The Redhead Healthcare Manifesto

iStock_000010196668XSmallI’m a 37-year-old Caucasian female with mild asthma and breast implants. “Sedentary” isn’t a word that comes to mind when I describe my lifestyle. My adventures have taken me around the world and to over 19,000 feet above sea level via my own two feet. I’m a track and road cyclist, rock/ice/alpine climber, trail runner and a former competitive bodybuilder. As the owner of my own small yet rapidly growing business, I carry my own health insurance and have since 2007.

If I applied for new health coverage today, I’d be uninsurable. This, I know – because I tried.

Back in July of 2009, a simple accident resulted in a shattered tibia/fibula in my left ankle, netting me eight screws, one plate and six excruciating weeks on a pair of crutches. Apparently, this is a “major surgery” and the Percocet they prescribed me for pain management following surgery is “serious medication.” I slipped, fell and now…I’m uninsurable as a result of these two things as well “asthma.” Mind you, the asthma was disclosed on my initial health care application and they still insured me (with an approximate 20% upcharge for associated risk).

Denial based on breast implants, major surgery, serious medication and asthma.

As we’re approaching an era where a national health care option for the United States is possible, I’m stepping back this week to say I’m sick and tired of the bickering. I bust my ass to grow my business and the reward I get for making a go of it on my own is a health care and self-employment tax penalty.

And I think it’s horse shit.

Before I share my list of requests from the government in this country I’m proud to call home, here’s a preemptive strike: I understand there are those who do not have health insurance. I get it that “I should be thankful for what I have” and all that jazz. For all that’s holy, I’m not asking for sexual favors as part of my health care plan. What I’m asking for is for my government to start acting like a business and less like a collective bunch of Yes Men and listen to the American public.

If you’re a regular reader of Dear Redhead (and I thank you), you may find some of my views surprising considering I’m a supporter of same-sex marriage, the abolition of DADT and the right to choose. I think it’s pathetic that we can raise millions of dollars for earthquake relief in third world countries yet if asked to donate the same amount of money to lessen the federal deficit we’d roll our eyes and offer a staunch “hell no.” These are odd times in which we live and I feel our priorities as a nation have skewed so that we can’t see the forest for the trees.

Enough of the New Coke Healthcare Campaign

Remember back in the mid-80s when Coca-Cola decided that it wasn’t good enough? It released New Coke. They slammed the campaign through, kinda like Pepsi Clear. That’s what my government is doing with healthcare reform. You’re slamming a campaign through to fix something that people say needs fixing. I’m not arguing with the need for a “fix.” But what I don’t need is a syrupy-sweet placebo that’s going to be rushed and ill conceived because you have people screaming for answers. Sit down. Map a course. Think like a corporation. Understand the costs, ramifications and disclose your plan to your shareholders: the American public. I an still unclear as to what’s going to come down the pipe funded by my tax dollars if this reform bill should pass. I’m terrified that what’s coming is another AdWeek headline about a failed advertising campaign instead of an actual operable and sound solution set for the health care issues that my friends and I face. Lord knows, it took years upon years for the health care industry to become as corrupt and exclusive as it is today – how do you dare tell the American public that it’s something to be remedied in the first 18 months of a new Presidential administration?

Put the Human Back in Health Care

I go to see doctors for care, not an automated underwriting system. I am a healthy, childless female with great cholesterol results, CBC testing that gives no pause and athletic ability that allows me to aggressively pursue whatever I determine is my adventure-du-jour. I do not have asthma attacks and my boobs – saline-filled though they may be – are not a health risk. When I apply for a life insurance policy, I have to undertake a physical exam to qualify. If a doctor were to examine ME and not a computer-generated application, I’d be the ideal health insurance candidate. Active, low-risk, healthy diet, low to no risk factors.

But what a computer looks at is “triggers.”

Stop looking at me as an excuse to deny coverage and put the “human” back in health care. The message you’re sending me (and many other Americans) is that by forging our own way in our nation’s economy, we’re less worthy of care than those protected by a corporate umbrella where risk can be shared. You’re telling me that the life I’ve chosen for myself, one that’s active and healthy, is less insurable than the morbidly obese corporate lackey by nature of association. I don’t buy it. I understand that insurance companies are not charities and pre-existing conditions all have an associated risk. I want options for health care that allow for me to be considered as a person, not an application to be flagged by computer for probable denial.

Treat My Business Like Big Business

My entire life has been a collection of work, trials, successes and tribulations, culminating in the incredible place I exist in today as a small business owner. Where others are struggling, I’m breaking down walls and seeking alliances in order to expand my business. Yet I am a company of ONE. If I walked into an ad agency today and accepted a position as a W2 employee, my health care concerns would be silenced as I’d have the entire company to absorb whatever risk I pose with my saltwater boobs and asthma that lets me train to race bicycles and climb Mt. Kilimanjaro without the use of an inhaler.

