UPDATE: 23 comments below. A second post on this topic, with additional comments, is accessible here.
I’m publishing this a few hours before the Big Release of the Supreme Court decision on what has come to be known as “Obamacare”.
I have no prediction.
All I know is the reality, learned at too young an age, about what it means to be desperately ill and uninsured.
Perhaps someone will read this, and get the message and maybe even change their mind about “Obamacare” (which I deliberately choose to label “Obama cares” in the headline.)
Forty-nine years ago, in mid-October of 1963, fresh out of the U.S. Army, I began teaching school in a small school district in northern Minnesota. Medical Insurance, then, was strictly an elective affair. You wanted it, you got it on your own, and you paid for it.
I was 23 years old. I signed up for doctor but not hospital insurance.
My new wife was even younger than I, also a first year teacher in another school district.
Two weeks after I started teaching, Barbara, already feeling ill, went to see the doctor (a few miles north, in Canada), found out that her kidneys were not working right. She had to resign from teaching two months into her contract. She was pregnant. We began a new unplanned-for life.
Three weeks later, President Kennedy was assassinated.
Those years you couldn’t say “Time out. I think I’ll take some of that hospital insurance now.” Besides, her kidney condition was “pre-existing”.
We struggled on through almost two years of hell.
There is no heroic way to describe it. We just plodded on through it. At the end of May, 1965, she collapsed in a coma at home. She left our town in an ambulance to Bismarck ND; then, in a few days, on to Minneapolis.
At University Hospital they admitted a non-resident patient with no insurance and no ability to pay.
And on July 24, 1965, in Minneapolis, far away from our North Dakota home, Barbara died at University Hospital, not living long enough to receive a kidney transplant, a procedure then in its infancy.
July 29, 1965, on a blustery hilltop in Valley City ND, Barbara was laid to rest. Son Tom, one, was there, as were friends and family.
I came back to the Twin Cities to start the new job I’d received three days before she died. In the fall, as I was preparing to file for bankruptcy, North Dakota Public Welfare came through and paid most of the major medical expense we had incurred. Our bills, while equivalent to over two years of my then-salary, were minuscule compared to today.
My son and I lived with a kind family who provided babysitting for my son, and a room for me, and I worked much of that first year at two jobs. And ultimately survived.
It wasn’t until many years later that I learned that the day after my wife was buried, July 30, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Medicare Act into Law. Now, 47 years later, I have a certain amount of seniority in the wonderful Medicare program.
And we wait for a ruling, momentarily, where some people are hoping that “Obamacare” will be tossed on the trash heap, and the health safety net, complicated enough as it is, will be made even more fragile.
For years I’ve heard all the arguments about why there shouldn’t be some significant version of National Health. Lately I’ve had to endure a TV ad of some supposed family physician lamenting the evil of Obamacare: that some of her patients might not be able to have their appointments with her anymore; and further asserting, without any supportive data, that Obamacare will drive up health care costs even more.
And I think back to those years of 1963-65, when I was in my twenties, and my wife was dying without insurance, and we were broke.
Whatever happens with the Supreme Court today, the reality will remain, for me, that everybody in this wealthy nation of ours deserves the best in education and health care, regardless of their means.
I’ll be interested in the ruling today….
Relevant and related to this post: here.
1. Sue: Thanks so much for sharing this story…
2. Molly: powerful post, Dick, thanks. And I’m reading this just below a headline which says that SCOTUS did NOT destroy the ACA… praise the Lord! (…as flawed as it is…) whew.
3. Deborah: dick -Your story is so touching and so very sad!. You are no doubt thrilled at the announcement today from the Supreme court.Thousands of people who would have died or lived a deeply compromised quality of life can today breathe a sigh of relief!
4. Jeanne: Sorry Dick but I beg to differ. I don’t think anyone wants people not to be able to receive affordable medical care.
I have a genetic condition myself.
However, the federal government has not been known to produce positive results.
Our countries understood that the more control that is given to a government the more they can dictate and put power in the hands of one or a few persons.
Our freedom is being taken away.
I will be forced to support things that are against my conscience. If Obama can do that to one group, he can do it to you too.
Yes our health care system needs reform. But not this way.
5. Carole: thank you for this. i am celebrating.
6. Melvin: You have a wonderful gift of writing. I can’t wait to read your book. Thank you for always sharing more of yourself. I know you are touching people’s hearts and minds, which results in human transformation. Keep sharing your wisdom and understanding. It is making a difference!
