an entire year to finally accept that I actually am allowed to do once in a while. I shouldn't have to stay chained to misery 24 hours a day just to satisfy your disdain for the downtrodden.

I was raised to value humility. "There, but for the grace of God, go I" was the prevailing doctrine in my home. My brother and I were raised to never disparage anyone who was down, because we didn't know their story and we weren't qualified to pass judgment on them. Nor were we somehow so special that we couldn't find ourselves in similar (or worse) straits the very next day. However much I liked to believe I understood that philosophy, I can assure you that actually living with Crohn's disease and at the mercy of such hateful people as Governor Romney and the Tea Partiers who applauded my hypothetical death has given me an entirely deeper appreciation for it.

And you know what? I am a victim. I did absolutely nothing to make myself develop Crohn's disease and it's derailed my life all the same. I don't see that as something to be proud of, or something to invoke as a "get out of responsibility" free card. All the same, were it not for Crohn's, my life would be dramatically different today. Were it not for the grace of God, Governor Romney might similarly find himself living a wholly different life today.

So, yeah, I intend to cast my vote for President Barack Obama's reelection and it's got a lot to do with the work he's done on behalf of citizens like me. Governor Romney has characterized this as the President playing to his base of whining losers. What does that make your base, then, Governor? The Haves who've gone so far down the avarice rabbit hole they've forsaken humility for contempt? Who are now actively jealous of those who have the least? I wonder, has anyone in Governor Romney's jet set ever had to fight the compulsion to take their life because they felt too ashamed to be around the people who loved them?

Now I want you to keep in mind that while my personal experience has, indeed, sucked, there are millions of Americans out there whose experiences are greatly worse. Their health concerns are far more severe even than mine, with much greater price tags, and with even less help from their families. Don't think of me as a poster boy for the unhealthy. I'm not even close to representing the worst of the American experience with illness and injury. I personally know other Crohnies who could very rightly tell me to buzz off, and there are plenty worse things to have than Crohn's.

I write, though, because I know that many can't - or won't - share their own experiences. I share mine in the hopes that you, Dear Reader, gain a better understanding of just what is at stake not just with this presidential election, but with our entire national discussion about health care, as well as the values that shape our economic discussions. Those aren't just statistics being thrown around. Those numbers represent actual, living, breathing human beings just like me.

There is no place in Mitt Romney's America for citizens like me. There is no place in our White House for him.t