Linda Schwartz: Personal impact of going without health insurance

Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Personal impact of lacking health insurance

On May 5, in response to a constituent at a town hall meeting, U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) defended his vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act by asserting, “Nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care.”

Although every day brings new assaults on the truths and facts I hold dear, this particular argument, used by Republicans to support their callous disregard for the welfare of the American public, hits home in a very personal way.

My partner Jack passed away at the age of 50 from stage 4 colon cancer. Jack was a child advocacy lawyer in New Hampshire, where he worked tirelessly for his young clients. He was paid by the state both inadequately and erratically. Add to that the burden of his law school debt, and health insurance was financially out of reach.

Without health insurance, Jack (like so many others) did not have a regular doctor — a doctor who would have known his family history including the fact that his mother died of colon cancer in her 60s. Instead, when he began experiencing symptoms, Jack was forced to visit the emergency room, where he was misdiagnosed as having a parasite and given a course of antibiotics.

Over many months when the pain did not subside, Jack went to the emergency room again where yet another doctor ordered an emergency colonoscopy resulting in the correct but devastating diagnosis of stage 4 colon cancer. Ironically, the hospital where Jack was treated had to absorb the cost of his surgery and subsequent hospital stay. Surely, having a state-mandated health insurance plan as we in Massachusetts are lucky to have, or better yet, an affordable national plan that encourages preventive health care measures, would have been more cost effective in the long run … and life-saving for Jack.

Congressman Labrador is wrong in his argument that nobody dies for lack of access to health care. Every day, hard-working individuals are forced to go without this basic right and some, like Jack, do indeed die.

The repeal of Obamacare not only threatens the lives of millions of Americans, it also threatens funding for health care in Massachusetts. Like so many of the decisions coming out of Washington these days, it is short-sighted, heartless and destructive globally, locally and yes, personally.

Linda Schwartz