Speak Your Piece: Legislating Chad’s Future

Hearing her congressman call the health reform bill "socialist," a Missouri woman takes up the pen. Her family's future depends on reliable medical insurance.

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The Honorable Sam Graves (Missouri, 6th District)
U.S. House of Representatives
1415 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Congressman Graves:

I am Mandy Ottmann, daughter of Rick and Linda Oswald. I have lived outside of Rock Port near Langdon, Missouri, my whole life. Fifteen years ago Chad Ottmann and I were married. We are now self-employed just as we have been for the entire 15 years of our marriage.

Five years ago Chad was diagnosed with advanced thyroid cancer. We were told that if he survived he would probably never be able to lift his arms above his shoulders again or even be able to talk. Cancer had been growing in his body for more than 15 years. It was deep into his neck and had encircled his esophagus and vocal cords. He was literally being choked to death.

Chad’s brother Shane, who is a doctor himself, has a friend at Sloan-Kettering in New York who was able to get Chad an appointment with one of the best head and neck surgeons in the U.S., and also with an excellent endocrinologist who could treat the cancer effectively after surgery.

Luckily, we had health insurance when we discovered his cancer – or Sloan-Kettering wouldn’t have touched him. The hospital required proof of adequate health insurance before they would agree to make Chad’s appointments.

Thanks to the care Chad received from the physicians at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, his cancer will be managed as a chronic illness. None of the prognoses offered by local doctors came to pass, because Chad got the proper treatment he needed. Even so, Chad’s cancer will be with him until the day he dies. His life depends upon continued treatment and insurance coverage to pay for it.

Chad and I were only 30 years old when we were told he had 10 years to live! At that time our two children were ages five and one; it was unacceptable to me that I could lose my young husband so early in our married lives. This leads me to my point: we need health insurance for the REST of our lives so that Chad can continue to receive the care he needs to manage his cancer. We pay the cost of trips to New York City out of our pockets each time, but without insurance we could never afford to pay the cost of treatments that Chad’s life depends on.

Mandy Ottmann
Chad Ottmann: one month after surgery. He and his wife are self-employed and carry insurance with a high deductable. Under the new federal law, the Ottmanns cannot be dropped by their insurance carrier.

We carry a $5000 deductable, an amount we set years before we knew we would be faced with such serious illness. The insurance policies with lower deductables were too expensive for us to afford. Because Chad must have annual checkups, tests, and treatment, we pay the deductable as well as our insurance premium every year. I’m not complaining, because as long as we know we have our insurance for the rest of our health care expenses, I know Chad will live another year.

Congressman Graves, you said on KMA radio that the health care bill is a form of ‘socialism,’ and referred to the fact that it would keep doctors from coming to rural areas. You need to remember that Chad and I are now 35, and we will go to the ends of the earth to manage his disease if we have to – so that Chad can lead a long, normal life and raise his children! Every day Americans die who are not as fortunate as we are; they either don’t have insurance or can’t afford the treatment themselves.

Sometimes just having a doctor isn’t enough. It has to be the right doctor in the right hospital, capable of making the right diagnosis and delivering the needed treatment. Chad had access to plenty of doctors right here in the Midwest, but only one doctor, the one in New York City, could give him the treatment that allowed him to keep working…and living.

WC Farmer
Photography
Mandy and Chad Ottmann with their children, Carter and Katelynn, December 2005.

The system needs to be reformed. Chad and I see this health law as a move in the right direction. We NEED to know that we will still have our insurance thirty years from now and that it won’t be canceled! Please remember people like us – there are so many of us out here. Remember us and work for us. Remember Chad, who, thanks to the care he has received, can talk and work as though nothing is wrong with him. That makes all the difference in the world to us.  Know, too, that for every person who agrees with your stance on this matter, there are two people who don’t.

Chad and I need hope and reassurance for the future. We need health coverage to realize that future.

We operate our own profitable business, and we pay state and federal taxes. A portion of the taxes we pay each year goes to pay for your health care, Congressman Graves. We are sickened when you call health care reform ‘socialism,’ especially when the health care system, including insurance companies, earns billions of dollars in profits every year.

To us healthcare reform is very simply a matter of life or death.

Note: Rep. Sam Graves (Republican, from Missouri’s 6th District) voted against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R.3590).

 

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