Category Archives: Healthcare

A Painful Chronic Illness – My Journey

By Marcy Sowers

No one I ever know expects to be debilitated.  No one I have ever met dreams of growing up with an addiction or need for pain medication.  10 years ago I was a physically active, busy single mom.  I raised three children by myself for many years, worked full-time, and didn’t have a moment where I sat down to rest until the end of the day.  I was a substance abuse counselor, and I had become highly proficient at conducting assessments.  I would type the majority of my assessments as I met with my clients and the last full-time position I held was as a substance abuse counselor in a maximum-security prison.

Prior to this I had odd medical issues come up over the years, a lot of back pain, hip pain, weird allergies, hives for no reason (and I am talking full-blown fat lip allergic reaction out of nowhere), migraines, Alopetia Areata.  My back first went out when I was 22 working at the bank.  I bent over to get a tray of coins out of my coin vault, and my back completely went out.  It took a week to recover and that was my first experience with not being able to walk because of my back or joints.

By the time I was 40, I was completely and utterly at a loss for what was going on with me medically.  I spent the next several years trying to figure things out with my doctors (who honestly didn’t delve very deep or, I believe, look at the whole picture.)  Had they given a more detailed look, I might have avoided an auto-fused thoracic spine.  This disease horrifes me when I think of my children and pray to God that none of them end up with the same type of issues I did.  My sister is currently experiencing severe back pain and bone spurs.  I am thankful I am aware of what to look for and can help them if need be.  I went to many specialists, including Virginia Mason in Seattle trying to find some answers to the issues I was having.  The most telling thing from that particular foray into a diagnosis was that I was positive for Anti-Alpha Fodrin IgA (uncommon) and that I had no detectable levels of B2 in my system, which was very for odd for a Western Diet.

My disease fully manifested itself in 2010.  I was not able to walk, and had severe IMG_7751stabbing pain as if a joint was broken.  It didn’t just affect my feet/ankles, but it also affected my hands.  I would find myself unable to hold a cup of coffee or even a fork to eat.  This pain was so debilitating I was at a loss.  I had never been one to sit on the sidelines at my kids’ events.  I was on the go, recently remarried and completely perplexed.  I couldn’t fish anymore, for any length of time.  Sure, we have photos of me fishing, but gone were the days of me holding the fishing rod, fighting the fish to the boat.  I couldn’t do it anymore; I could take a picture and hand off the rod and reel – something I would have never done before.  My joints and my back were even far worse than ever before.  I spent so much time battling pain it consumed my life.

I ended up having my C5-C7 spine fused at the native hospital on 01/31/2013.  The surgeon there told me that if he could he would fuse the entire thing as he could tell the necksurgery1entire neck would deteriorate and it was just a matter of time. After the surgery I followed up with the PA at the native hospital.  Now I will tell you that almost ever appointment I had in the recent years I asked someone to accompany me.  I had become jaded with the care I was receiving and saw too many instances of the clinic utterly failing others.  I somewhat joked that if I could be the Erin Brokovich of native healthcare I would.  And if my body had the energy I would have.  But I had to focus on myself first.  I couldn’t help a single person if I wasn’t in a better place.

The PA told me after my surgery, upon physical examination, that my neck wouldn’t heal if I remained as locked up as I was.  He told me my back muscles felt like cement and my healing wouldn’t improve.  He prescribed a short course of pain medications and a benzodiazepine for muscle relaxation.  I followed through with every recommendation, physical therapy and so forth.  Several months later I was experiencing daily migraines.  I had always been susceptible to migraines but this was out of this world in the experience.  This was daily – crawl away and want to die type of migraines that did not appear to want to go away.  I continued to follow up with the native clinic and wanted answers why this was happening.

I was told that it was simply failed back surgery.  I told the doctor that the pain medication wasn’t helping so he prescribed me Meloxicam.  (Meloxicam is a strong NSAID).  This did nothing to alleviate my pain.  It helped for a very short period of time and I suffered many hours of pain.  I continued to struggle with the migraines.  He gave me one course of valium, which helped my muscles a bit but did nothing to quell the ever-present migraines that were plaguing me, in addition to the joint and back pain I had been suffering for several years now.

Now I could respect my doctor’s concern about opiate addiction; I had seen enough destruction by opiate (heroin and illicit use of opiates) in my career as a substance abuse counselor IMG_4280.JPGto be very cautious about the use of these medications.  But I also couldn’t function as a human being with any level of quality of life without some type of pain relief.  I had three children in school, all very busy children and I was running between football, tennis, volleyball, student government meetings and three different schools.  I was also the kind of mom who even in the worst of pain would make a full meal for dinner.  Now I have never been one for packaged meals or pre-made food.  Going to McDonalds was a yearly event for the kids and I.  I refused to give them crap food even when I was in pain.

At one of my earliest doctor appointments about my joint pain, I explained to the PA that I had severe joint pain and swelling, around the joints, but not the joints themselves.  She chastised me and told me it was probably too much sodium in my diet.  That prepared foods contain a lot of sodium.  I was a bit miffed because she assumed that I fed my family a diet full of packaged foods and fast food.  She then insinuated that it was too much soy sauce in my diet.  I was more than perturbed because I had made a conscious effort to not only avoid those things but to limit even soy sauce in our household. We used Bragg’s Amino Acids on our rice.  This was the first time I had really experienced racial stereotyping or racial profiling as it were. aside from people in high school being jerks that I was accepted into Stanford because I was native.

