Friday, May 29, 2009

Healthcare Reform Touches Home

The national debate over healthcare reform is hotter than ever right now. And as we all get passionately worked up about our own individual views on what's right and what's wrong we tend to forget what this cause is all about. We focus on our differences and forget about the people who this is affecting the most.  So allow me to share a story of a very close friend of mine that hopefully puts some perspective on it. The following is a letter that I wrote to both President Obama and various Florida House of Representative members and Senators.

Dear __________,

What if this was your daughter?

Kate Markwith is a 29 year old vibrant young woman with an incredible passion for infusing the best of mankindʼs joy and generosity into her fellow human beings. But it is her personal everyday battle with health and happiness which Iʼm going to share with you that will leave you scratching your head as to how such a radiant personality continues to flourish on an everyday basis. The important question to focus on is how will her story
affect the decisions you make regarding national healthcare reform? In other words, what if she was your daughter?

Kate has a chronic medical condition called Crohnʼs disease which is an autoimmune disease that affects the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. It causes severe, debilitating pain and discomfort and there is no cure for it. She was diagnosed with this condition 21 years ago. She and her family have endured many personal and financial hardships due to this illness. Kate has gone through a total of 14 major surgeries to remove the lower half of her GI system including a portion of her ileum, her entire colon, and rectal stump. She now has an ileostomy as a result of this. Kate has also had approximately 200 minor procedures or surgeries in addition to fight this disease.

Her primary education years were not always spent in the classroom but often in the hospital. She didnʼt get to play any sports of any kind because of her illness. Family vacations and holiday gatherings were all too often cancelled or postponed due to her medical condition flaring up. And for the past 11 years Kate has been working extremely hard to attend college and achieve what many other twenty something year olds want - a college degree to help her compete in this very competitive world. However, Crohnʼs disease has remained her Goliath and a 2 year associateʼs degree in art that took 6 years to achieve is the extent of her well deserved accomplishments so far. She puts it best though with this quote, “I would liked to have finished college in a reasonable time but I appreciate the good things in life more now due to working harder for everything in my life.”

Kate and her familyʼs financial struggles over the past two decades are extraordinary in their own way. For the first 7 years of her illness Kate was lucky enough to have private medical insurance through her parentʼs plan. But this “safety net” of private insurance can be misleading in itself due to the many surgeries and hospitalizations that were required to treat her condition. The out of pocket medical expenses reached into the tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars for her and her family. Like many Americans her parents work hard for a modest middle class life but these medical expenses left both them and their daughter with very poor credit. Many of the bills went unpaid as they passed their 7 year statute of limitations with collections because the money simply wasnʼt there. It left her parents with no money left to help pay for any of their 3 daughterʼs college education and a credit history that nobody would want. It has left Kate with awful credit to the point where she is denied approval to live in any apartment complexes (even with roommates) without one of her parents cosigning as a guarantor. She has no credit cards and rarely ever gets offers in the mail from credit card companies.

When Kate turned 18 she was very close to reaching the maximum lifetime cap on medical expenses allowed by her parentʼs private medical insurance plan. The only option for medical coverage was now Floridaʼs Medicaid system since she couldnʼt afford a private plan and even if she could no private insurance company would accept her because of her medical condition. But the financial struggles donʼt stop there for Kate. Even with Medicaid and Social Security disability benefits her out of pocket expenses and previous medical debt has left her in financial ruin. Kate has monthly expenses of a couple hundred dollars just for ostomy supplies that she canʼt live without. These supplies are not covered by Medicaid. She works and goes to school when she can but as mentioned before long term stability in both these areas of her life are compromised by inevitable disease flare ups and hospital stays.

Kateʼs biggest health concern now is her teeth. Due to being on regular, long term courses of corticosteroid medications to treat her Crohnʼs disease she has developed osteoporosis. Osteoporosis has left her with fragile bones and her teeth are no exception to this. They are severely worn down and cause discomfort and pain while she eats. Unfortunately, Florida Medicaid provides no dental coverage so Kate has only been to a dentist twice in the past 11 years. On her latest visit, the dentist told her that she either needed crowns put on every single one of her teeth or a full set of dentures. Either solution will cost several thousands of dollars. I think it goes without saying that all Kate is left with to remedy the situation is hope and prayers.

I was curious as to what Kateʼs view on our current healthcare system is like here in the U.S. so I came up with a few questions for her that Iʼll share below.

Question #1 - Do you feel society owes individualʼs like yourself accessible and affordable access to healthcare insurance?
Kateʼs response, “Yes, everyone is entitled to good quality healthcare services and should not be discriminated against based on gender, race, social class, etc.”

Question #2 - What changes would you make to improve the healthcare system in the U.S.?
Kateʼs response, “Give everyone equal access to any physician they choose instead of there being a selective list of doctors that are covered by certain plans. Donʼt let the healthcare system cater to wealthier citizens. It should be an equal opportunity system. And simplify the healthcare system so patients, providers, and organizations all understand one set of rules.”

Question #3 - If you had the chance to ask one question to a member of Congress who completely opposes any kind of universal healthcare plan in the U.S. what would that question be?
Kateʼs response, “What if you werenʼt well off in life and you or a member of your family had to deal with a chronic disease? How would you do this?”

Question #4 - What would you like to say to President Obama regarding your personal story of Crohnʼs disease?
Kateʼs response, “My story is unique to me but not unique in the grand scheme of things. Everyone deserves a chance at being healthy. Without your health your ability to reach your full capabilities towards yourself and society are compromised.”

Iʼve known Kate for the past 8 years and weʼve grown very close in friendship with one another. In those eight years Iʼve never once heard her ever play the self pity card. Iʼve never heard her complain about how her chronic medical condition has ruined anything in her life. In fact, she has been nothing but an eternal optimist about what life holds for her. She doesnʼt let the physical and emotional scars of her past dominate her chance at living. And she continues to lean on her incredible faith in God and the righteousness of her fellow human beings to carry her through each day.

If youʼd like to reach out to Kate or myself then please look below for our contact information. And whatever you do please keep this question in the back of your mind as you head off to the many debates and tasks that await you regarding healthcare reform in America - What would you do if this was your daughter?


If after reading this blog post you feel compelled to help Kate please contact me and I will provide you with the information that you need. My email is

To find out more about revamping our healthcare system read this -

Monday, May 11, 2009

Isn't It Ironic

I had one simple goal to accomplish this evening. It wasn't hard and would only take about 15 minutes from the time I left my house until the time I returned. This goal was to pick up a card at the store that would be used to brighten a particular individual's day tomorrow. A pretty mundane process right?

After a few minutes of browsing I chose a card that contained these words on the front, "An act of kindness is long remembered." Now I always place my card upside down and partially shoved underneath the envelope tongue so that all that is showing is the barcode on the back of the card to make it quick and easy for the cashier to scan. My total came to $1.06 and of course I never carry change on me so I presented the cashier with two $1 dollar bills. He smiled and said very gleefully, "Just $1 is fine. Somebody left some change here earlier so you're good."

I find it ironic that here I am taking a few minutes out of my day to eventually make someone else's life a little happier and yet I am the recipient of an act of kindness :) That just made my day!

By the way, I'm including a Tag 10 with my card tomorrow to keep the generosity going. Have a great day everyone!