Lesson from mother’s death: Read health-care fine print

Teri Carter
Teri Carter

Under a morphine haze, my 56-year-old mother begged us not to take her home to die.

In the few minutes we’d left her alone, “someone from insurance” had swooped in to her hospital room to tell her all about the hospice section of the local nursing home. Her insurance covered this, they said. She was guaranteed 24/7 care and pain management.

My mother feared dying at home for good reason. Decades earlier, her little brother had died of brain cancer, and some of his last hours were spent at home in horrific pain when his meds ran out. She could never un-hear his screams.

The day we moved her to the nursing home, there was a catch. The hospice section was full. No big deal, the nurse manager insisted. Happens all the time. My mother could stay in another room until a hospice bed opened up.

No big deal translated to a very big deal for the insurance company. It did not matter that my mother was signed in for hospice. She was in the wrong bed and they would not pay.

This was our fault. We’d taken the nursing home’s word when we should have read the fine print ourselves.

I recalled my mother’s story during the recent House health-care debate. The devastation that happens when we buy the story we are told versus reading the reality in the fine print.

“I will fully admit that I did not (read the bill),” New York Rep. Chris Collins, a Republican, told CNN after the vote. “But I can assure you my staff did. We have to rely on our staff. I’m very comfortable that we have a solution to the disaster called Obamacare.”

How does he know he has the solution? Would he buy a house without reading the inspection report? Without knowing the amount of his mortgage?

The president tweeted his assurances. We will have “much lower premiums and deductibles while at the same time taking care of pre-existing conditions!” This, from the man who wrote in “The Art of the Deal” that selling people fantasies is simply “an innocent form of exaggeration.”

If the president’s promises are true, why did the GOP immediately scrub all information about covering preexisting conditions from its website?

Award-winning writer and surgeon Atul Gawande has studied the bill in depth. He says the bill would:

▪  Shift almost $1 trillion in tax relief from the bottom 40 percent to the top 2 two percent;

▪  Massively increase deductibles and other costs for older and lower income people;

▪  Increase early deaths so significantly that Social Security will save $3 billion.

President Donald Trump is all about putting points on the board: “We are going to win so much, you people are going to get sick and tired of winning!” But at what cost?

I am in no way suggesting the Affordable Care Act is perfect. It needs fixing. But I have a lot of questions for the president. Has he read his own bill?

The wealthiest 0.1 percent will receive on average $200,000 each in tax relief by cutting health care for the masses. In the Bible, 1 Timothy 6:18 says, “Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and should give happily to those in need.”

Trump says being president is harder than he thought it would be, yet he reportedly spent 33 of his first 100 days at Trump-branded properties. Maybe the presidency would be more manageable if he spent less time shooting the bull on the golf course and more time reading the fine print of the snake oil he’s selling.

My mother died after only 10 days at the nursing home. The right room never became available and her insurance did not pay a dime. How would we have paid for her care if she’d lived longer?

The president’s empty huckster act has blistered thin, even with staunch conservatives like The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol who tweeted after the health-care vote, “it is embarrassing to have Donald Trump as president.”

Embarrassing or not, we need the president to succeed. We need him to treat the presidency as more than a photo op and personal money-making scheme. We need him to understand exactly how his health-care plan affects real lives.

Let’s hope the 13 men on the newly formed Senate committee fully understand the gravity of their job. American lives are literally in their hands.

Teri Carter, a writer who lives in Lawrenceburg, can be reached at www.tericarter.net/