And this was the *native* clinic.  I had so many bad experiences over the years in the native clinic I never went without a witness.  I had seen my friends father be sent home with a stroke with ibuprofen. Thankfully his family took him to the ER instead, and sadly the effects of the stroke lingered and we will never know if it was from lack of rapid response.  I saw my uncle who had just been at the native clinic about a sore on his leg—and sent home—the same day wind up in Intensive Care and ended up staying for a week.  I had been chastised by a PA, for wearing a walking boot whebootn my joint pain was so severe I couldn’t walk.  Normally I had episodes where just one foot was in severe pain but this instance I had both and I couldn’t put pressure unassisted on both of my feet at the same time.  I remember being pushed out of the clinic in a wheelchair crying.  The nurse whispered to me, “Use them if it helps and don’t bother with what she said.”  Several years later I felt “vindicated” by my podiatrist not only giving me two boots to wear and telling me my instinct to wear them was the right treatment but it didn’t do a thing for the shame and pain I suffered for years before.

I cried more hours than you can imagine that year in dealing with the migraines.  We had the opportunity to move to Wasilla due to my husband’s job which was in the Arctic.  He flew back and forth every two weeks from Juneau to Kuparuk, AK, and the cost of the flight to Anchorage was a big one.  We took the chance when our lease needed renewal.  Instead of signing on for one more year we chose to relocate.  We only had one child at home at the time and were happy to stop paying several hundred every month for airfare.  We wanted to purchase a home and the cost of living in Juneau was exorbitant.  So we found a place to rent in the Mat-Su Valley, giving us a year to figure out where in the Valley we truly wanted to live.

During the packing up of our home I threw my back/neck out.  I called my doctor to see if he could see me, but his nurse told me he was away in Italy.  Now anyone who has had to sit at the native clinic knows that if you go in you could be in and out, or you could be sitting in the lobby for hours, especially if you didn’t have a scheduled appointment.  So with the short time period we had I opted to go to the Urgent Care.  The physician there gave me a prescription for one week’s worth of pain medication and muscle relaxers.  I was completely okay with that as I knew that was more than enough time and I could see the native clinic up in Wasilla once we got settled.  Which I promptly did after we arrived and got into our new home.

The native clinic here told me that I wouldn’t be getting my regular medications (Tramadol for pain) any more. I had been deemed by the Opiate Review Board to be a drug seeker.  My going to the Urgent Care prompted a review of me and in it they listed my scheduled follow up appointments with the surgical team as drug-seeking appointments.  Mind you I never asked for pain medication, the PA prescribed them to me based on his assessment after physical examination and told me if I didn’t get the back loosened up it couldn’t heal.  They also said that I had failed UA tests in the past.  I had never been approached about failed UAs.  I know that if they had I could have said what the issue was.  I had battled migraines for several months and had been given prescriptions for pain medication for them.  I almost never used the entire amount prescribed, but saved them for a future migraine. Had I been asked I could have said “Yes I had a few left from my last migraine and took them on a later date.”  I was never told not to do that, and honestly sitting for hours in the native clinic was not the top of my list of things to do in a busy household.  So if I could treat myself and I was using the medication as it was intended, to treat a migraine, not get high, I would have been able to actually explain what happened.  However NOT ONCE did anyone ask me about any of that.

I can say with certainty that this was one of the best forced decisions of my life, to leave the native healthcare system.  They had not looked any further into my neck/back pain.  I was told that Tramadol was a safe medication at the time and honestly it was so horrific to stop I pray that no one I ever care about takes it.  They are uncertain about the mechanism of action in Tramadol; it affects serotonin reuptake and I will never take it again in my life.

I reached out to new physicians and a pain management doctor.  I went in openly and explained how much pain I was in, not only in my joints but in my neck and back.  The doctor was very thorough, explained a lot to me that I had never had explained before, and took my pain seriously.  I had never been one to respond to medications the way most people do and I requested that I get the genetic testing to determine which medications I don’t process.  Lo and behold I was an intermediate metabolizer for two separate CYP categories.  This explained why some pain medications didn’t work or work well for me, why Meloxicam (a very strong NSAID) did nothing.  But more importantly she determined that I did indeed need surgery again on my neck.  So she set out to refer me to a physician.  The first surgeon took one look at my referral and history (now including drug seeker from the native clinic) and didn’t even bother to schedule an appointment to talk to me.

secondsurgerySeveral months later she found a surgeon to look at my case.  He had MRIs and X-rays taken and met with us.  My C4-C5 had been ruptured, and by the looks of it, had been for a long time.  I had been going to physical therapy and every time my PT would work on me he would need to use a metal bar to help “beat” my muscles into submission to get them to relax.  However quite often I had such severe pain in my neck that I would feel as though I would throw up when they pressed on it.  I lived on Zofran, an anti-nausea medication and I followed everything they told me to do.  The new surgeon, after looking at my completely collapsed disk, which was pressing on my spinal cord, scheduled me in his very next available surgery slot.

