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Mail and Commentary May 5, 2010

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"I'll bet a three-month membership at the Baku Hyatt fitness center that Mort Rosenblaum doesn't know shashlik from Shinola."

--Patience Dogood (BW, Opinion, "Arizona Alienates World as 'Hate State,'" April 28, 2010)

On Health Care

Many Idahoans are opposed to "socialistic" health-care reform, supporting the state's legal action against the federal government, regardless of the cost. I wonder if any of these people have held a baby while he seized for 30 minutes.

I have, many times. The baby is now 3 years old, and while he is comparable to his peers in most aspects, this toddler carries nearly $500,000 worth of medical care to his name. This includes weeks of hospital stays, six surgeries (four neurosurgeries), multiple CT scans and quarterly visits with various specialists. This child is my son, Jameson.

Jameson has a medical condition called hydrocephalus, caused by a birth defect that causes his cerebral aqueduct (the tube that connects the inside of the brain to the spinal canal) to fail to drain cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF, (fluid that protects the spinal cord) properly, leading to increased intra-cranial pressure, decreased oxygen to brain cells and brain damage. Because of the brain damage Jameson suffered before he was born and had a shunt placed (a surgically placed device consisting of a valve and tubing that drains CSF from the brain to the abdomen), plus scar tissue from his neurosurgeries, Jameson developed a seizure disorder at 4 months old. The problem with seizures is that every time one occurs, irreversible brain damage, and sometimes even death, can result. Consequentially, recurring seizures are treated aggressively with the goal being what neurologists call "control."

We have been lucky to achieve decent seizure control with Jameson's daily medication. This medication would cost $300 a month without insurance. In addition, we have reduced the length of his seizures from 30 minutes to 10 using an emergency medication, thereby decreasing the chances of brain damage with each seizure. This medication would cost $475 for two doses without insurance. So, if we were not fortunate enough to have continual insurance coverage, Jameson's medications would cost $775 a month. That is 1.5 times my rent.

Yes, we have coverage. But only because I am a low-income, full-time student, qualified for state assistance. Most upper-middle-class, full-time working Americans couldn't even begin to afford the premiums and co-pays to cover my child's "pre-existent condition" without assistance.

Coverage isn't the solution to the bigger problem, but I believe it is the beginning of attacking our broken health-care system, a system that can charge $1,300 for a five-minute brain scan or $600 for 15 minutes of a doctor's time. Every great revolution must start somewhere.

It seems that socialism propaganda has permeated all attempts at rational discussion of health-care reform. Socialistic institutions aren't intrinsically evil. I am grateful that if my house caught fire, our "socialized" fire department would rescue my family. I am grateful that our "socialized" police force will protect me. I am grateful that our "socialized" public education system attempts to prepare my children for life as contributing members of society. I am especially grateful that these "socialistic" services are provided to me, funded by taxes that my fellow citizens and I pay, with no regard to my socioeconomic standing, race, gender, age, religion or lack thereof, sexual orientation, personal choices in lifestyle, or state of health. These services are provided because I am human, and I live in America. Who put health on a different playing field? And how can one call themselves pro-life while simultaneously condoning the removal of the very means of ensuring that child lives once born? Let's take a step back, Idaho; the picture is bigger than your pre-existent-condition-free body.

--Jennifer Miller, Nampa

Health Care Part II

I wanted to respond to your Note in Boise Weekly concerning "Otter Can Afford the Hospital, Can You?" (April 28, 2010).

Let me tell you what did happen in my household four weeks ago. My husband, a very healthy, active person whose only medical costs have been the occasional physical, wakes up with an achy back and kind of flu-ish feeling. Fast forward 12 days, he has spent eight days in the hospital, including two days in ICU with emergency back surgery. He had a staph infection in his blood, MSSA, that settled in his spine! No explainable reason how it occurred. Multiple docs said they had never seen it hit a healthy person before--just a "perfect storm." Now he is on eight weeks of 24-hour IV antibiotics. Thankfully, looking at a full recovery. And we have nothing but praise for everyone at St. Luke's.

But, costs. I can't even begin to guess. Fortunately, his employer does offer health insurance. But had Ed "chosen" not to have coverage, as Gov. Otter believes is our right ... my question to Gov. Otter: "What would be our 'choice' now?"

And to all who state "we" can't afford it. The Defense budget for FY2011 Request: $708.3 billion. One year. The estimated cost for the health-care reform bill: $934 billion over 10 years. Priorities?

--Michele Hubbard, Boise

A Word on Idaho Wilderness From ... Illinois?

The Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area is a long way from Boise and rarely creeps into the mind of the ordinary Idaho resident. It is a vast area of roadless and forested terrain. There are some that advocate the development of ski resorts and others that wish grizzly bears to be established. Most recreationalists want the region to be a haven for hunters, hikers and horse-packers. The mountains that serve as a delineation between Montana and Idaho have probably never endured as much pressure as it does today. I implore readers to explore the nooks and crannies of the wilderness before exploitative forces ruin the natural wonder and beauty that lies there. Camp. Backpack. Raft. Since the National Park Circus has expressed no interest in this untamed wilderness, perhaps you should be the vanguard of citizens that advocate something akin to a federally managed recreation area. The United States Forest Service currently holds ownership of this land; however, more protection is needed. Civilization, and all the trappings of consumerism, are slowly eating away at the landscape. The Frank Church is in a similar situation. As time goes by, more and more pressure from interest groups and corporations will exert influence over this area. Take a stand against the timber industry, the never-ending winter sports agenda and other detrimental money-making barons by petitioning the United States government to include the Selway-Bitterroot as a recreation area with minimal roads, minimal man-made structures and no airfields.

--Willis Lambertson, Barrington, Ill.

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