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Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Health care is Fourth District candidate’s key issue

Kim Nelson, Special to the Greenville News
Published 10:06 a.m. ET Oct. 18, 2020 | Updated 10:07 a.m. ET Oct. 18, 2020

In 2007, a 17-year-old named Nataline Sarkisyan needed a liver transplant as a result of undergoing treatment for leukemia. Nataline’s father had employer-based insurance administered by Cigna Health Care, but that wasn’t enough.

Cigna denied Nataline’s transplant, calling the procedure experimental and unproven, despite all evidence from her medical team to the contrary. Cigna then said that it would cover the cost of the procedure if her parents were able to place a $75,000 deposit.

Under immense pressure, Cigna then reversed its decision and agreed to cover the transplant in full.

It was too late for Nataline. Cigna’s decision came hours before her death at age 17. To add insult to injury, her parents were unable to sue Cigna after her death because of a 1987 Supreme Court case that exempts insurance companies from liability when a patient dies after their refusal to cover a claim.

If Nataline had lived in any other developed nation in the world, she would be alive today. But she had the misfortune of living here at a time when even having health insurance is no guarantee of receiving the care you need when you need it.

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While we have made some progress since 2007, laws in place today would not have served Nataline any better in her moment of need. The Affordable Care Act would not have forced Cigna’s hand, although it would have ensured that Nataline could not be charged more had she been allowed to grow up. Also, the 1974 ERISA law that set the stage for her lawsuit’s failure continues to allow insurance companies to avoid accountability.

There are lots of Natalines all over the country, including right here in the Upstate. Every time someone puts off getting a lump checked out because they haven’t hit their deductible, or postpones a doctor’s visit because of the copay, the same system that killed Nataline claims more victims.

Insurance companies dictate the type of care we receive, when we receive it, and how much it costs us. They dictate how doctors practice medicine. As a public health professional, I see its effects every day. 

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And as a candidate for Congress in the Fourth District, I see what kinds of votes insurance PACs buy so that things always work out in their favor. Too many politicians take thousands of dollars in insurance PAC money, and then turn around and vote against protecting people with pre-existing conditions, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, and even making sure that people who contract COVID-19 aren’t stuck with huge bills. Most members of Congress receive heavily subsidized gold-level Obamacare plans in addition to having access to low/no-cost doctor clinics through the Office of the Attending Physician and free outpatient care at DC-area military facilities. Their votes won’t affect them.

But they do affect everyday people like you and me. People like Nataline.

With Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing, and with the threat of an Affordable Care Act repeal after the election, the stakes for all of us are incredibly high and in a pandemic, no less.

So I am asking you to choose wisely and to help me build a health-care system that centers on human dignity, not corporate profits.

We do not need more bought-and-paid-for politicians. We need access to health care because it is the morally correct thing to do, and if I am given the honor of serving the people of the Fourth District in Congress, I will keep pushing and fighting until we get there.

We are not guaranteed future health, but we can guarantee that a health crisis isn’t met with financial ruin and inhumane treatment at the hands of insurance executives.

Kim Nelson, a public health professional who lives in Greer, is the Democratic candidate for Congress in South Carolina’s Fourth District. To learn more, visit www.kimnelsonforcongress.com.

Read or Share this story: https://www.greenvilleonline.com/story/opinion/2020/10/18/opinion-health-care-sc-fourth-district-candidate-key-issue-kim-nelson/3656421001/

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