I want my government to begin rewarding small business owners with the greatest gift possible: equal opportunity. Stop hitting me with a self-employment tax and telling me my “group of one” poses too much risk for me to get better healthcare. Especially if I’m willing to pay for it. I find it astonishing that my current insurance provider, Kaiser Perm, will continue to insure me (and raise my rates) on my current plan but will not allow me to pay $50-$75/month for a better plan because I had crap luck and took a fall down a few stairs. And no – my breast implants did not cause me to be “top heavy” and cause the fall and I was breathing fine at the time, I’m confident.

Offer Me Options, Not Ultimatums

As it currently stands, the healthcare reform bill is a pass/fail measure. Back to my point of running healthcare reforms like a slick (headed for failure) ad campaign, stop trying to shove the entire Thanksgiving turkey down your throat in one bite. Or rather, down MY throat.

If you offered the American public and their Congressional affiliates bite-sized options instead of a “take all you want but eat all you take” approach, we might offer you a bit more buy in. The current dictatorial healthcare buffet does one thing and one thing only: divides this nation – the nation that elected you. Take steps. Healthcare was broken before Obama landed in office. It’s likely to be broken for a fair time to come. Those in Canada, the UK and Cuba (nations with socialized or subsidized medicine) still have those who attest their health care is broken in places. We’ll never have a plan that pleases everyone, so stop acting like Yes Men and put on your strategic marketing hats. Think in healthcare morsels.

Who is the target beneficiary? What will it provide them? Who will it NOT serve? What are the pros and cons?

Tell us. We’re listening. We’re not idiots. We want explanations. We’re smart enough to determine if those explanations are answers for our particular situations.

So, there you have it: four simple demands from a demanding redhead in Denver, Colorado. My health insurance premiums are paid-up and I just had a voluntary follow-up with my orthopedic surgeon who was astounded at my strength, activity level and range of motion in my left ankle. And I’ll also add that he was appalled when I told him Kaiser denied my insurance application for a better plan citing “major surgery” and “serious medication.” I believe his exact quote was, “It was an accident!”

Yes. Yes, it was. And if we’re not careful, we’re headed for an even bigger accident with healthcare in this country. But it won’t be an accident. It will be very deliberate.


  1. Roy Mattison

    Ms. Napoletano, Hello. A little about myself before I begin. I know your position exactly as I owned 2 businesses except mine were with 6 employees. Not enough to get a discount, but more than enough to pay much more taxes, fees, etc. and headaches. (If you can remain profitable without employees, do yourself a great favor and do so!) OK, that said, while on vacation in Florida I was riding a motorcycle thru the Everglades NP to enjoy nature and feel the wind on my face. I was struck head on by an illegal alien driving without insurance. Even with all the insurance I had, it could not cover 6 months in the hospital and 27 surgeries, helicopter rescue, etc etc etc. I lost both businesses, my house, and although I chose not to go bankrupt, it took me 10 years to come out of debt. I am not disabled and live in severe pain 24/7. Being from Vermont my pain doctor highly suggested that I leave the NE during the winter to lessen the discomfort and I choose to buy a house in Costa Rica. I met a wonderful local there and married her. At that time I acquired dual citizenship and with my wife working for the University of Costa Rica as a professor I was covered under Costa Rica’s Social Medicine. This was a great benefit for the 6 months that I lived there….OR so I thought! The time I had to wait in order to see a doctor was 3 months minimum and some specialists required 7 months waiting time to be seen! My wife’s aunt died of cancer while waiting to be seen by a specialist! Even when your appointment date does arrive, you show 15 minutes early only to wait in the office for 3 to 5 HOURS for the doctor to finally call you in! If you want SOCIAL medicine, this is what we have to look forward to! How happy I am when my flight arrives back in the good ‘ol US of A because I know that when I have a kidney stone emergency (I get one about every 2 years) I know that when I show at the E-room, I will be seen within the hour unless some major catastrophe is going on.
    Try a little experiment, don’t choose just one country, but goto several and interview the locals about social medicine. There is one way around it, as there is always in this world…MONEY talks…walk in with cash and you will be seen quicker, but so many don’t have that money to do so. The wealthy in this country, just like the wealthy in every other country, will always avoid the hassles of the poor.
    More people will die with social medicine because medicine will be backed up. People will run to the doctor with just a scratch or a sneeze because medicine will be free. But if you or I have breast or prostate cancer, at least as of right now we will be seen promptly weather we are insured, under insured or not insured at all. We don’t need the government to run health care. Every business the government has put their hand to has never been profitable. It will be better to highly regulate the insurance companies or to privatize social medicine, but for god’s sake, don’t let the government get their hands in it.

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