Dear President Obama,
Our story is one of tragedy involving the loss of our 16-year-old daughter, which, as difficult as it is to recount, illustrates why your battle to reform health insurance is vital to our country.
On August 5, 2009, our daughter Codi was hit by a car while riding her bicycle in a crosswalk as she was returning from her summer job as a lifeguard and swim teacher. Codi was wearing a helmet, yet she sustained massive brain injuries and spent five days in intensive care. She underwent two brain surgeries and numerous other procedures. Despite a dedicated effort, Codi succumbed on August 10. On August 14, we said good-bye to Codi as she was laid to rest.
Little did we realize that the pain and grief associated with Codi’s death would not end with her funeral. The man who hit Codi had a $20,000 car insurance policy, the minimum permitted under Maryland law. However, the costs of her health care far exceeded his coverage.
Our health insurance is with Blue Cross/Blue Shield. We are self-employed and have been paying high deductible premiums for well over five years under this particular plan. Because the driver of the car was underinsured, Blue Cross/Blue Shield will not be able to recover their total costs from his policy. Instead, Blue Cross/Blue Shield will also subrogate against our car insurance policy. They are permitted to collect against our car insurance policy despite the fact that Codi was not in our car when she hit. She was riding a bicycle.
In essence, we are paying for the total costs of her health care although we pay health insurance premiums. In addition, we will not be able to recover the costs of her funeral, burial plot, and other associated expenses because Blue Cross/Blue Shield collects first. Furthermore, we are required to pay the total amount of our family deductible and our out-of-pocket expenses before Blue Cross/Blue Shield coverage will apply.
Let us share one more situation which highlights why health care reform is urgently needed. When Codi received her driver’s permit she indicated she wanted to be an organ donor. We honored her request and as a result two people have had their eyesight restored from her corneas. Her right kidney and pancreas were donated to a grandfather in the Washington, D.C. area, and her left kidney was donated to a 46-year-old father. Yet, on the day learned that her kidneys and pancreas were successfully transplanted, we received a letter from Suburban General Hospital in Bethesda (where Codi was treated) that stated unless we provided our car insurance information within ten days we would be responsible for the entire cost of Codi’s treatment.
Mr. President, we urge you to prevent this from happening to another family. Please bring affordable and fair health care to all Americans. Behind the politics are people. No family should have to lose a child and have to bear both the emotional burdens and financial costs because the health insurance system is broken.
Bruce Alexander and Lisa Polak
The Choice Before Us: Letters to President Obama is also available in PDF format. Edited and compiled by the Center for Community Change, Northwest Federation of Community
Organizations and National Korean American Service & Education Consortium.