By Stanley David Gold

Daily, Americans drown in the turbulent waters of medical debt. The totalitarian and oppressive authority that health insurers hold over millions of American lives has compromised our financial and emotional stability. According to recent study published by the Washington University Journal of Law and Policy, 2.8 to 3.3 million of us declare “medical-expense-caused” bankruptcy each year. That accounts for over 60 percent of all bankruptcies filed in the U.S. per year, making medical bankruptcy the number one reason for filing. If you think medical debt only affects the uninsured, think again. Scholars at Harvard University maintain that 75 percent (the vast majority) have active health insurance policies. What is most shocking and evil-intentioned about this reality is that the commercial HMO industry thrives from the sickness and disparity of their customers. They take advantage of our monetary vulnerabilities, our dependency on them, and our collective silence.

 JFK warned us about this erosion of our personal liberty in his inaugural address in 1961, when he stated that the betterment of humankind is dependent on our tenacious fight “against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war.” JFK envisioned an America “unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed.” It is with both great sadness and overwhelming indignation that I declare, in all honesty, that we Americans are in the midst of an ever-advancing collapse of self-determination and the civil liberties we hold so dear. We are living in the shadows of the dark towers of tyranny, shackled and engulfed by injustice and poverty.

The prevalence of medical bankruptcy has radically increased over the years. Between 1981 and 2007 “medical-expense-caused” bankruptcy grew from eight percent of all bankruptcies filed to 62.1 percent in 2007. In 2012, in an article published by Sage Journals, roughly 80 million Americans with health insurance plans reported that — regardless of necessity or suffering — they did not see their physician or fill their prescriptions because they simply could not afford to. In 2012 alone, 28 million Americans completely depleted their savings and retirement accounts to pay medical bills. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported that one-third of insured Americans cannot afford their medical bills because of the abusive cost-sharing tactics like deductibles, co-insurance and co-payments (out-of-pocket expenses) carefully designed for profit-maximization by their HMO plans. These inhumane health insurance practices shamelessly abandon their sick patients at their greatest time of need. They harm the very people they are ethically obliged to protect.

While we fully insured Americans are emptying our savings, falling behind on our mortgages, foregoing heat in the winter and depleting our children’s college funds to pay outrageous medical bills, health insurers are becoming wealthier and wealthier. According to Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini’s SEC filings from 2012-2014, as reported by Fierce Healthcare and Sage Journals, he averaged $20 million in total annual compensation. If we assume he works the average 40-hour workweek, he makes $1.67 million per month, $416,666.667 per week, $83,333 per day, $10,416 per hour and $173.61 per minute. If it took you 15 minutes to read this article, Mr. Bertolini just made $2,604.15. And, as appalling and infuriating as this may sound, in 2012, Aetna used $201,093 of our collective health care premiums to pay for Mr. Bertolini’s personal use of Aetna’s private aircraft. We can also look at this through a wider lens: “In 2012, CEOs at the nation’s six largest insurance companies received $83.3 million in pay.” Is all this making sense now? Have you fully digested this information, understanding the ways in which these companies demoralize and tyrannize us? Do you now understand that health insurers are one of the “enemies of man?”

It is time to stand together as Coloradans and take matters into our own hands. It’s time to stand up and demand better treatment and a humane society that cares for one another. In 1961, JFK stated, “For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty…” But, it never happened. We Americans have sat by and watched the unraveling of our individual freedoms and human rights. We’ve allowed HMOs to do this to us. We are currently contributing to Mark Bertolini’s personal use of Aetna’s private aircraft, while we face insurmountable medical debts. Are we the people that are going to continue to bow down to our oppressors?  I say no. It’s time to take our power back. Vote yes on Amendment 69, ColoradoCare, this November.

In the words of T.R Reid, a prominent international journalist, prolific author and documentarian, “Millions of Americans go bankrupt because of medical bills each year, but it doesn’t have to be that way. How many Brits face medical bankruptcy each year? The answer is: zero. Likewise, in France, Germany, Japan, Sweden, Italy, Spain, Austria, and all the other rich industrialized democracies, there are no medical bankruptcies, because everybody has decent health insurance. With ColoradoCare, the number of medical bankruptcies will be zero. If all the other rich democracies can eliminate this financial tragedy, the USA can do so as well. And Colorado will lead the way.”

The time has come: our health care system should work for us, instead of against us. PERIOD!

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”

~Martin Luther King Jr.

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