I have to rant. I can't hold it in another minute.
What happens to people when they are elected to public office?
Governor M. Jodi Rell of my home state, Connecticut, released her budget proposal yesterday. She proposes cutting the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women and other similar Commissions. These agencies don't cost much money, and the PCSW in particular has done amazing things over the years, from getting the legislature to require insurers to cover overnight stays for mastectomies and contraceptives to fighting for equal pay. Due at least in part to the PCSW, we have a woman Governor, a woman Secretary of the State, a woman Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and lots of women in the legislature.
But what makes me madder than mad is her proposal to cut the Office of the Healthcare Advocate. This Office is funded entirely by an insurance fund -- money from insurance companies -- and not a dime by taxpayers. Cutting this Office doesn't save the state any money at all. In fact, the Office has saved Connecticut consumers $5.2 million by getting insurers to pay for medically necessary treatment.
So why does the Governor want to shut down this important consumer resource? Because the Healthcare Advocate has been an outspoken opponent of some of the Governor's health care policies. Simple as that. He opposed the Governor's Charter Oak Health Plan and her decision to force Medicaid and SCHIP enrollees into HMOs because the HMOs servicing those programs don't have enough doctors enrolled and, so, they can't provide the services that people need.
This isn't budget cutting; this is censorship. Politics.
And while I'm on the subject of politics, the stimulus package also is stuck in the mud. The House version includes COBRA subsidies and an extension of COBRA beyond the usual 18 months. It appears that some or all of this is being cut from the Senate version. The Huffington Post today says that there will be no COBRA extensions for people over age 55 to their 65th birthday when they are eligible for Medicare. Of course, people over age 55 are the ones least likely to be able to get another job, so they're the ones who need this help.
I don't know where any of this is going to end up. But I wish Senator Susan Collins and some of her friends would sit in my chair for an hour and listen to the people who are calling me and begging for help that does not exist. A woman with colon cancer who can't pay for a colonoscopy or surgery or any treatment because her husband refuses to help with her bills, and with his income she doesn't qualify for Medicaid. A young man with Crohn's disease who hasn't had a colonoscopy for nearly 2 years, has abnormal labs, and can't afford a colonoscopy. Or a diabetic stroke victim who has no income other than his Social Security payment, and no assets, and owes a hosptial $195,000 -- and they're taking him to court even though they get federal money for charity care.
None of this is rational. This is the underbelly of our democracy. Jennifer