By Kim Stagliano (read more about the meeting in The Connecticut Post HERE,)
Last night, my husband, three daughters and I attended the healthcare town hall meeting in Bridgeport, CT, hosted by our Congressman Jim Himes (D.) We couldn't get a sitter, so we decided to bring the kids along rather than miss the event. After all, healthcare for children is of paramount importance (right Elmo?) I packed GFCF pretzels and a portable DVD player for the kids. Locked and loaded!
The evening began with a few words from Congressman Himes about his desire to see all Americans with healthcare coverage and his honest appraisal of where he felt some of the faults in the system are today. Aging population requiring more healthcare, higher mortality rates and worse outcomes per dollar spent than other nations, spiraling healthcare costs, and a system created after WWII where employers, who once took care of employees from cradle to grave, are the keepers of health insurance.
In today's world, a worker is likely to change jobs several times over the course of a career. The days of Dad packing his lunch every day for 45 years at the same factory or office and getting a gold watch upon retirement are long gone.
Then began the Q&A. Now, Bridgeport, CT is in Fairfield County, Connecticut, one of the wealthiest counties in the nation and home to Greenwich, New Canaan, Darien and other towns that conjure images of gardenparties with gin and tonics and Range Rovers in every driveway. Bridgeport ain't Darien. It's a working class city without a lot of jobs left.
The crowd was primarily in favor of President Obama and a revised healthcare plan for the nation. There were, however, lots of folks who were against a public option, felt that American health care in its current form is fine the way it is and who vocally derided every pro-change citizen who posed a question. Hey, that's democracy. We each get a voice.
And I did too. After two hours of channeling Arnold Horshack (Ooh! Oooh! Pick me!) I got to ask a question. It went something like this.
"Hi, I'm Kim Stagliano and I live here in Fairfield County. Last year my husband lost his job. We couldn't afford COBRA. We applied for private health insurance. We were turned down because our three daughters, who are seated behind me, have autism. Will you make certain that people with autism are not turned away from healthcare? Also, we are, I believe, the only nation that allows direct to consumer ads by pharmaceutical companies. They spend billions. Could we tap into that dollar pool to help pay for healthcare? Thank you."
Congressman Himes answered that just last night he'd spent the evening with families who have children on the spectrum and he was shocked to learn about the financial devastation that never seems to end. So "yes" was his answer, he would include autism in healthcare. At that point, I kind of zoned out and didn't catch his answer on advertising dollars from pharma.
Everyone clapped, I got thousands of eyes giving me the, "Oh honey, how DO you do it?" look as I walked back to my seat, where I hugged my girls who were well behaved for over two hours, sitting quietly (ish) in their seats.
How do any of us "do it?" How do we love and adore and raise our kids with autism? I never seem to have an adequate answer for that. We just do it, don't we?
Kim Stagliano is Managing Editor of Age of Autism.