I’ve been fighting breast cancer for 16 years now, and am gratefully in recovery from my third bout.
I’m lucky to be one of the ones who fought and won, but there are many who fought and lost.
The New York Times has a story this morning about the number of people who had health insurance that were nonetheless driven into personal bankruptcy because of their medical bills. I’ve written before that despite being fully insured by Blue Cross, the cost has been enormous.
Fighting for your life and knowing you could lose everything you have in the process is agonizing.
So when I see women like Kay Hagan who oppose a public plan because she wants “to ensure private health insurance isn’t going to be destabilized,” I take it pretty personally.
Then there’s Olympia Snowe, who worries that a public plan will keep prices low and cut into insurance company profits, because keeping the Blue Cross healthy is evidently more important than keeping the public healthy.
And there’s Diane Feinstein who says criticism from the left “doesn’t move me one whit” when it comes to supporting a public plan, as if her vote is a matter of personal fancy and not her responsibility as a public servant. (This from a woman who has never worried for one minute about how she could pay for a catastrophic illness — most of us don’t have the luxury of casting votes to award our husbands billions of dollars in government contracts.)
There’s Mary Landrieu, who says a public plan “undermines the essence of our efforts to create a real market-based private sector model,” and Blanche Lincoln, who worries about “usurping” the insurance industry’s ability “to compete in the marketplace.”
Well, none of them will ever have to worry about what it’s like to be at the mercy of the insurance industry when your life hangs in the balance.. They’ll enjoy being a part of the Federal Employee Benefits Program for life, so they are free to focus on keeping their millions campaign donations from the insurance industry flowing.
These “fiscally responsible” women fret about how much a health care bill is going to cost, even though none of them withheld their vote from the bank bailouts because there was no way to pay for them. Nor has any of them made the slightest protestation as Merrill Lynch and Citigroup raise wages by 50% this year, or as Goldman Sachs pays out the biggest bonuses in its 140 year history.
So I asked recently where Emily’s List was on all of this, since they have supported many of these women Senators in the past. I got a note from Emily Lockwood of Emily’s list, saying that “as an organization, we don’t lobby on any issues.”
So I started thinking — why do I care if there are more women in office if they don’t care about women’s issues? What on earth would be the value of having a woman who saw her primary function in this battle as guarding the profitability of the insurance industry, as opposed to a man like Bernie Sanders whose commitment to a strong public plan has been one of the only firewalls in the Senate against this turning into nothing more than an insurance industry bailout?
How are these women any better than Joe Lieberman, who never met a war he couldn’t afford, but now says we can’t pay for a public plan?
Women in Congress who will stand up and say “enough, there is a line I will not cross” are in short supply — even among our friends.
So together with BlueNC and Pam’s House Blend, we reached out to my fellow breast cancer survivors in North Carolina. Women like Hazel and Connie, Juanita and Gail and Patricia and Yvette. Dorrita, Connie, Linda and Lotie. Mary, Pepper, Waddeah and Felicia. Women who have triumphed, women who have fought breast cancer and won. Women of all ages and races and sexual orientations who are not afraid to tell the truth and speak up on behalf of other women.
Because many of our sisters did not survive. Getting early treatment is critical to recovery, and women often put off getting exams if they don’t know how they’re going to pay for them. Young African American women are twice as likely to die of breast cancer as young white women, and are five times as likely to suffer delays in getting treatment.
Kay Hagan has been the sole obstacle keeping a public plan from coming out of the Senate HELP Committee. On Friday, Pam Spaulding and breast cancer survivors of North Carolina will go to Kay Hagan’s office carrying their signatures and those of the people who stand with them, asking Hagan to stand with us, too. We want to get 20,000 signatures of support for them to deliver in the next 48 hours.
We survived because we had the medical treatment that many of our sisters who died did not. As survivors we want to speak out and demand access to health care for the women whose battle is before them.