Dear Ms. Patient,
I hope this letter finds you well.
Let me begin by saying that it is such a privilege to care for your family. It has been a joy to watch your children grow and your family thrive. I’m sure you will agree that we have been through a lot together.
As you know, I am devoted to help in keeping your family healthy, despite the many obstacles that have arisen. Remember the time when your husband lost his job? You not only lost your family’s main source of income, but everyone lost their health insurance. It was a dark time. We were both surprised to learn that insurance premiums were so expensive. We thought that those prices were crazy until we factored in your diabetes (a preexisting condition) and then realized it was worse than we thought . So you and your husband made the hard decision to go without insurance for a while. Even without insurance premiums, you ended up paying so much for your health care during that time. Minor aches and pains were ignored. I recall that your daughter had a difficult winter with asthma attacks, where you reluctantly agreed to expensive trips to the emergency room.
Having worked your entire life, you never imagined that you could be in this situation. I remember you spoke about the frustration — and enormous parental guilt — you felt for leaving your family so vulnerable. There were sleepless nights, filled with worrying. We both held our breaths in fear every time your son went out to play a football game, praying that he not get injured. The stress of that alone was enough to warrant a doctor’s visit. It was not fair.
There were glimmers of hope. We talked excitedly about a health reform law when it passed a few years ago — though it was unclear exactly how it would help your family at the time. As it turns out, your mother did get some money back for her Medicare prescriptions and she was pleasantly surprised to be offered a free annual wellness visit newly given to all Medicare beneficiaries.
The Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act and I breathed an enormous sigh of relief. At that moment I could visualize the faces in your family and many others in similar situations who will qualify for affordable health insurance. I am thrilled to tell you that soon you will no longer have to feel embarrassed or guilty. It will be different. If your partner were to lose his job again, you and your family could still access affordable health insurance. Preexisting medical problems will no longer factor into the cost of health insurance premiums. If you or any family member gets sick, there will be no caps on insurance coverage. It is hard to believe that a decision by only nine people so removed from us can make such a tremendous impact on our daily lives. But this decision does. This law will allow me to be a better doctor for your family. It will give you peace of mind and security that your family members can get the health care they deserve.
Great things are happening. Have a fun and safe summer. I look forward to seeing you at a future visit.
Dr. Ricky Y. Choi, MD, MPH
Ricky Y. Choi is a pediatrician who blogs at SFGate and the Huffington Post San Francisco. It reprinted with the author’s permission.