When he did the surgery he discovered that a piece of the disk and broken off and was lodged between a nerve and a muscle.  This explained the severe pain any time pressure was placed on that area and why I wanted to throw up. In fact my surgeon told me right then that I “had a very real reason for my pain, it had been that way for a while. This was validation of my complaints, legitimacy to my pain and as bittersweet as it was I still had an incorrect label attached to me

 

The recovery was a long one with my autoimmune issues also rearing themselves.  We discovered that I healed better with steroids involved.  I was finally starting to feel relief and didn’t have the daily migraines.  The native clinic had dismissed me for almost 8 months. I battled another 8 months of daily migraines while trying to establish that I wasn’t full of crap, that I did have legitimate pain and thankfully the surgery taking the disk off my spinal cord gave me the LONG awaited relief I needed.

I continued to have back pain and sharp stabbing pain in my pubic bone.  One of the ways my autoimmune affects me is gastrointestinal issues. I had battled daily chronic diarrhea and I was referred to a surgeon to do a colonoscopy.  The surgeon did an MRI of my abdomen before aSIjoint2nd the radiologist saw a mass in my mediastinal area.  They rescanned me to get a view of my chest and in it they saw that my thoracic had fused. I had what appeared to be shark fin shaped bone spurs growing everywhere into my lung area.  This led my spinal surgeon to ask my other doctors if I possibly had Ankylosing Spondylitis.  I myspinemean, the spine usually doesn’t fuse, it doesn’t usually create shark fins growing into the spine, and the deterioration and pain in my SI joint and hips all along could be related.

Ultimately I ended up with an Ankylosing Spondylitis diagnosis. This painful chronic disease has no cure.  The standard treatment are NSAIDS and Disease Modifying Drugs or biolgoics, some of which I happen to not metabolize very well (as in I metabolize them far differently than most), and suddenly all things started to become clear.  My back pain started in my twenties and the symptoms I had suffered finally made sense.  Despite years of back problems, strange symptoms the native clinic completely brushed it off.  All the strange autoimmune reactions that I had, pain and swelling, the severe GI tract issues, the water retention – it all fell into place.  I can only imagine what my life would have been like had I been diagnosed and treated early but I really can’t even allow myself that luxury.  The anger would be too great.  I hated the native system for pushing me off as a crackpot, for deeming me an opiate seeker without **even looking** at my spine which was actually pressing on my spinal cord.

I fought a battle that no one took seriously; many providers assumed I was full of shit and didn’t take the pain I was in seriously. I cannot condone their dismissal, nor can I accept that their assumptions which were based on a preponderance of evidence skewed to support the idea that I was indeed a drug seeker.  I have no problem admitting where I’ve had issues and fully accept responsibility for things based on fact and truth. But I have never been addicted to a substance other than nicotine or caffeine. I abused alcohol when I was younger but I stopped that long before I was 25.  If I at any time truly felt I was an addict I would seek treatment. Anyone who truly knows me knows I can’t even drive the wrong way in a parking lot. I’d be such a wreck if I was just out to get high id check myself into treatment.   The worst part for me was that I never even got the chance to be formally evaluated and contest their claims. The funniest part about all this is that given my work experience, had I actually wanted to I could have found drugs outside the medical system, but I never just wanted drugs.  Sure I wanted, and on a humane level deserved relief, but more than anything I wanted answers and appropriate treatment.  But that was not to be had in the native system; I was just another low-life drug-seeking person in their eyes with NO real problem except being overweight, begging for pain meds (not heard begging for answers), and I was pushed in and out without serious thought to the issues.

I worked diligently to show my providers I wasn’t just a drug-seeking addict over the years.  During this we have learned that I can only take certain medications based on my metabolism.  My allergies to things only continue to grow and added to the laundry list of medications that can cause severe allergic reactions you can now add to it adhesives.  The wrong bandage can cause me to feel as though I cannot breathe.  My ribs don’t fully expand either due to the fusion of my thoracic so extra care is taken when I am in surgeries.

The constant pain of my joints and neck are still there.  I had a few years reprieve after the second neck surgery, but back again is the constant and nagging, wearing pain in my neck.  There is some deterioration of my C4-C3 and it bulges slightly. I am afraid that I will end up with my entire neck fused, and actually hope that some of that can relieve some of the pain I live with daily.  I take buprenorphine daily for pain, and it allows me to clean house, make meals, walk the dogs, plant a few flowers.  But this level of pain is something that I live with all the time.  I don’t think I even really know what a life without pain is.  I cannot imagine it. I live with pain so great I think it might drive others mad if they experienced it suddenly without the long build up of pain tolerance that I have had the misfortune of experiencing.

I find myself hating the drug abusers who get high.  I find myself hating that I spent so many years helping people who make it harder for me at this time to get legitimate pain relief.  I hate the very idea of being catalogued into that group.  But guess what?  There is no cataloging of people who live with a very painful chronic illness.  To the world at dt_150319_chronic_pain_headache_migraine_800x600large we are nothing but drug seekers.  Cancer pain, is the only real pain that people who sufferers it deserve treatment.  Having battled both cancer and chronic pain I can tell you that – pain is pain.  It didn’t matter what kind of pain it was—it still hurt.  But apparently one is legitimate and the other well—is just something people should suck up and deal with.  I have battled and fought cancer myself.  I spent months being dismissed with extreme fatigue, change in my bowels, change in my mood, body temperature, blood pressure and I had cancer all along.   But the labels from the past just follow you and don’t lend themselves to being taken seriously—until someone else discovers a tumor growing.

