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Health care should be a right, not a privilege. During the coming year, the UAW will continue to educate legislators about the need for comprehensive national health care reform plan that guarantees coverage to all Americans, without regard to age, income, health status or employment.
Tell your senators and representative our health care system is broken and needs fundamental reform. Urge them to support a comprehensive, single payer national health care program to guarantee affordable health insurance as a matter of right for all Americans.
For more information on our health care agenda and how you can help, see the CAP section of the UAW’s Web site, at www.uaw.org/cap/08/index.php.
Rachel Kearney just graduated college, an achievement for her parents to celebrate. But the milestone also means the 22-year-old is no longer eligible for coverage under her parents’ health care plan.
Her father, Tom, is president of UAW Local 379, which represents workers at brake manufacturer Jacobs Vehicle Systems in Bloomfield, Conn., just outside Hartford – which happens to be the headquarters of many of the nation’s leading health insurance companies.
Since graduating with a degree in marketing, Rachel has only been able to find a part-time job that doesn’t provide health care. So she’s trying to obtain a policy for herself. She knows the price will be steep, well above what she can afford on her own, but she feels it’s not something she can go without.
Insurance companies feel differently. They won’t sell Rachel a policy.
Her mom, Cynthia, has Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD), a hereditary disorder that causes cysts to form in the kidneys, making them unable to function normally. There is no known cure for the disease, which affects more than half a million Americans, but there are treatments to control symptoms, relieve pain and prolong life.
For Cynthia, whose case was advanced, treatment included dialysis, and in April 2006, a kidney transplant.
“When we went for my wife’s treatment,” said Tom Kearney, “they asked what kind of insurance she had, because if she didn’t have the right insurance, they wouldn’t treat her. Thank God I have good insurance that our union negotiated.”
Even though Rachel recently was diagnosed with PKD, she has no symptoms. If she ever does develop them, according to her doctor, it most likely won’t be for another 20 years or more.
Still, based on her family history, two insurance providers – Blue Cross/Anthem and Golden Rule – stamped “rejected” on Rachel’s application for health insurance.
Rachel has been told she will probably never be able to buy an individual health insurance policy. And even if she does get a job that provides an employer-paid group plan, treatment for her PKD will likely be excluded from coverage.
“My mom didn’t have any problems until she was in her 40s, and my grandmother until she was in her 60s,” said Rachel. “PKD affects everyone differently. I might never have to go on dialysis. And I just find it ridiculous that because I have the potential to be a high cost to them I’m being denied.”
Kearney says Rachel can continue to be covered by his group insurance plan, at a cost of $485 a month, but only for 18 months. He’s more than willing to help her with the cost but worries about her options after that coverage expires.
“If she doesn’t get a job that provides health insurance, said Kearney, “what do we do?
“You don’t know how angry I am right now,” said Kearney. “I just want the same insurance they have in Congress. I don’t want anything better or worse. And we’re willing to pay. But you have to have insurance.”
Kearney took that anger with him in February when he traveled to Washington as a delegate to the UAW’s CAP Conference. He met with aides to his representative, John Larson, and presented copies of Rachel’s denial letters to them. “They said they understood the severity of the health care problem and want to address it,” Kearney said, “but that without a supermajority in Congress, nothing will get passed this year.”
Amid all the uncertainty and worries about his daughter, Kearney is confident this year’s election will bring the needed change to our health care system. “If we can get the right people in office, we can get national health care.”