Baldies' Blog began originally in the UK by a 26 year old journalist with a blood cancer on a mission to inform the world about bone marrow donation.

He has since died, and I took on the cause of making cancer care more transparent for everybody.

Cancer is a disease that will touch everybody through diagnosis or affiliation: 1 in 2 men will be diagnosed and 1 in 3 woman will hear those words, "You Have Cancer."

I invite you to read how I feel along my journey and
how I am continuing to live a full life alongside my Hodgkin's lymphoma, with me controlling my cancer, not my cancer controlling me.

I hope that "Baldies' Blog" will prepare you to handle whatever life sends you, but especially if it's the message, "You Have Cancer."

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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Senate Bill 505

I had committed myself to speaking today in support of Senate Bill 505 which would establish a Health Care Commission in NH.

Unfortunately, our family has experienced another catastrophe, and I am remaining at home. I'll write more about our life events later, but please, read my PLEADS below to support Senate Bill 505 in NH.

Hello and thank you for allowing me to speak in support of Senate Bill 505 to create a health care cost commission.

My name is Hillary StPierre. I am a lifelong NH resident and registered nurse. I am also Hodgkin's lymphoma patient. I was diagnosed four years ago, at the age of twenty-three, while working full-time as a critical care/emergency department nurse, and parenting my three year old son.

In the past four years I have had to wage a battle for my life, undergoing multiple chemotherapy rounds of chemotherapy, radiation, and two bone marrow transplants.

I am now in remission, but I currently suffer from debilitating side effects of treatment that will render me disabled for the rest of my life.

I have fought my cancer alongside another strenuous, uphill battle: a battle to sustain my livelihood due to astronomical healthcare costs.

Upon Diagnosis, I was making $65,000 yearly as an RN with shift differentials, over time, and bonuses. My base pay, however, was $36,900. When I became sick, short-term disability insurance covered 60% of my base pay.

My new, sick, yearly income equaled $22,140 yearly.

Immediately upon diagnosis, I took a $42,860 pay cut.

My very first procedure, the biopsy to confirm my diagnosis, reached my 2006 insurance deductable of $2500. We paid $250 monthly for coverage at that time or $5500 total cost, excluding co-payments, co-deductable and other expenses. My first year treatment costs were more than the entirety of my income.

Four years later, my insurance deductable is $4,000 with a monthly payment to maintain insurance at $400 for our family of three. Our family of three pays a minimum of $8800 yearly for healthcare.

This is a base health insurance increase of 65.2% in four years.

During the same period, my income has not increased. Health care costs are driving us farther into debt.

Not only have I not had an increase in income, but in 2007, my disability insurance company, Reliance Standard, notified us that they had erroneously overpaid my monthly award. We owed $7452.

They sued us for the expenses the week I experienced respiratory failure and my family was told to plan my funeral.

Fortunately, I did not die, but the fight for my life, and with Reliance Standard, continues.

Currently, Reliance Standard, my long-term disability insurance company that I secured for my financial protection during illness, is again stating overpayment due to their error of failing to deduct my social security payments from my income.

My monthly payments have stopped.

They are attempting to request repayment of $566 from October 2007 to May 2009, a grand total of $24,338.

This exceeds my total income from social security and would alone bankrupt my family and me. Statistically, I debt exceeds a person’s annual income, they are bankrupt and will never have the ability to repay debt.

Upon consulting a lawyer and Congressman Paul Hodes Office, I was told this is an entirely legal practice. My only option would be a payment plan.

I am not surprised 1 in 4 bankruptcies filed are due to health care catastrophes.

Alongside this one example, I have been refused life saving medication through on-line pharmacy Medco because I did not have a credit card to pay the $100 “floor rate” required.

I have also fought a $12 charge for a box of tissues received at the hospital.

Our yearly healthcare expenses average $20,000.

These practices not only make health care unaffordable, but inaccessible.

The message I receive when I’m told I can’t get medication without a credit or receive treatment until I sign a waiver of financial responsibility, is my rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are not as important as the bottom line.

The presentation of Senate Bill 505 offers hope that patients like me will be given a public voice where we currently have none.

The commission could hold public hearings to allow members to state the reasonableness of rates.

It would also ensure that rates are equitable for all insurers and that charges or actions are not discriminatory, such as the current practice of “purging” patients by raising rates to make insurance costs unaffordable.

We patients would finally have a committee to advocate on behalf of us when we experience predatory, oppressive practices like in my current situation with Reliance Standard.

A Health Care Cost Commission would also establish and enforce currently used, successful models of cost regulation from other states, such as Maryland’s commission that is estimated to have saved the state health care costs by as much as 40 billion, which is successful by making costs transparent among insurers and hospitals. This has encouraged all parties to set prices based on cost of care vs. market rates.

Transparency is a proven method of health care cost reduction. In the late 1990s Life Insurance Rates dropped drastically. Suddenly, consumers were paying 1 billion less yearly for life insurance premiums.

A 1999 a study in “Political Economy “ magazine researched the sudden drastic reduction in life insurance costs to consumers and concluded the cause was on-line comparison sites.

Suddenly, what was once a difficult task of comparing rates and benefits was easy. Consumers could pick the best option for the best prices in under and hour.

Consumers were now informed and companies could no longer leverage their knowledge against the consumer’s fear of being unprotected.

A NH Health Commission could put theories into action to provide efficient, quality care at reasonable rates.

NH has the opportunity to protect our sick and make our state one of the best places to access healthcare in the country, and approving Senate Bill 505 would be a step in the right direction.

Thank you for the work you have all done making the health care system better for patient/consumers like my family and me.

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