Melanie Shouse: Statement for “Big Insurance: Sick of It” Rally Anthem HQ 9-22-09

My name is Melanie Shouse, and I am a breast cancer survivor. Four years ago, at age 37, I was an entrepreneur struggling to grow my small business, and only able to afford a catastrophic health insurance policy with co-pays and deductibles nearing ten thousand dollars. I had to take the ultimate risk with my health in order to chase the American Dream, like so many small business owners in America today. So when I first felt a small lump, denial seemed the only option available to me.

But as our nation has learned so painfully over the last eight years, denial only leads to catastrophe. In October 2005, I was forced to admit reality by walking into Siteman Cancer Center for the dreaded diagnosis. But by this time, the cancer had spread throughout my body to bone, lungs and liver. It was now classified as Stage 4 breast cancer, the kind you don’t recover from. My chance of survival was pegged at just 13% as a result of the delay in diagnosis and treatment caused by inadequate health coverage.

My worries were not limited to my health, however. I had no savings and no real assets to cover the monumental costs associated with these expensive treatments. And with this prize-winning pre-existing condition, I had no opportunity to seek a better private health plan, as I was now shut out of the market. Having no other choice, I quickly turned to our public Missouri Medicaid program, and within days I received this Medicaid card that would help save my life. Now I could walk into one of the top cancer centers in the world right up the street here and receive top-notch care without having to sell a kidney to cover the insurance deductible!

My treatment commenced post haste, and I am standing here today thanks to the Missouri Medicaid program, and the federal Medicare program for which I became eligible after a two-year waiting period. These efficient and effective public health plans have enabled me to receive some of the best cutting-edge care in the world, equivalent to the coverage our Senators and Congressmen enjoy, without ever having to wait or worry.

But even during these four years in chemotherapy, I am still being victimized by my insurance provider. I started my third round of chemo in May after a serious recurrence that almost took me down this spring. After two months on this new regimen, my health status has improved dramatically. But that didn’t stop THIS insurance company from sending me a “recission” letter this summer denying coverage for my new round of treatment which is approved for use in breast cancer. This treatment was recommended by my oncologist, a well-known cancer researcher at one of the top cancer institutions in the world right down the street here. The arrogance of insurance monopoly bureaucrats in overriding the medical decision of my treatment team is breathtaking, and I said just that in an appeal that I filed to Anthem last month. But I received this letter in response to my appeal, which again denies me coverage for this essential treatment. To paraphrase one of my favorite Congressmen Barney Frank in response to an inflamed “teabagger”, trying to reason with these insurance company bureaucrats is like trying to talk to a dining room table.

If I did not have access to Medicare and Medicaid, which are covering half the costs of my new therapy, it is quite possible that I would be unable to receive this essential treatment that has enabled me to continue living. I am sick and tired of watching the endless parade of right-wing ideologues disguised as “pundits” being shoved down our throats daily on the corporate media, shrieking and wailing as they denounce our successful public health programs and defend the indefensible status quo. It’s sickening to hear Republican politicians on C-SPAN every day defending the impunity of their corporate backers in the insurance monopoly to deny us coverage for no good reason other than their bottom line. Recent polls show that over 3/4 of Americans, including half of Republican voters, support REAL health care reform with a public plan option. And a new study by the authoritative New England Journal of Medicine shows that 72% of DOCTORS support the choice of a public plan. It’s time that We the People have our voices heard in the halls of Congress!

Now is the time to finally deliver on the change we have needed for so long. The American people don’t need bipartisanship; we need progress for America that will help save thousands of lives. We are SICK AND TIRED of the insurance monopoly using their Republican accomplices in Congress and the media to misinform and confuse the American people, and tell us that we CAN’T have a sensible health care system like every other modern country in the world provides for their people. We have waited too long for the change we need. We don’t have time to play political games that do nothing but fatten the already-bloated stock portfolios of insurance industry backers at the expense of America’s health. It’s time to trim down on insurance monopoly profits to get America in shape to lead! Now let’s get America covered; there’s no time to waste.

Melanie Shouse
Overland, MO