These painful illnesses affect everyone in our lives, our spouses, our children, family and friends.  We do not have a world of folk advocating for us.  We have ourselves, armed with the knowledge of our diseases and essentially are overlooked in the massive push for legislation and market reforms.  Insurance companies dictate who, what are how we are treated based on formulas and denials abound.  We fight these things on a daily basis and there is no outcry to help us.  We are treated the very same way opiate addicts on the street are by many.  This makes little to no sense to me.  I used to be appalled at the idea of “death panels” but they do exist, death by a thousand cuts—this med is no longer approved, one is approved but denied later and guess what? Interruption of that medication can sometimes result in the loss of efficacy.  So that denial was effective in stopping an expensive treatment that was working leaving me with a search for another.  We do have to fight for every ounce of care.  There is not one person I know who has been affected by a painful chronic illness that wouldn’t trade it all in for health, the ability to work every day and no pain.  But we do not have the choice or the luxury.

There are many people with debilitating chronic illnesses that get lumped into the same categories as people who use pain medication for recreation, to soothe their psychological pain and simply because they love the high.  I have never “loved” the high-I resented having a need for the medication to function and there was no pleasure in it, only relief of pain.  The only thing I have ever wanted was a bit of relief from the incessant pain in my body.  There is no greater loss than the loss of self-worth and you can imagine that battle is one that someone who is ill must fight all the time.  What I wouldn’t give to go back 15 years, treatment - Copyand even with back pain, I’d love to remember what it is like to go all day and night without stopping, without constant pain.  My former life has been stripped away from me and it is something I had to grieve and mourn and come to terms with where I am now.  I don’t want to be here but I have no choice, and the only choice I have is to make do with every day and do the best I can.

This fight is a real one and I am so very tired.  Who will take up the cause?  Who cares enough to fight for people who have to fight to get out of bed every day, when we have to chose between vacuuming or cooking dinner as the extent of our abilities for the day?  When showering is too much physical pain to consider, but we do it anyway because of course we have to.  We are seen as lazy drains on society.  Our loved ones look at us differently.  We lose so much of who we are, the dreams we planned, and it takes it’s toll.  We lose more things than just our physical abilities.  We lose the things everyone takes for granted.  I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.  But I haven’t given up and I will keep up the fight as long as I am able.  Human strength comes in many forms and I hope I never lose mine.

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IRS and Fat Camps

So I am wondering a few things.  Will the IRS now be the collector of proof of Indian Blood. So I will have to show to the IRS my CIB (Certificate of Indian Blood) as well as those for my children.  Are they going to cross check the BIA rolls?  I wonder how many are trying to falsely get their CIB now?  Will I have to every year prove I am a native with every tax return or will once be enough?

Have you ever seen a BIA CIB?  I sure as S%^# hope that they are cross checking with the BIA and tribes to verify enrollment.  Will there be a sudden surge of Indian identity theft or outright falsification by thugs trying to avoid the “tax”?  I wonder if there will be a sudden surge in folks claiming that they are Amish?

I wonder what Elizabeth Warren will do?  Will her cookbook suffice as evidence enough?

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Gee, I wonder what other proof they will require from us?

It is my understanding, I could be wrong… that the US Preventative Task Force will determine what is covered care for preventative services under the new health care plan.

The U.S. Preventative Task Force updated their website in June to show:

Release Date: June 2012

  • The USPSTF recommends screening all adults for obesity. Clinicians should offer or refer patients with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 kg/m2 or higher to intensive, multicomponent behavioral interventions.
    Grade: B Recommendation.

Furthermore their fact sheet goes on to say:

“Obesity is a very serious health problem in the United States, and in the past 30 years, obesity rates have dramatically increased,” said Task Force member David Grossman, M.D., M.P.H. “The good news is that even modest weight loss can reduce health risks for people who are obese. And, there is strong scientific evidence that shows that intensive programs with 12 to 26 sessions in the first year can help people manage their weight.”

So will this be the start of fat camps?  What if you don’t listen to the recommendation?  Who will run these fat camps?  They will be covered by preventative care, is this a one time deal?  What if you gain the weight back?  What if you don’t lose weight?  Will there be any penalties or consequences (aside from the obvious health associated risks)?

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Will individuals with PCOS and thyroid conditions be exempt from the fat camps?  Oh I just imagine the flow charts to manage our care will be endless!

Until Next Time!

SCOTUS Decision, War on Women and Indian Healthcare?

I haven’t written in a while, mostly I think because I have been disenchanted and just reading the news instead of writing about it.

I read some interesting things today.  One of the most interesting things I read came from a blog from fellow Alaskans.

“Today’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on the Affordable Care Act means that critical new benefits for women remain intact.”

The writer lauds this:

Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Northwest released a statement this morning stating that under today’s ruling, millions of women will have access to birth control without a co-pay starting in 2012—protecting their health, making their reproductive choice more affordable, and reducing infant mortality rates if and when they do decide to have children.

