When President Obama addresses Congress tonight, he'll come with faces in the crowd to illustrate in human terms the need for health legislation. One of those faces will be from Little Rock.
He's David Turner, 43, a sales rep at Computer Hut, who lost his health coverage -- 13 months retroactively -- from Arkansas Blue Cross. The rescission decision, upheld by the state insurance commissioner, made it impossible for him to buy his own private insurance coverage. He said the state's poor, expensive high-risk pool coverage wasn't a good alternative.
More of Turner's story on the jump, but this UPDATE:
Turner didn't called out by name during the speech, but he joined other victims of the medical industry at Obama's speech in sitting with the first lady and other notables such as the widow of Sen. Edward Kennedy. NPR has the full list, including another Arkie, John Martineau of Hot Springs:John is a 35-year old father who is working part-time and attending school part-time. John cannot afford health insurance and his four year old son, Jaxon, suffers from seizures. Jaxon is covered under CHIP, but John is uninsured and is constantly worried because he cannot afford health insurance. He runs the Organizing for America Hot Springs phone bank twice a week. He is working hard for health insurance reform so that he and other families with children who suffer from illnesses like Jaxon's won't have to go uninsured.
Turner, who talked to me by phone from a Washington, D.C. Banana Republic store where he stopped to buy more clothes for a newly scheduled meeting tomorrow with U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, applied for coverage under his company's group policy when he went to work there more than three years ago. He used the coverage once during a 13-month period -- for a $300 physical when he turned 40. Then, "out of the blue," came a letter from Blue Cross saying it had reviewed his past medical records and found he had failed to disclose previous medical conditions in his application form.
"They were some conditions either a), I didn't know I had or b) were over a regular person's head to know what they were talking about."
Example: Blue Cross said Turner had failed to report a digestive system problem. He learned that meant he'd failed to report a doctor's visit about a hemorrhoid complaint, which the doctor said didn't require treatment. "I had no fricking idea hemorrhoids were a part of the digestive system," Turner said.
For such omissions, Blue Cross said it was rescinding its coverage of Turner. He appealed to the company. Denied. He appealed to the state. Denied. The state said it didn't believe Turner had done anything fraudulent -- it told he he'd merely "misrepresented" his medical history. He was made to repay the $300 the insurance company had paid toward his physical. He had made no other insurance claim.
Frustrated, Turner found a website, www.families.usa.org, which chronicles the plight of Americans victimized by the medical industrial complex. He wrote a short summary of his experience. "It was just cathartic," he said.
That was two years ago. He didn't think about it again until last week, when a whirlwind began. He received a call from the White House, which learned about Turner from the familiesusa post. One thing led to another and he was provided a ticket to join the president for his speech tonight. He'll go to the White House at 4 p.m. and then join a retinue heading to the joint gathering of Congress.
Turner has insurance today, thanks to family coverage of his spouse, who works at UAMS. But, he says, "I'm almost afraid to go to a doctor."