7. Joe: That was a very powerful message. Thanks.
8. Kathy: Well we can celebrate this small piece of evidence that not EVERYTHING is predetermined along partisan lines.
Thank you for sharing the touching tribute to Barbara and congratulations on your own healthy survival.
9. Carol: I was in the dentist’s chair this morning and Dr. _____ said “I loved your letter in the Bulletin yesterday.” (Gotta love your dentist when he reads your letters :\ Then he went on to complain about that exact commercial you referenced (I haven’t seen it), and he said that he was going to have a very bad day today if they overturned Obamacare. Almost immediately his assistant read scrolling across the computer screen that the Supreme Court had upheld it. We high-5′d (about all you can do with your mouth full of stuff
10. Susan: What a great ruling! Who’d've thunk that Roberts would ended up being on “our side” of the decision?!?
11. Alan: There must still be some people in certain news organizations that declared “Dewey Beats Truman” in 1948 (remember the headlines in the Chicago Tribune?) The first news flash about Obamacare was that the Supreme Court struck it down!! So who won? WE THE PEOPLE WON!!!
Thank you, Mr. President for caring enough to finally see that ALL Americans will have health care. As far as I am concerned, you should be President for Life!!!
12. Christine: Extremely relevant and interesting and moving. Thank you Dick for sharing this with as many people as you can. It shows one of so many examples of why everybody should have the right to be treated with no restrictions of revenue or pre condition or anything at all.
13. Mary: Thanks for sharing these hard memories.
14. Leila: Thank you for sharing this story, and especially the photographs. Barb and I were friends, so they are even more meaningful to me.
15. Debi: What a sad story. Made me cry. Glad that no one will have to face the same difficulties now.
16. Bruce: The best thing about ACA is that it codifies universal coverage into law. Now let the states take us all the way there by implementing a true not for profit Health Care System. Relevant links here and here. Canadians got universal, nonprofit health insurance one province at a time. Let follow the Canadian model and let the states lead the way to real Universal Coverage.
17. Harriette: I just don’t know what to say. I’m glad you’re in my camp. I prize our email acquaintance. You must send this to the Obama people.
18. Madeline: I was certainly happy and relieved that the Affordable Health Care law was upheld by the Supreme Court today, but I have two comments, below. As Ted Kennedy said, “take what you can get.” I think it is a step in the direction toward universal single payer health care.
1. Justice Roberts had already done his dirty work with “Citizens United,” which could make it very difficult for Democrats to win at every level in the Nov. election, and which could put this new law in serious jeopardy. He could side with the liberals on this issue, hoping to make the Court look less partisan, and because of Citizens United, he probably thought he risked nothing. Besides, some of the justices are aging, there may be appointments necessary in the next administration, and if a Republican is elected president, those would likely be conservative.
2. I watched Ch. 5 news around 5-6 pm and again caught coverage at 10. There was a significant difference between the reporting from the dinner hour and the 10 pm report. They obviously had been fed some Republican lies in the meantime which they were expected to present as the “Cons” against the “Pros.”
[T]he right “recognizes something that few on the left recognize: that campaign finance law underlies all other substantive law.” Mother Jones:ort How to Sweep Dark Money Out of Politics, Undoing Citizens United, the DIY guide
19. Kathy: At 9:15 [a.m.] Fox was yelling “Health Care Ruled Unconstitutioal//we knew it, we knew it..CNN was saying the same thing …It was a 50 page decision..and Fox misread it and had to correct their err…I was listening to NPR and they were copying CNN and then they realized it was incorrect.
20. Norm: Stuff happens!
May remind some of the more senior seniors of a similar mistake headline in 1948 stating that Dewey Defeats Truman with a similar reaction from HST to that of President Obama!
Kind of surprising that CNN didn’t check things out better but less surprising that Fox News did it as well. On the other hand, one of my brothers insists that Fox News is the only accurate news source around so…
21. Jim: I have a sister that claims CNN is a left-leaning lying news source. Only Fox News can be trusted. I’d imagine that she believes that the ACA was struck down but due to a White House deal with the devil was made whole again.
22. Kathy: Rachel Maddow [MSNBC] said President Obama was watching CNN when they said Health Care had been defeated…until a female lawyer came in later and gave him 2 thumbs up..
23. Jeff: Count me in the group of shocked. Although I think Roberts was looking for a little “liberal love”. And he is getting it, along with scorn from the Right wing…. This too shall pass. He personally has presided over the most corporation friendly court in many years, liberals who are praising his decision here ought not get so overdone with praise. Just sayin.