What I don’t get, is how this reduces infant mortality rates?  If anything to me this sends the message that it’s okay to go out and get jiggy with it.  That it is the right of everyone, including young teens to go have sex, and it’s their RIGHT to have contraception provided to them by the tax payers.  It doesn’t say anything to me about personal responsibility, like “Hmmm I can’t afford condoms, and if I got pregnant now I wouldn’t be able to afford the baby either.  I guess I better not fool around.”  But let’s get back to infant mortality rates…

I guess it all depends on who you consider an infant. You see, at Planned Parenthood they don’t consider an unborn child an infant who could be considered in their mortality rates, because it hasn’t taken it’s first breath yet.  So the babies that are slaughtered in their clinics under the term “abortion” can’t be counted in the mortality rates, now could they?

Most medical authorities, including Planned Parenthood, agree that it becomes a baby after birth when it takes its first breath.

Guess a beating heart doesn’t count?  I saw this on Facebook and totally agreed with it.  What do you think?

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Yet others have blogged about, and I agree with them, then why on earth could a person who murders a pregnant woman be charged with double homicide?  I guess it just depends on who decides when life starts?

Speaking of who decides things.  I was doing some reading on the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force.  Which will determine preventative care under Obamacare.  Now lets just see how this fares in regards to women…

Summary of Recommendations

Screening Men
Screening Women at Increased Risk
Screening Young Men and All Women Not at Increased Risk

Now… did you notice that they only recommend screening WOMEN 45 and older IF they are at increased risk?  But they recommend screening MEN age 35 and older.  YET… the CDC itself states:

Heart disease and stroke are among the most widespread and costly health problems facing our nation today, even though they are also among the most preventable. Heart disease and stroke are leading causes of death for both women and men.

And I did a bit more research on this matter.  I found this little bit of info:

MYTH #3: Only older women have heart disease.

TRUTH: Heart disease threatens all women, even those as young as 30 and 40.For example, the rate of sudden cardiac death of women in their 30s and 40s is increasing much faster than in men their same age—rising 21 percent in the 1990s.[2]

So where is the outrage on the war against women?  *crickets*

The U.S. Preventative Task Force also does not recommend teaching women to do a monthly self breast exam anymore.  Yet breastcancer.org has this to say:

“New guidelines recommending that women not perform breast self-examinations (BSEs) could seriously endanger women’s health and lead to later detection of cancers in some women,” says Marisa Weiss, M.D., president and founder of Breastcancer.org and a leading breast cancer oncologist. “These guidelines do not reflect a new point of view, but they are still very bad advice.”

So if you want to consider the SCOTUS decision a win… a victory if you will, for women.  I think you are misguided.  If you want to consider it a win for the American people I think you are also wrong.  Our debt cannot bear the burden of such a program first of all.  Secondly, the system will become overwhelmed with people seeking their FREE care for things that they might not have gone to the doctor for.  When it becomes “FREE” clinics will be full of people seeking care for every little ache and pain, clinics will be overwhelmed triaging real medical necessity and the “cough cough” ill.  The providers will become jaded, begin to treat every patient as a “cough cough” patient and before you know it your FREE healthcare really sucks.

Just have a go at Indian Health Services if you don’t believe me.  Just say you are from Elizabeth Warren’s tribe, worked for her, should work for you right?  No need to show ID or proof here, right?  So, if you could get into IHS care, you might find that it’s not all that it’s what it’s cracked up to be, this free healthcare, and a lot of real illness get overlooked or missed, a lot of “cough cough” illnesses see to destroying providers ability to give two *coughs* and some people even end up dead.  But no ones complaining about that now are they, because it’s all free right?  Oh wait, complaints might be made but they fall on deaf ears.  Besides, there is not a big enough constituency of these IHS recipients to make a difference in the polls anyhow.  I guess when it is the general populace the constituent pool would be bigger, but we aren’t looking at that now are we??

Begich’s Reply – The best Deem of ALL! MUST READ!

Yet another testament how the elected are NOT listening to their constituents.

Wonder what Obama and his ilk promised him?  Either he got a sweet back room deal or he is absolutely brainwashed by his party’s rhetoric.  Either way, he has no spine and is willing to sell out Alaskans and Alaskan Constitutional Rights to the Obama movement to socialist America.


March 19, 2010

Dear Mrs. Sowers:

Thank you for contacting me regarding health care reform. I appreciate hearing Alaskans opinions, both pro and con, on this important issue.

As of this letter, the Senate reform bill awaits final action in the House. It is my hope Congress will incorporate the best ideas, no matter where they come from, and move forward soon with a comprehensive bill. I have already shared my thoughts on what Alaska needs with Senate leadership.

We must act. With reform delayed Alaskans are contacting me about health insurance premiums rising even more drastically. For example, the Anchorage property management company is seeing a 64 percent jump for family insurance policies this year. The Juneau nursing home is paying a 27 percent hike for 2010; when they shopped around the only other quote was for a 37 percent increase. Or the self-employed Alaska couple who couldn’t afford a 60 percent premium increase and instead raised their deductibles so high all they have now is a plan to cover only medical catastrophes.

The Senate reform bill I voted for will reduce the federal budget deficit. It will end the status quo of ballooning insurance and medical costs, patients denied coverage and families in financial ruin because of illness. Even healthy, insured Alaskans are being hit by a hidden tax charging them for medical costs incurred by those not covered.

The economy is stymied by these increases. Families have less disposable income. The majority of recently surveyed Anchorage businesses listed soaring health insurance costs as the number one barrier to growth.

