Posted on | September 28, 2012 | 2 Comments
After writing this week about “The New RomneyCare – Reinforcing The Status Quo”, I heard from a number of people whose lives would be impacted by a Romney election. One of them was Randy Souders, the artist and a C3/C4 tetraplegic since his accident at age 18 in 1972. Randy and I served for a number of years together on Jean Kennedy Smith’s Very Special Arts (VSA) Board at the Kennedy Center. With his permission, I share his story, which helps explain why the status-quo is no longer an option in America.
“Greetings. You may recall we served as fellow board members of VSA Arts a few years ago (I believe you were our illustrious chairman). I just found your health blog and enjoyed reading your article on “The New RomneyCare.” I thought I’d share an abbreviated history of my own experience with the UShealthcare/ insurance system (aka “my rant” :).
I sustained a spinal cord injury in 1972 (age 18) which rendered me a C3/C4 tetraplegic. Nevertheless, I spent the next 5 years in college and became a self employed artist in 1978. I always paid for my own health insurance (which I used one time in 1995). Other costs were always paid out of pocket. As premiums kept rising over the years I opted for higher and higher deductibles. Even so, insurers kept ‘selling me’ to other companies –all of which eliminated various conditions for anything they declared pre-existing.
In 2003 I found myself facing a choice:
A) Keep working and struggle to pay for a lousy policy with a $10,000 deductible that cost nearly as much as my mortgage or–B) Give up the career I loved –one that even tetraplegia couldn’t thwart–and apply for SSDI in order to gain access to quality, affordable healthcare I should have had all along.
My tetraplegia enabled me to be “green lighted” for SSDI and I became eligible for Medicare in March 2006. That July I had a procedure to remove a”baseball sized” (10cm) bladder stone. This was followed by removal of a”marble sized” 17mm kidney stone. I also found I suffer from osteoporosis,osteopenia, lateral spinal curvature, obstructive sleep apnea etc. All could have been detected and treated much earlier if only I had access to affordable, regular, medically necessary testing and check ups. (I also now suffer from “autonomic dysreflexia” since the bladder procedure).
So that’s my story in brief. I’ll be 58 in November. I’m still able to paint but I can’t sell much without a loss of benefits. I don’t feel guilty being on SSDI because I paid a lot into the system over the years. However, such dependence truly is insidious. I’m less active, less motivated and feel more isolated than I have been in years.
I am so hopeful that some sanity will return to this country and that our healthcare system will allow even people like me to be productive,contributing members of society once again. Good luck in all your efforts.
(and…in a follow-up to my request to share, Randy added…)
“Thinking back those dark days of 1972, it was art that was my salvation. With a bit of adaptation I realized I could still pursue a career as a painter/ illustrator. That’s why I put forth the effort to go UT Arlington,to earn an internship in an ad agency and to risk my job to become a fulltime artist.
Between the work I’ve done for myself (33 years) and parallel careers with Disney (22 years) MGM and others –my collectors number in the tens of thousands (thanks primarily to print publishing). The amount of revenue my prints alone have generated for galleries and picture framers has to be in the millions. However, I could have easily not bothered and simply allowed family and society to care for me in the decades since. Being forced to essentially abandon my career for the sake of quality healthcare is both boring and depressing.I do have to say it’s great having access to the Medicare system now. I’m finally getting the sort of quality care and attention I needed all thoseyears. I underwent cataract surgery within the past year so I now see with clear, new eyes.”