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Nelson Mandela: A life in pictures
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
Dear healthy people,
It’s great that you’re deriving intellectual pleasure from debating Obamacare. I love that this theoretical dance you’re engaged in has no repercussions to you, a healthy individual. I would love to join you some evening for a spirited discussion on the pros and cons of healthcare reform. Maybe over a glass of wine? Heck — over two or three glasses of wine. I’d love to lean forward, my arched brows furrowed, my full lips purple with the stain of a good Zinfandel, and throw out statistics and well-crafted one-liners about the plight of the uninsured, the underinsured, the sick. Those poor, poor sick.
But I can’t.
I can’t because it isn’t theoretical. I am sick. I’m so sick I can’t drink. I can’t drink and I can’t eat half the things a normal person eats and when I hear the word “Obamacare” hissed in snide derision I want to put a golf club through the windshield of the nearest Mercedes-Benz.
I’m 33 years old. I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called ulcerative colitis when I was 26.
Ulcerative colitis isn’t a disease people like to discuss. Most of what we experience is so embarrassing that many of us don’t tell people what we’re going through. We might tell you we’re “sick,” or “under the weather,” but we won’t tell you how bad it is. We won’t tell you we’ve had constant diarrhea for days, weeks, months on end, that we’ve been throwing up stomach acid, that we can’t eat anything but bagels, and that our joints ache so badly it’s hard to sleep. We won’t tell you how we’re wearing adult diapers under our clothes. We won’t tell you that getting in the car and driving three blocks away is the only activity we can do in an entire day.
But you know what we will tell you? We have to have insurance. We need healthcare and support because ulcerative colitis is a lifetime sentence. You know what else it is? A preexisting condition. Since receiving my diagnosis I have lived in fear of losing my insurance because if I let my insurance lapse, and Obamacare fails, I won’t be able to get it again. Ulcerative colitis and her sister, Crohn’s disease, are up there in the echelons of Scary Diseases Insurance Doesn’t Like to Cover.
I get it, I do. Some of our drugs cost a ton. It’s likely we’ll be hospitalized here and there. And many of us can look forward to bowel resection surgery or colon cancer. We’re expensive and we stay expensive for our entire lives. That’s the sticking point with chronic illness like Crohn’s and colitis: We’re sick but we just keep on living. We just don’t die fast enough.
If the health mandate stays, then the preexisting condition clause goes away. Insurance companies have to take everyone — even me. Lose the mandate and I’m right back to worrying about my care.
In truth, I think Obamacare doesn’t go far enough. My family is still coughing up $900 a month to insure the three of us, since my husband and I are self-employed. That’s pretty unsustainable. But at least the current plan includes a provision that insurance companies have to take me. I may have to pay ridiculous sums to keep my insurance, but I’m not going to live in fear of being dropped.
The last thing a sick person should have to worry about is how to pay for their care. The last thing the parent of a sick child or the child of a sick parent should have to worry about is how to pay for care. People should not have to choose between food and medicine, losing their house or losing their loved one. Let’s hold onto Obamacare as a stopgap, but let’s also work toward the goal of universal coverage.
For those of you who think of the healthcare reform debate in theoretical terms, I warn you: Your day is coming. Sure, you and your family are healthy now, but you might not be tomorrow. Sickness can come out of nowhere and knock your world upside down.
You’d better hope you have decent coverage. You’d better hope you’ve won the genetic lottery and you’ll never find yourself sitting in a flimsy hospital gown on a sheet of wax paper, staring down at your unshaven legs while a doctor tells you you have a golf ball-size tumor in your head or ulcers lining your intestines. You’d better hope Obamacare covers your theoretical ass.
Cedar Burnett is a freelance writer and toddler wrangler living in Seattle. She is currently working on a book about living with ulcerative colitis. More Cedar Burnett.
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
Mandela is accompanied by his former wife Winnie, moments after his release from prison February 11, 1990 after serving 27 years in jail. (Reuters)
In this February, 1990 photo, shortly after his release from 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela, gives the black power salute to the 120,000 supporters packing Soccer City stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg. (AP Photo)
Nelson Mandela showed his passport in February 19, 1990, shortly after his release from prison. The South African government authorized an application for himself and his wife Winnie - (Juda Ngwenya / Reuters)
In this July 27, 1991 photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro, and Nelson Mandela gesture during the celebration of the "Day of the Revolution" in Matanzas, Cuba. (AP Photo)
In this July 4, 1993 photo, President Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela listen during Fourth of July ceremonies in Philadelphia during which Clinton presented the Philadelphia Liberty Medal to the African National Congress president and South African President F.W. de Klerk. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
President of the African National Congress Nelson Mandela acknowledges cheers from the crowd as he prepares to unveil the ANC's official election platform in 1994. (AP Photo/David Brauchli)
African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela greeted residents of Mmabatho in March 1994, during a visit after the nominal homeland came under South African control following the ousting of the former President Lucas Mangope. (Reuters/Howard Burditt)
South African President Nelson Mandela smiles with actor Sidney Poitier at a press conference in Cape Town in 1996. Poitier played Mandela in the film "One Man, One Vote" (AP Photo / Sasa Kralj)
South African President Nelson Mandela waves to crowds as he sits next to Queen Elizabeth II in a an open carriage on the way to Buckingham Palace.(AP/Louisa Buller)
Chairman of the Constitutional Assembly Cyril Ramaphosa, left, holds up a copy of the country's constitution which was signed by President Nelson Mandela, in December 1996. (AP Photo / Adil Bradlow / POOL)
Nelson Mandela at a news conference in Johannesburg in February 2000. (AP Photo / Denis Farrell)
South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar, right, received the Rugby World Cup trophy from President Nelson Mandela also wearing a South African rugby shirt, after South Africa defeated New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup , in 1995. (AP Photo / Ross Setford)
On March 21, 2010, the House voted to approve a healthcare bill intended to overhaul the system and guarantee Americans access to health insurance. The vote was 219 to 213. Problem solved? Hardly.