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John McCain & Rob Lind – Healthcare Realities

Rob Lind on Lake Francis, June 2017

Last week, while on vacation in Reykjavik, Iceland, I woke to the news that Arizona Senator John McCain was diagnosed with Glioblastoma, an aggressive type of malignant brain tumor that starts in the glial cells of the brain and spreads rapidly. Glioblastoma is not as prevalent as other, more common cancers. In 2017, this type of cancer is projected to have 12,390 cases in our country. Breast cancer, as an example, is estimated to have 252,700 cases in 2017 – over 20 times the glioblastoma rate.

Cancer impacts people regardless of race, age, gender, social standing, geography, and yes, even political party. Cancer is non-discriminating, an equal opportunity disease – many times due to chance. Of course, there are exceptions, such as cancers that are known as ‘cancer clusters,’ which, according to the CDC, are “a greater-than expected number of cancer cases that occurs within a group of people in a geographic area over a period of time.” Cancer clusters can occur in dangerous environmental areas that can harm the population living nearby, such as toxic waste landfills.

The Brain Tumor Foundation estimates that treating glioblastoma may cost more than $450,000 (up to $700,000 in a lifetime of treatment). I’m not trying to make Sen. McCain’s misfortune into political fodder, but as Congress attempts to sort out what health insurance should look like for Americans who don’t have access to employer-provided coverage and are not yet eligible for Medicare, medical misfortunes continue to plague those who are employed, unemployed, insured or uninsured. Financial catastrophe is one diagnosis away for many Americans.

John McCain

The McCain news unfortunately serves as yet another poignant reminder that illness can occur at any time in our lives. Ironically, Senator McCain and his Senate colleagues are embroiled in crafting a ‘repeal and replace’ fix for Obamacare, with potentially more than 22 million Americans losing health insurance coverage, depending on which plans are being ‘scored’ by the Congressional Budget Office. It’s common knowledge that both House and Senate Congressional members can purchase private health insurance through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, which offers about 300 different private healthcare plans – all considered good health insurance by any standard used.

Our country continues to struggle with the “downstream” question of who should pay for healthcare and how much should be paid. This never-ending, divisive and destructive dialogue is made under the pretense that we are unable (or unwilling) to address the true cost drivers of healthcare (found “upstream“) and, consequently, seek our answers through political discourse that will get us nowhere downstream. Meanwhile, the ‘John McCains’ in our country, including those uninsured, must fight this battle on two fronts: 1) Physical and emotional distress that comes with a serious illness, and 2) Facing impending financial disaster.

Rob Lind

Two months ago, I learned that my oldest brother, Rob, has glioblastoma. This news is painfully fresh for me and I’m still sorting out why this has happened to Rob. Most likely, we will never know the answers to the persistent questions we face when family members and friends receive such a devastating diagnosis. The McCain news served as a harsh reminder that you can be a U.S. Senator, or as Rob, a rural Iowa business owner. Both have lived their lives honorably, positively impacting others around them. But each of us must be armed with the knowledge that our health may be compromised at any time by an unwelcomed intruder. Thankfully, both John and Rob have good health coverage. They are the fortunate Americans.

The healthcare coverage problem continues to persist in our country without any prospect of immediate resolution. Meanwhile, any one of us may eventually receive life-changing news that someone important in our lives, (perhaps even yourself), will be visited by an unwelcomed intruder.

Healthcare is the maintenance and improvement of our physical and mental health. The absurdly high cost of healthcare makes it immensely more difficult for those who must endure the physical and emotional hardships when facing the care they need.  When our health is compromised, we worry about the cost and how it will impact those around us – another added layer of stress. In the U.S., more so than other countries, Americans worry about the family being financially burdened.

For Rob, I cherish the remaining time that we have together. Whether we discuss things that matter most in our lives, or climb into a fishing boat and experience the beauty of a Minnesota morning on Lake Francis.

Catching fish is optional.

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