Demanding Better Healthcare as Legislator and Patient

An unexpected diagnosis helps fuel my long struggle for single payer healthcare.

We are informed by our experiences. As of this past May, the 5th to be exact, I can add the experience of being diagnosed with breast cancer to my knowledge base.

It is indeed a unique experience for me as I have enjoyed relatively good health for the majority of my sixty years.

As I was soon to find out, for many in my circle of constituents, colleagues and acquaintances, this is a shared experience.

The good news is that my breast cancer is curable; the treatment plan of fourteen months which includes twenty-eight rounds of chemotherapy plus weeks of radiation should ensure that I am cancer free.

It has already been interesting how my diagnosis overlaps with my legislative role as State Representative for the 194th.

In late June I spoke at a press conference at the capitol to encourage the Senate to vote on final passage of HB60 that ensures oral chemotherapy would be available to patients at the same co-pay as intravenous chemotherapy. Insurance companies have been, in many instances, charging patients cost prohibitive co-pays for oral chemotherapy.

I had been a champion of this legislation long before my diagnosis but hope that speaking out and being public about my own situation helped to get this bill to the Governor’s desk. HB60 is now the law.

In addition, an early observation in this fourteen month adventure is the number of times that my health care provider has stated that a certain test or treatment is recommended, however, it will depend on my health insurance coverage.

It is my belief that licensed health care providers i.e. doctors, nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants should determine treatment plans for their patients and not have their treatment plans subjected to, in some instances, a vigorous defense to an insurance company on behalf of their patients.

Experiencing the health care system from my new “patient” perspective reinforces my experiences in my private sector career. As a former CEO heading up two not-for-profit and two for-profit organizations over a twenty eight year career, I am intimately familiar with the process of acquiring and offering health insurance to employees.

My experience tells me that we need a different solution and the Affordable Care Act is not that solution despite its goal to cover citizens that were previously not covered under a health plan.

My bill, HB1688, is proposed legislation for single payer health care – basically, Medicare for all. Under single payer a licensed health care provider would rarely need to defend their treatment plans on behalf of their patients.

As I stated in the beginning, we are informed by our experiences and be assured I will incorporate my new “patient” perspective into my legislative advocacy on behalf of my constituents.

Representative Pamela A. DeLissio serves the 194th Legislative District, which includes East Falls.

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