In May 2009, my 61 year old mother, who lives in Maine, was diagnosed with Stage 3 Breast Cancer. My proud mother worked hard every day of her life as a cleaning person to provide me the best education, often bartering with clients so that she could provide dental or eye care or other services for me while I was growing up.
But these days I have full health care coverage through my think tank job in DC, and my mother remains uninsured'as she has been almost her entire life. When I asked her why she had waited so long to get a mammography, she said that the 'free' clinic wasn't really free, and that she simply couldn't afford it. When I asked her why she didn't ask me for the funds, she said that it wasn't my job to take care of her...
So, how does someone like my mother, who insists on standing on her own two feet without help from others, navigate a health care system that simply seems to work against her? It is my sincere hope that as health care reform changes roll out, we create more health and health care information that is easy to understand and accessible for people of all backgrounds. Transparent information about cost, quality, and available support will be needed even more as more people enter the health care system. All of us will have to make numerous decisions about the choices that we have for insurance coverage, and particularly what those choices will mean with regard to cost, treatment decisions and finding safe, decent care.
Several organizations have supported efforts to enhance communication and care quality broadly and in vulnerable communities, such as the Consumer Health Foundation, which provides grants to communities who are trying to enhance care quality for individuals. I believe that with support for and from many grassroots and local organizations, more people like my Mom, will get the information and personal guidance and assistance that they need to make informed choices about their coverage and care.