My principles for reform are clear – providing Alaskans the security of:

o No discrimination for pre-existing conditions,
o No exorbitant out-of-pocket expenses, deductibles or co-pays,
o No cost-sharing for preventative care,
o No dropping of coverage for the sick or seriously ill,
o No gender discrimination,
o No lifetime caps on how much care insurance companies will cover,
o Children eligible for family coverage until they turn 26.

The Senate-passed bill also reduces the deficit. Because the government is a major health provider, delivering care more efficiently significantly reduces outlays in years to come. The non-partisan budget office says the measure cuts federal spending by more than $100 billion over the next decade and up to $1 trillion in the second.

The Senate bill includes several of my amendments: a panel to improve federal health care in Alaska, increased loan forgiveness for thousands of new primary care providers and added funding for community hospitals. I also helped author a well-received cost-containment amendment that cuts prices for consumers, increases value and innovation in the health care system and saves hundreds of millions of dollars.

No one who supports reform is trying to win a popularity contest. I’m doing it because I firmly believe reform will help relieve the burden on hard-working families and businesses while reducing deficit spending.

Many components of the Senate bill are exactly what I talked about and supported during my campaign, and I will continue to work hard to make sure we finish the job. The stakes are too high not to move forward.

Thank you again for contacting me about health insurance reform. As the 111th Congress moves forward, please continue to share your thoughts.

Enclosure

Sincerely,
Mark Begich
U.S. Senator

Begich attached two files to the email, one on on Health Reform Facts and an article from the LA Times.

Do I care? Do I believe the bull he is trying to pawn off on me? NO!

Why are insurance premiums so high? How about allowing people to buy insurance across state lines? How about providing some tort reform so medical providers don’t have to pay huge medical malpractice insurance and order tests they don’t feel are necessary? Why doesn’t he mention in here, that this horrid piece of legislation changes not only healthcare, the largest government takeover of all? But now they have rolled into it student loans, making the government the only source of student loans?

How many IRS agents do they figure in?

Well an article I found states this:

The IRS, the agency responsible for enforcing tax laws, will have to hire a small army of new employees to monitor the health insurance compliance of roughly 300 million Americans and collect the penalties imposed on those who don’t meet the health care bill’s individual mandate to carry health insurance. Some estimates put the number of new tax collectors at more than 16,000.

This is unreal.

Read on if you wish.

How will the IRS be involved in your healthcare?  What new power will they have if we let them continue on this power play of force?

The sickening thing is that the people that really give two %#@% about what is going on are not the kind of people to incite revolution and force the hand of the government to stop this nonsense.  But maybe we should be… at this point.  If half the people in this country  knew what they were in for.

Is their plan to “deem it passed” constitutional?  I think, not.  Read on from Edwin Meese III, former US Attorney General.

Quite possibly the BEST thing I have read today comes from Deroy Murdock and his article on National Review, here are the last two paragraphs!  PLEASE SHARE THIS ARTICLE WITH EVERYONE YOU KNOW!  SHARE IT ON FACEBOOK, MYSPACE, YOUR BLOG, YOUR EMAIL!  I deem it!  I LOVE IT!

Meanwhile, House leaders grow increasingly shady as they pound this legislative gruel down the gullets of the gagging American people. Team Pelosi may attempt to pass the Senate bill through a “self-executing rule,” whereby House members would approve a reconciliation proposal, whereupon Obamacare will be “deemed to have passed” the House without a pesky yea-or-nay vote. Pelosi praised this subterfuge: “I like it because people don’t have to vote on the Senate bill.”

If Obama, Pelosi, and other Democrats pull this scam, Americans should deny them the cash they crave. Come April 15, citizens should tell Washington that they “deemed to pay” their taxes, and then pocket their earnings.

Is that not just the most beautiful thing?  I deem my taxes have been paid…

Doctor! Doctor! on National Review Online

Doctor! Doctor! on National Review Online.

How so very true!!!  I loved what was said here!

This is blatant corruption at work, something I believe is unacceptable regardless of whichever party you affiliate with!  Are you okay with the corruption in the Senate?

A response from Begich

I recently wrote Mark Begich, one of the Senators representing Alaska.  This is his response to me:

November 11, 2009

Dear Mrs. Sowers:

Thank you for contacting me about health insurance reform and a public option.  I appreciate your sharing your thoughts regarding plans in Congress to address the complex issues of insurance and health care costs.  I believe health care should be accessible and affordable for all Americans and I am working with my colleagues to explore competitive health insurance alternatives.

It is important to recognize there are several varying proposals regarding providing public access to health care.  I remain open to ideas meeting the following goals:

o   Make health care coverage accessible and affordable to all Americans,

o   Contain rising health care costs,

o   Provide choice for all Americans, including the choice to keep the insurance you have if you like it,

o   Protect and strengthen small businesses,

o   Address our nationwide health care workforce shortage,

o   And make a serious, well-funded commitment to prevention and wellness.

The cost of inaction is far too high and maintaining the status-quo is unacceptable.  Medical costs are out of control and now tie up one-sixth of the national economy.  Without reform, by 2016 premiums in Alaska are expected to double which would consume 40 percent of the projected Alaska median family income.  I am looking closely at all elements of proposals allowing access to a public plan, as I intend to be a part of the solution – not someone standing on the sidelines looking for reasons to say no.

