Healthcare Hostages Dying For Reform

According to Jennifer Tolbert, an analyst for the Kaiser Family Foundation, provisions in both the House and Senate versions of the health care reform bills address the consumer protections that the American Heart Association is so vocally supporting.

"There is broad consensus over these particular issues," said Tolman.

A newly created health insurance exchange would prohibit dropping people because of pre-existing or expensive conditions and those who must quit work because they are too sick, providing federally subsidized coverage.

But in the contentious health care debate that has spiraled into a cultural war, Tolbert cannot predict the outcome.

"It's hard to say whether it will pass," she told "There's a lot wrong with the system and a lot that needs to be fixed, but at the end of the day, it's a political issue."

Even Mike Nelson, a picture framer from Norwich, Ohio, who opposes government intervention in health care, sees the need for better regulation of the insurance industry.

At 60, too young for Medicare, Nelson spends $12,000 a year on his health insurance through his wife's company, in addition to a $10,000 deductible, $8,800 on drugs and $1,300 on rehabilitative services.

"I'm totally uninsurable and the only way I get it is through her," he said. "It's very difficult. We don't ever go on vacation."

In 1996, when Nelson had bypass surgery, his employer gave him a severance package and told him to "have a good life."

"The owner of the company said, 'Mike you know this is only business,'" he said. "I lost a six-figure income, full benefits, a company car, expense account, travel, and 23 years of my life in the food service industry."

He joins the AHA in Washington because, he says, "Maybe I'll help someone down the road."

"They need to do an investigation of insurance companies," he said. "They should make a profit, but at what point are they taking lives? Enough's enough."

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