An Open Letter to the Politicians who Represent Me

August 28, 2015

Our local newspaper recently published this letter…

We are a family of six, living in Tompkins County. We enjoy privileges: a medium-size home, a 10-year-old car with no car payments, the chance to live on one income (allowing me to stay home with our kids - including one with developmental/cognitive challenges), and enough money to buy healthy food.

But, we also haven't been able to save money - for retirement or anything else - since our first child was born in 2004...which means that we currently do not have an extra ~$5,000-$11,000/year that it would cost if my husband and myself purchased health insurance through the Marketplace. My husband is currently self-employed, and Tompkins County is the second-most-expensive place in America to buy health insurance…… .

Our children are insured through Child Health Plus. And we avoid all unnecessary doctor visits anyway. We prioritize our time the way we do because we want to maximize our family's health. But we remember daily that if my husband or I have an accident or land in the hospital for any reason, we could lose everything.

None of our current options are appealing:

1. Reduce our income, and either go into debt, or move - at which point we'd qualify for Medicaid.

2. Continue to be uninsured, and pay increasingly hefty fines at tax time (with similar financial sacrifice as #1).

3. Increase our income (in some way not entirely clear).

Austrian friends of ours recently spent two years living in America, and were amazed that so many Americans have expensive, inadequate, or no health insurance at all. They said: "Now we know why Americans are so obsessed with money and houses and being wealthy: you need it in case something goes wrong! If anything happens to us [in Europe], we are taken care of." I wonder: why doesn't the U.S. government take care of its citizens in a similar way?

ALL humans, under a government that provides basic protection for its citizens, deserve health insurance - regardless of income, station, and circumstance. Healthcare is a more basic need than Public Education, Well-Maintained Highways, or A Very Large Military.

I wish my family had access to Universal Healthcare, funded and run by the government that my family's taxes help support. Healthcare should be a safety net for all citizens, not a legislative disgrace.

Sarabeth Matilsky