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An email I received yesterday from a fellow Kossack prompted this diary.

All Americans recognize that the nation has been laid low by eight years of criminal neglect. But today, I feel a heightened sense of shame, that in the richest country on the planet, the political class celebrates with family and friends, as our fellow citizens do without.

I am writing this for anyone feeling frightened and alone. Feeling abandoned by our government, wondering what will they do when the unemployment checks stop?  What will happen when they can no longer make those exorbitant COBRA payments?

So many Americans have that horrible feeling they are one step away from falling right off the ladder. You are not alone. Many, many citizens are in similar dire straits.

You are not alone. Things are very bleak for tens of millions of us.

But I also urge you to be strong, and optimistic because help is on the horizon.

Newspapers around the country are describing how American citizens are strugling under an avalanche of bills, layoffs, and unaffordable healthcare.

I feel a mixture of shame, that I live in a country which still accepts this as normal, and fear because I know, there but for the grace of God go I.

Health insurance options limited after job loss

John Mathson had been paying about $550 a month to continue his health insurance coverage after the 63-year-old Eureka man got laid off in October after 39 years at the Evergreen Pulp mill.

For Mathson, who is undergoing chemotherapy for non-Hodgkin lymphoma and had knee surgery in September, the news got worse last week. The mill, which shut down, informed him it could no longer afford to offer health or welfare programs to any employees or retirees as of Jan. 1.

. . .Two years short of Medicare eligibility and beset by health problems, Mathson's options for health care are limited and expensive.

"There is insurance out there, but they're like $1,000 a month and they don't pay anything to speak of," said Mathson, whose wife receives coverage through Medicare due to a disability. "You still have to come up with all this money out of your pocket. You're basically left out there, high and dry."

With the recession and the expectation that job losses will get worse next year, a growing number of American workers will find themselves not only out of a job, but without access to affordable health coverage. Already, about 46 million Americans have no health insurance.


And this, imagine being very ill, losing your job and your access to healthcare. This must end, it is unacceptable. This is pornographic.

Health costs force choices
As the economy roils, more people face tough decisions on expensive care

Getting laid off could cost Tim Willey his life.

Willey, 45, has colon, liver and lung cancer. Health insurance paid for by his former employer, a Raleigh electric contractor, covered his chemotherapy until he lost his job Oct. 23. Since then, he has been paying $231 per month to temporarily continue his health insurance benefits under provisions of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, or COBRA.

But he isn't sure how much longer he can afford the COBRA payments, his co-pay for the prescription drugs and the mortgage payments for his house in Southeast Raleigh.

. . .As consumers look to lower their expenses, cost can trump disease prevention, and lives are put on the line, especially among the uninsured, the underinsured and the increasing number of unemployed about to lose health insurance.

"Will this really happen to me?"

And here is the email I received yesterday from a Kossack. It could be written by almost any American, we are all frightened, we all feel alone.

[In the interest of privacy, I have concealed all indentifying information, which I always do.]

It is a sad, sad commentary on how far we as a nation have fallen.

But finally on this Christmas, maybe, just maybe, help is on the way.

I’ve been having some symptoms I thought were Crohn’s (they weren’t) and we’ve been looking at other issues. I just learned I had exposure to XXXX and am going on a course of doxycycline to treat. For now I still have my (relatively) blue-chip insurance from my job at XXXXX, so I hope it will cover current treatment. I am paying the Cobra plus any deductible plus coinsurance. But come 8-9 months from now (assuming I can keep paying) that will be over. I have no income now, just unemployment (thank god able to get that renewed). I can’t go on disability if things go wrong or get worse (I don’t think) since I am out of work. Also I am sitting now on a couple of pre-existing conditions. Junk insurance won’t be affordable for me by the time I get there even if I find some work soon. Jobs in my industries are scarce and getting scarcer. I have talked to every imaginable person in my network, and beyond. Apply for every blind ad.  These days no one is taking my calls or returning my emails (it wasn’t that way last year).

Anyway I see the wolves of our healthcare system getting ready to join those of poverty, unemployment, solitude and others already howling at my door. I am worried, though still holding on. I want to make sure  I take care of myself now, but don’t want to set myself up for bigger problems later. I guess I am still better off than some but I also feel like the cord connecting me to economic and personal survival is getting thinner.  I was a middle class XXXX always able to hold my own. I went to [a top school]. I have never been this close to the edge, though there have been good and bad times.

Healthcare reform can’t come soon enough for me. Literally. I mean it can’t. Even if they put it first on the agenda, which alas won’t happen.

Advice, ideas? I want to be prepared.... Should I move to Massachusetts (bad as it is at least they HAVE to give you something). What will I do when I can’t cover healthcare AND rent? Will this really happen to me?

President Obama, you must not allow this situation to continue. This is shameful and deplorable and I hope you embrace the same sense of moral outrage that so many of us feel.

Originally posted to nyceve on Thu Dec 25, 2008 at 07:58 AM PST.

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