While I understand the importance of competitive alternatives, I also believe the decision to include a form of a public option in a health care reform bill should not consume the entire health care conversation.  There are many other important provisions in health care reform legislation. Insurance reform would provide Americans the security of:

o   No discrimination for pre-existing conditions,

o   No exorbitant out-of-pocket expenses, deductibles or co-pays,

o   No cost-sharing for preventative care,

o   No dropping of coverage for seriously the ill,

o   No gender discrimination,

o   No annual or lifetime caps on coverage,

o   Children continue to be eligible for family coverage through age 26,

o   Insurance companies can’t refuse renewal because someone became sick.

There has been great progress towards a solution on insurance and health care reform. The House of Representatives passed its bill on November 7.  The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions and the Senate Finance Committees have passed their bills. Currently, Senate leadership is merging the two Senate bills to produce the strongest possible version of a bill to bring before the full Senate.  I look forward to the debate on the Senate floor.  Following the passage of a Senate bill, the House and Senate versions of health care reform bills will be reconciled.  I will fight for Alaska’s interest throughout these steps.

Again, thank you for contacting me.  I will continue to work with my Senate colleagues to make health care affordable, and will keep your comments in mind as I do so.

Sincerely,
Mark Begich
U.S. Senator

So, I took the time on this day, Veterans Day, to respond.  This is a day we honor the men and women who have died for our freedom.  The least I can do is to speak out against the largest threat, to date, of American Freedom.  The “fundamental change” that is being proposed is indeed not worthy of what our soldiers, past and present, have laid on the line, lost in terms of life and comfort and stood up for.

Here is my response:

Dear Mr. Begich,

In response to your email, which was likely a canned response to those who are in opposition to the current legislation being reviewed, I would like a much more detailed response, addressing issues that you have outlined.

“The cost of inaction is far too high and maintaining the status-quo is unacceptable.”

The cost of the kind of change proposed by Nancy Pelosi is far too high.  I agree that the status-quo is not acceptable, but if this is the best thinking that can come out of the legislators at present then I would not be surprised to see many losing their seats next election.  Don’t maintain the status-quo, come up with something viable and efficient that does not bring about socialism in the United States.  There are 100 Senators, I am sure that you can come up with something that will not be an infringement on our constitution.  If this issue is so critical, take it to the drawing board and develop something which will remain true to our Constitution.  The cost of the proposed legislation will not only add hugely to the American deficit, reduce even further the value of the American dollar and leave us in a worse position than we are in currently in light of the bailouts.  Explain how this is acceptable.

“Medical costs are out of control and now tie up one-sixth of the national economy.”

Medical costs, are you speaking of Medicaid and Medicare?  This quite frankly is the biggest government takeover yet.  You agree to this?  Explain in great detail, how this will reduce the medical costs.  Explain in great detail how this will affect Alaskans.

“Without reform, by 2016 premiums in Alaska are expected to double which would consume 40 percent of the projected Alaska median family income.”

So if that is the case, what is the best way to reduce cost?  Bring government into it?  This is surely not a very cost effective means to addressing the issue, most government programs at best are lethargic and so caught up in the process of things that efficiency flies out the window.  What about changing the current laws that regulate insurance companies at present?  Allowing insurance companies compete with one another, allow them to insure people in other states is something to consider.  Tort reform is another essential piece, however I understand that your party receives enormous campaign contributions from trial lawyers-so is that the reason you don’t see tort reform as a viable option to help reduce medical costs?

Pharmaceutical reform might be another way to reduce costs.  Why is it that our pharmaceutical companies can sell medications in foreign countries for far reduced prices than the American people pay on American soil?  I wonder what portion of funding for the Democratic Party in total comes directly or indirectly from pharmaceutical companies?  Can you tell me?

“I am looking closely at all elements of proposals allowing access to a public plan, as I intend to be a part of the solution – not someone standing on the sidelines looking for reasons to say no.”

I am not asking you to stand on the sidelines saying no. I am demanding, as a constituent, for you to be part of the solution–a better solution than socialism in the United States.  If you cannot see that the current proposed legislation is socialist, then you are indeed not qualified to represent the Alaskan people.  If you do see this as opening the door to socialism in the United States and continue to regurgitate the canned responses and reasons for this “change” then you are even more unacceptable as a voice of the people.

Specifically in my original email, I asked you about the criminal consequences in the current legislation that your constituents would face, up to 5 years in jail and up to 250,000.00 in fines.  Tell me specifically what you think about that particular issue.  How exactly do you see the State of Alaska responding to criminalizing individuals who cannot or will not pay the government mandated premiums?  Are you prepared to imprison Alaskan citizens who do not believe in socialism and will not pay the premium?  How is this constitutional?  Fully explain your answer.

”I will fight for Alaska’s interest throughout these steps.”

Explain, in your own words, what is Alaska’s interest?  In fact, I would like you to have an open forum in the three major cities in Alaska (Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau) prior to you voting on any legislation that affects healthcare.

Sincerely,

Marcy Sowers

Do your part today, write your Senators.  Write every politician in your area and out of your area.  Start your own Town Meetings and discuss and educate yourselves.  Do not stick your head in the sand, saying “I have coverage-It doesn’t affect me.”  This “fundamental” change they are proposing is unconstitutional and will not be ignored!  My voice will be heard.  Will yours?

Until Next Time!

Y

Good Morning America…

Are you awake yet?

