Letter to President Obama from Barbara Finch; to Speaker Pelosi Mary Clemons

January 25, 2010

Dear President Obama:

On Saturday, my friend Melanie Shouse entered a hospice program. When she dies, in days or weeks, the offical cause will be listed as metastatic breast cancer. The real cause, however, will be this country’s lack of accessible, affordable health care. Melanie is 42 years old.

By now Melanie’s story has become almost commonplace. When she was 37 she and her partner were busy establishing a small business. She knew she needed insurance, but money was tight, so she purchased a catastrophic policy. When she noticed a small lump in her breast, she could not afford to go to the doctor. So she waited. That wait proved catastrophic. By the time she sought medical attention, the cancer had spread to her liver, lungs and bones. It later attacked the retina of one of her eyes.

When she became eligible for Medicaid (the government-sponsored health program), Melanie received excellent care and attention from the Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. After the two-year waiting period, she was eligible for Medicare disability. At this time her Blue Cross-Blue Shield catastrophic insurance was supposed to kick in as secondary coverage, but almost every claim she made to this company has been denied. Melanie herself was denied access to the Blue Cross-Blue Shield building in St. Louis, when she went to the headquarters to request a meeting. (It should be noted that the CEO of this company, which denied Melanie’s claims, receives an annual salary of about $9 million.)

So Melanie is dying, and the grief of her friends is compounded by the fact that she apparently will not live long enough to see health insurance reform in this country.

Melanie was a huge supporter of the Obama campaign. As sick as she was, she made it to Grant Park for your victory celebration and to Washington for your inauguration. She supported your efforts for health insurance reform at every step of the way, attending marches and rallies, writing letters to the editor and government officials, and being willing to tell her story to various news outlets in the area.

As her friends and admirers gather around Melanie in her last days, we have two requests. The first is simple: would it be possible for you to send her a card or a personal note? It would mean the world to her. Her address:

The second is harder: do not give up on efforts to reform the health insurance system in this country. We are so close. Nothing would be a better legacy for my friend Melanie.

Thank you.
Barbara L. Finch
President, Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice

cc: Senator Claire McCaskill
Representative Russ Carnahan


Dear Speaker Pelosi,

Melanie Shouse has died. She was 42 years old. You met her on October 3, 2009 at the Chase Park Plaza Hotel in St. Louis.

After taking out loans to start her own business at the age of 37, Melanie was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. She did not have quality affordable health insurance. While fighting her cancer she battled the broken health care system, going on Medicaid and finally Medicare.

During her 5 years with cancer she campaigned vigorously to elect our President. She became an advocate for health care reform speaking at forums with Representative Carnahan, appearing on news shows, protesting at Anthem offices and at the offices of our elected officials.

We promised Melanie we would not give up the fight. We urge you, no, we insist that you complete the job and pass a health care reform bill now. Thirty million Americans are counting on you. We are counting on you.