I'm afraid Tom Coburn is not that someone.
Anti-health reform Senator Tom Coburn says that "the other thing that's missing in this debate is us as neighbors. Helping people that need our help."
Well, that's a lovely thought, Tom. But this woman's husband does not need to borrow a cup of sugar. We can't solve his problem by hosting a bake sale. He has TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY - and as the woman herself pointed out, she is not qualified to care for him, no matter how strong her will to do so or her neighbor good wishes in helping out. He needs access to medical care. Under the current system, which Tom Coburn does not think needs changing, people like this woman's husband have the choice of either suffering and potentially dying without the treatment that the need, or financially devastating themselves and their families by paying out of pocket for care that routinely costs in the tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Often, even for those WITH insurance.
This story, from Andrew Sullivan's blog, is too awful to even contemplate:
One night in ICU? $10,000, not covered by insurance.
After this hospitalization, we were approached by a hospital social worker, who suggested we apply for SoonerCare. SoonerCare is Oklahoma's Medicaid program for kids. Luckily I'm a social worker who was working for a non-profit at the time, so we had no problems meeting financial criteria. (Ha ha. A little social work humor there.) SoonerCare does NOT exclude kids for pre-existing conditions, and it covers Sophie's medications and treatment 100%.
Since that horrible October in 2005, Sophie has needed hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of treatments, hospitalizations, surgeries, medications, testing, and interventions in order to stay strong and healthy, and in some instances, to stay alive.
[Further enumeration of Sophie's serious medical problems removed...]
Since SoonerCare is the only insurance that will accept Sophie, we have to meet their financial criteria, which means living at or below the poverty level. I have had to quit wonderful jobs because I made too much money to qualify for SoonerCare. At this point I can only work either part-time, or for a very small salary, because we CANNOT afford to lose Sophie's healthcare coverage. It's the most important thing in our lives. We structure every single financial and professional decision we make around staying eligible for SoonerCare.
And while we'll gladly continue to live at the poverty level in order to provide our daughter with the healthcare that keeps her alive, we SHOULDN'T HAVE TO. We would happily pay outrageous premiums and co-pays, and do whatever else it took to get Sophie covered by regular health insurance. But you know what they all tell us?
She has to go two years with no pulmonary medications and no doctor's visits because of respiratory problems before anyone will accept her. Sophie can't go two DAYS without her medications, let alone two years.
This is NOT a failure caused by this family's friends and neighbors failing to help them out. This is a failure caused by people like TOM COBURN failing to provide minimal access to basic, essential services.