As I sit here drinking my coffee and reading what many people are saying around this country (apparently some of us are awake), I had an interesting discussion with a friend on Facebook.

This person, argues that government run healthcare is needed by some and that for basic things it is good.

I will share my experience with government run healthcare.  First of all, over the years I had to utilize a government run healthcare program.  Now, for basic things let me assure you it is not just “fine or good.”  I really do not believe that waiting 3 months for a mammogram is a “good” thing when you have a palpable lump.  Nor do I believe that it is a good thing to go to the doctor, who decides to run a urinalysis–the results come back positive for infection.  Is there a phone call?  Is there a letter in the mail stating–your results were abnormal, please come back in for follow up?  No!  There is a month later, when I was having severe back pain (kidney infection) the sarcastic tone from the random walk-in doctor combined with the sentence “Well, did you take all your antibiotics?”  Excuse me?  Which antibiotics are you referring to?  The ones you should have prescribed but did not???

One of my most recent experiences with the government run healthcare, was with my children was, taking them to the clinic with fever, cough, headache, sore throat, runny nose, diarrhea etc.  What did the provider tell me?  Well it appears your kids have “fever, cough, headache, sore throat, runny nose, diarrhea etc.”  NO SH%*SHERLOCK!   I asked for clarification, and got the same regurgitated answer of the symptoms I explained were present in my children.  Is that good enough?  Now, someone I know who took their child(with the same symptoms as my children) to their private practice doctor, was tested for H1N1 and treated accordingly.

Thank Goodness we have other options!  The other options are not exactly ideal, but honestly I’ll take them over the alternative.   Combine the benefits of quality care with freedom, I’ll choose that any day.  Not a perfect system, but it beats the alternative!

So the gloves are indeed off.  I am tired of listening to right wing liberals on televsion dictate, yes dictate, what they believe is best for me.  Great article on NRO:

http://healthcare.nationalreview.com/post/?q=N2Y3NzA2YTdjYTNhYTZmMWFkMjY4YWNhZTk5ZmEyOWU=

So I spent the late evening writing every senator and politician in my state, as well as many senators from other states.  I have a feeling that every US Senator’s email inbox is overflowing.  At least I hope that is one of the many ways that people can voice their discontent and it is being used.  They need to know…how the American public feels about the decision that lies before them.

Write your Senator today! http://www.senate.gov/

I wrote Senator Lisa Murkowski from Alaska.

Dear Senator Murkowski:

As one of your constituents I am writing to request that you vote against the recently passed House Bill 3962 once it arrives to the Senate.  Not only do I request you vote against it, but that you work diligently to ensure it does not pass the Senate.  Not only am I writing you, but I am reaching out to every one of your constituents that I can, to do the same.

I am not opposed to healthcare reform.  I am opposed to the solution that is being shoved down American’s throats.  If this is the best that America can come up with, then we truly are in a lot more trouble than it seems.  There are definite reforms that can be put in place to address healthcare issues.

I strongly oppose the mandated public option.  The individual and small business mandates remove the option of choice for Americans.  If you vote in favor of passing this, you are telling every American and Alaskan that you do not care for our freedoms.  Small business will be forced to make a choice, provide healthcare or pay the tax.  The tax in most cases will be a lot cheaper than providing the insurance.  Businesses will have to opt to pay the tax, the lesser of two evils, because as you well know our economy is not exactly blossoming.  Well, what does that leave the employee?  They are mandated to BUY the insurance themselves or face fines of up to $250,000.00 and up to five years imprisonment.

I work in a correctional facility.  This facility is already at capacity.  What is the State of Alaska going to do when people who can barely make ends meet now, get slapped with fines that will devastate them financially and then sit in jail?  You have seen the effect on the criminal justice system for the war on drugs.  The war is a noble idea, like the idea of health care reform that is presented in the pretty wrapping, only hiding the true problems.  California, for example is releasing 40,000 prisoners because of their burgeoning prisons and deficits.  What will Alaskan prisons look like if this passes?  Will you opt to build more to house the individuals that cannot pay?  Will the state bear that burden?  Will your constituents take to this lightly?

If we add a healthcare system that we begin paying on now but won’t see for a few years,  what will that do for our economy?  The American people are not naïve; we do not believe that this forced healthcare reform will not cause an even larger deficit.  What about waving the threat of imprisonment and huge fines at people whose wallets are thin and criminalize their inability to pay or their dislike of socialism in our country makes sense to you?  Now what?  The war on dissidents who refuse to buy into socialism?

What are you going to do Senator?  Tell me, are you going to choose the public option?  Wait, your healthcare is covered for the rest of your life.  While your healthcare option may be forever, albeit quite unjust, I can assure you that your spot in the Senate is not.  What are you going to leave as your legacy as a Senator?  Your father left the legacy of his jet to be remembered by.  Please tell me you will find within you the moral compass that points to the direction of the Alaskan and American people and not the senatorial stamp of socialism on the United States.

You can be assured that if you vote in favor of this piece of legislation and do not actively speak out against it—you will never have my vote again.

Your constituent,

Speak up!  Now is the time to voice your discontent.  Now is the time to speak to, email, write a letter (besides the post office could use a financial boost-imagine that, a failing federal program)!  Now is the time to meet as communities to unify and ensure that the Senate does not endorse socialism in these United States!

Until Next time!

Y