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Health Care Desperately Needs More Reform

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All legislation has its winner and losers--but this time we're all going to lose in varying degrees. The current Health Care Bill is going to cost us big time--but not in the way you might think. As it stands, the Bill leaves out an incredibly important segment of society. And what's more, it will cost the taxpayers a ton of money to ameliorate the effects of their exclusion. This is all but inevitable--unless, of course, we raise awareness.

But before I illuminate the main issue, lets start with an analogy. How about democracy? (I promise this is not another hysterical right-wing rant about "Obamacare") However, as you might recall, democracy was supposed to promote political inclusion, lateral decision-making, and "universal" rights. But in reality, 19th century "democracy" was only cut and sliced for white males who owned property. Who was left out? Women, minorities, slaves and of course, the Native Americans. Needless to say, this had enormous consequences.

However ironic and paradoxical the differences between the raw theory and the actual practice of American democracy, it doesn't hold a candle to the current Health Care "Reform" Bill. This Health Care Bill promises to provide "universal" coverage, but it will actually cause more damage to certain individuals than others. Approximately 15,000 Americans already know the depths of the dangers we face...and mimicking the selectivity of traditional American democracy, you'll never guess who we're leaving out this time.

Have you ever heard of Phenylketonuria (PKU)? I'll give you a hint: look at a diet soda or sugarless gum and you will see a huge warning in bold, "PHENYLKETONURICS: CONTAINS PHENYLALANINE". That's because it is toxic to thousands of Americans--including my sister.

The effect of this toxicity is not death, but slow brain degeneration leading to severe mental impairment. Sadly, this simple amino acid is practically in everything, so my sister must restrict natural protein and ingest specific medical foods to maintain a normal IQ. Fortunately, nationwide newborn screening detects this genetic disorder at birth and dietary treatment is started immediately. Furthermore, these medical foods pave the way for a normal life. It's not like chemotherapy, which sometimes cures cancer. This medical food is 100% effective in making the difference between an intelligent, productive individual and a completely mentally disabled individual. If you don't believe me, check it out here.

So, what does this have to do with health care reform? It turns out there is absolutely no mention of coverage for PKU or other allied disorders in the current Health Care Reform Bill. This means the decision to cover medical foods will stay within the jurisdiction of the individual states. Some states will only mandate that insurance companies cover a small percentage, while other states believe that once you turn 18 your PKU magically disappears. (However, genetic disorders, by the name itself, implies its in your genes). This lack of uniformity amongst the states means that our nation is condemning thousands to either a group home or a mental institution (subsidized by the taxpayers) or poverty. Insurance companies may charge individuals with PKU well over $1000 per month to maintain their current IQ or drop their medical food coverage altogether. Oh, and once their IQ levels drop--the loss is permanent.

As a Public Policy student, I am trained to predict the unintended consequences of proposed laws and regulations, but this is just common sense. Would you rather pay millions of dollars in taxes to house an enormous influx of mentally disabled individuals, or would you rather see these individuals healthy and capable of having jobs, purchasing power, and paying their own taxes back into system? The costs of helping an individual with untreated PKU can average around 13 times the cost of providing proper treatment from the beginning![1]

Chances are you haven't heard of PKU and that's for a good reason--the treated PKU individuals blend in with the rest of us. They are your neighbors, your teachers, your foreign exchange students, your pastors--they could be your brother or sister. And as soon as they are denied coverage for medical food, I guarantee we will all start to notice them.

In order to avoid another obvious debt trap, our representatives must support the supplemental bill H.R. 4926 and fix this careless mistake. H.R 4926 (the Medical Foods Equity Act) will mandate that insurance companies across ALL 50 states will be required to cover the cost of medical foods.

With something so easily preventable and obviously cost-effective, I thought PKU would have been the first thing on Congress's list to cover "universally". But I was wrong--PKU has been completely forgotten and we will be the ones paying the rapidly accruing costs.

Please spread the word and sign the petition here.


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Janna Moseley is a Public Policy Student at the University of Southern California. Her writing has appeared on American Chronicle, California Chronicle, and Los Angeles Chronicle. Her academic research can be found at Comm-org via the University of (more...)
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Health Care Desperately Needs More Reform

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