68°
Mostly clear
SUN
 89°
 53°
MON
 90°
 58°
TUE
 82°
 56°
WED
 78°
 56°
THU
 79°
 53°

Last hours to vote for the Best of Sonoma County finalists! Don't miss out!

Kristof: This is why we need Obamacare

  • (DONNA GRETHEN / Tribune Content Agency)

The biggest health care crisis in America right now is not the inexcusably messy rollout of Obamacare.

No, far more serious is the kind of catastrophe facing people like Richard Streeter, 47, a truck driver and recreational vehicle repairman in Eugene, Ore. His problem isn't Obamacare, but a tumor in his colon that may kill him because Obamacare didn't come quite soon enough.

Streeter had health insurance for decades, but beginning in 2008 his employer no longer offered it as an option. He says he tried to buy individual health insurance but, as a lifelong smoker in his late 40s, couldn't find anything affordable — so he took a terrible chance and did without.

At the beginning of this year, Streeter began to notice blood in his bowel movements and discomfort in his rectum. Because he didn't have health insurance, he put off going to the doctor and reassured himself that it was just irritation from sitting too many hours.

“I thought it was driving a truck and being on your keister all day,” he told me. Finally, the pain became excruciating, and he went to a cut-rate clinic where a doctor, without examining him, suggested that it might be hemorrhoids.

By September, Streeter couldn't stand the pain any longer. He went to another doctor, who suggested a colonoscopy. The cheapest provider he could find was Dr. J. Scott Gibson, a softhearted gastroenterologist who told him that if he didn't have insurance he would do it for $300 down and $300 more whenever he had the money.

Streeter made the 100-mile drive to Gibson's office in McMinnville, Ore. — and received devastating news. Gibson had found advanced colon cancer.

“It was heartbreaking to see the pain on his face,” Gibson told me. “It got me very angry with people who insist that Obamacare is a train wreck, when the real train wreck is what people are experiencing every day because they can't afford care.”

comments powered by Disqus
© The Press Democrat |  Terms of Service |  Privacy Policy |  Jobs With Us |  RSS |  Advertising |  Sonoma Media Investments |  Place an Ad
Switch to our Mobile View