To the Editor:
As hardworking Americans continue to be held hostage by the ongoing fight in Washington, D.C. about healthcare, I feel now is the time to express my unedited, unbiased opinion about healthcare. For 30 years, I have been working in healthcare in a variety of roles. My varied roles gave me a realistic, Birdseye view of our inefficient, unfair, money driven healthcare system. I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican as both parties have failed me with their constant extremism and their inability to represent all Americans. In the last election, I wrote in “Mickey Mouse” for president, because I was so disgusted with both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in how they ran their campaigns. The last presidential election was the first time in my life where I wrote in a cartoon character. I couldn’t, in good conscious, vote for either candidate. I was born and raised in the beautiful state of Rhode Island and I continue to live here. When I say Rhode Island is beautiful, I truly mean it is beautiful. We have the most beautiful beaches and the best food anywhere. You haven’t eaten real Italian food, unless you have eaten in a locally owned Italian restaurant in Rhode Island. Rhode Island is like one big town, where everyone knows everyone. Being a small state certainly has benefits, but as I always say, you cannot keep secrets in Rhode Island as someone always knows someone, someone is related to someone, or someone is sleeping with someone.
I began working in healthcare post my graduation from Bryant University in 1987. In 2000, I became a Clinical Social Worker after working in healthcare administration at a local women’s hospital. I became a Social Worker because of my personal experiences with trying to obtain quality healthcare for my parents. When they were ill, I was constantly fighting with someone specific to their care and the payment of their care. I was the youngest child still at home and took on the role unknowingly as a healthcare advocate for both my mother and father.
It was during that time (1991/1992 and then in1996), that I got a “taste” of how dysfunctional our healthcare system was. After my father’s terminal illness, I had to turn to RI Senator Jack Reed for help. As the Executor of my parents small estate, I received an $18,000 bill from Federal Blue Cross for services they denied for my father who was terminally ill. I tried to deal with Federal Blue Cross on my own, but got nothing but the run around.
I turned to Senator Jack Reed for help. Thankfully, he and his team where able to help me get the bill paid by Federal Blue Cross. As someone who was raised to not whine and to work hard, I turned the healthcare issues with my parents into opportunity by obtaining a graduate degree in Social Work from Rhode Island College, so that I could be a voice/advocate for other individuals and families. I worked briefly post graduation from Rhode Island College at our local mental health hospital. In 2002, I began working for the Managed Care Industry. Since that time, I have been working for Optum, a business segment of United Healthgroup.
To give folks some facts about United Healthgroup:
- They are for profit
- They provide healthcare to more than 133 million members worldwide
- They are a Fortune 500 company
- Their mission supposedly is “to help people live healthier lives and make the healthcare system work better for everyone”
- Their 2015 reported operating income was 11 billion dollars
- Year after year United Healthgroup has gobbled up other health plans to make themselves larger and more powerful worldwide
- Mr. Stephen Helmsley, is the “King” of United Healthgroup and all business segments. His reported income was 66 million dollars. Recently, King Helmsley, did take a pay cut. He is now making a reported income of $21 million. Keep in mind, King Helmsley, produces nothing to make this type of money. He hasn’t cured cancer or ALS. The organization he leads certainly does nothing to make the healthcare of others better as their mission states. In fact, King Helmsley should be the poster boy of corporate greed. King Helmsley, and his court of Executives across this country, live the good life, while hard working Americans go bankrupt because they were unlucky enough to be diagnosed with a chronic medical or behavioral health condition. Healthcare providers in Rhode Island, and across this country continue to beg like plebeians to be paid by his organization for healthcare claims. Often, the providers give up trying to get paid and write off unpaid claims by United Healthgroup as losses. How do I know this? Because in Rhode Island I witnessed the problems with claims day (specifically Medicaid claims that are paid with Federal dollars) after day in 2016 and up until April 20 in 2017.
In any event, my intent of this letter certainly isn’t to belittle “greed is good, greed is right” mentality of United Healthgroup and other for profit managed care companies. I’m sure, after this letter is printed, United Health Group will put their high paid lawyers and marketing folks to work providing how wonderful they are. The intent of my letter is to be a voice for every American going bankrupt because of their healthcare expenses. Bankruptcy is the number one reason Americans are filing for bankruptcy. Specifically, I am choosing to be a voice of those Americans, living and dead, as I continue to see our elected officials and the managed care industry play Russian roulette with our healthcare systems.
At the end of the day, our healthcare is rationed. Americans who are ill and who are in-between the poor and the rich are the ones who are being left out of the equation. Whereas the Affordable Care Advocate attempted to ensure affordable/quality access for everyone, it unfortunately benefited some Americans, not all Americans. Those of us with employer driven healthcare saw our premiums increase and our deductibles rise. Healthcare for small businesses which was already unaffordable, became more unaffordable. Millions of Americans who never had health insurance flooded an already broken/burdened healthcare system driving up costs more.
With all this said, ultimately, our healthcare system needs to be fixed from the bottom up, and not from the top down. Individuals who don’t have an agenda, need to be part of the solution in guiding our politicians in creating a system that will work for every American. It is my hope, and prayer, that every American who has experienced the corporate greed of the managed care industry and who has been diagnosed with a chronic medical or behavioral health condition will outreach their Congressional Leadership and tell their story of bankruptcy. Our Congressional leadership needs to hear the voices of individual Americans, not lobbyists and community organizers who have specific agendas.
I am well aware that after this letter is published, I will be accused of having an agenda. I can write this letter in good conscious because it is the truth. I represent no organization and I am not a lobbyist. I am just an American who is tired of the political fighting, tired of the greed, and tired of a corrupt healthcare system dictated by the managed care industry. My deceased father was a World War II vet. At 17 years old he went to war to fight for this country. It is in the spirit of his life and death fight for this country, that I use my voice and my knowledge to fight for affordable, quality healthcare for every American. Healthcare needs to be put in the hands of the consumers and the healthcare providers, not the hands of the Managed Care industry, politicians, or lobbyists. Together, we need to come up with an affordable, efficient, ethical healthcare system that works for everyone. Whatever repercussions come my way (and they will come as some already have), I am prepared for, because I have nothing to lose. I’d rather be known as a person of integrity versus a whore for corporate America.
Diane L. Marolla, LICSW