On Wednesday October 10th, in a conversation with the editorial board of the Columbus Dispatch, Mitt Romney said “We don’t have people that become ill, who die in their apartment because they don’t have insurance.”

Sit with that quote a minute and think.

Really? Beyond knowing in your gut that we do, in fact, have people who die in their apartments, homes, backyards, on the streets, in shelters, at soup kitchens, and in all sorts of places, in part, because they don’t have access to adequate health care, Mitt Romney is missing other parts of the nightmare that is, for 50 million Americans, the reality of not having health insurance.

I’ve written about my friend Anna before, and I will keep writing about her, until and maybe even after we get health care in this country right. Anna had worked at one of Silicon Valley’s pioneers in networking technology. She trained me, just out of the Air Force, as I embarked on my civilian career. She was an amazingly good technical support person, a great trainer, and one of the kindest people I’ve ever known. Sadly, our company didn’t survive the battle against another giant tech firm and Anna and many other people lost their jobs.

Anna struggled looking for a new job during a pretty bad downturn in the economy. Her COBRA health coverage ran out and because of some pre-existing conditions, she could not get any insurance. Doing that entrepreneur thing that folks like Mitt Romney love to talk about, Anna started her own computer support business but was really struggling to make it a go and pay for life in one of the most expensive areas to live in the country. She also found herself in the role of caregiver, taking care of her dying mother, which lasted around a year before her mother passed on.

Anna and her husband, who had also lost his job, decided that their best bet was to sell their house, pay off all their debts, move to a much cheaper place to live, and start a new life in North Carolina. Soon after they moved, Anna got very sick and had to be hospitalized and have surgery. She had NO health insurance (couldn’t get any because of her pre-existing conditions) and unlike Mitt Romney’s claims about people like her getting free health care, she had to pay every cent she and her husband had, plus they had to declare bankruptcy because what little they had wasn’t enough to cover the hospital costs.

Anna never rebounded from this. She tried! She went job hunting constantly, but to no avail. She felt like people thought she was too old to hire and maybe that was partially to blame. She struggled. Her husband got contract work, no benefits. No way to get her covered.

She started having trouble breathing and once again ended up in Mitt Romney’s favorite health care clinic, the emergency room. She had cancer, bad cancer, cancer that should have been caught a long time ago if she’d been receiving regular medical care, checkups, those things that Obamacare would cover. She died within two weeks.

I’m honestly furious as I write this. Anna was one of my best friends in the world and according to a recent report, 26,000 best friends, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, died prematurely in 2010 because they lacked adequate health care coverage. I could be one of those people, if not for the fact that my husband and I have our own small business and were able to qualify for group coverage (a group of two) for which pre-existing conditions are not a test. What would happen if one of us became too ill to work? We would BOTH lose our coverage. We’re both old enough to have enough pre-existing conditions to disqualify each of us individually for coverage. This is the terror we live with as one of those small businesses that Mitt Romney talks about all the time.

For Anna, for the 26,000 people who died prematurely in 2010, for the 50 million people who don’t have health insurance today, for the hundreds of millions of best friends, spouses, parents, and children who are directly impacted by what will happen if we completely repeal the Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare), please don’t let Mitt Romney continue to get away with saying things like “We don’t have people that become ill, who die in their apartment because they don’t have insurance.”

Yes Gov. Romney. They DO die in their apartments and they also die in our arms. And as one of the wealthiest societies on the planet, each of their deaths should be on our conscience.


Craig Wiesner is the co-founder of Reach And Teach, a peace and social justice learning company, transforming the world through teachable moments. Reach And Teach also helps manage Tikkun’s web operations and online store.

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