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Health Care Reform: My Long Sigh of Relief

I’d been watching CSPAN on and off since 9 a.m. Sunday morning. Twelve hours later, by the time the House finally passed the health care reform bill, I was emotionally exhausted, had a throbbing headache, and was getting depressed over how I’d write this health tip if the bill failed to pass.

In between my viewings, I spent some time online, reading the details of the South Carolina Supreme Court decision to uphold a massive fine against health insurance giant Assurant Health for illegally revoking the insurance of a 17-year-old who had become HIV positive. It turns out the company had been routinely targeting all their enrollees who had become HIV positive.

Then I read about federal insurance auditors who were looking over the “pre-existing condition” reversals of Anthem Blue Cross, the California insurance giant that recently announced huge premium increases for individual policyholders. The auditors randomly selected 100 enrollees whose insurance had been revoked. The results? There was no justification for withdrawing benefits in any of the 100 policies reviewed. Not one enrollee deserved to have his or her insurance taken away. No justification whatsoever except Anthem’s unmitigated greed.

As of 9 p.m. Sunday night, this heinous practice will become illegal. Ten years from now young people won’t believe it was possible for companies to do this — in the same way they really don’t believe America once had separate drinking fountains for white and black people.

Because of the current economy, in the office this week I’ll be seeing the ever-climbing number of patients who have no health insurance whatsoever. Former President Bush said of this, “No problem. They can use emergency rooms.” Although I wouldn’t wish fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome on anyone, I’d be curious to see how he’d react if one of his daughters had to wait for hours in an overcrowded ER, trying to explain her chronic pain or exhaustion to an overworked intern.

But now there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

The health care bill has passed. Those who voted against it know in their hearts health care reform is here to stay. Yes, the bill is flawed and yes, it will be tweaked. But at least no one will take it away.

History was made on Sunday night. If President Obama does nothing else for the rest of his term in office, he’ll be remembered as the president who healed our collective fear of being ill and unable to afford medical care for ourselves or our loved ones.

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