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To the Newly Elected Politicians Considering Healthcare Reform

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Dear Newly Elected and Appointed Officials:

My name is Maria Zuccarello. I am a fully credentialed Special Education teacher for the Los Angeles Unified School District. I also have a Master’s degree in Special Education. I am writing to urge you to take a vital and necessary role in maintaining and further developing healthcare reform efforts that will ultimately lead to universal healthcare coverage for every American citizen.

I have Goldenhar syndrome and hydrocephalus. I have had over 20 surgeries to correct my facial deformities, eye problems, and hydrocephalus. I wore a back brace for nine years for scoliosis. In addition, I must wear a hearing aid. Originally, some of my needs were covered by private medical
insurance from my father’s group insurance plan provided by his original employer. It never covered all of my medical needs, resulting in thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses. For example, my hearing aid was never completely covered. A hearing aid is a necessity for me to participate as a productive member of society. In fact, my most recent hearing aid was not covered by my current
medical insurance provided by my employer.

My late father, an immigrant from Italy (and naturalized American citizen) always wanted to start his own business and live the “American Dream.” One of the consequences of living his “American Dream” was the great difficulty of finding both affordable and comprehensive coverage that would cover all my medical needs when I was still a child. Health insurance companies were wary of insuring me. Because of my many past surgical and medical procedures and preexisting conditions, they saw me as an enormous financial risk.

After a significant period of searching, my father found the Major Risk Medical Insurance Program (MRMIP) to cover most, not all, of my needs. This government program is for persons such as myself who are a “major medical risk.” However, the premiums are astonishingly high and frankly prohibitive for most of the Americans it is supposed to benefit. I was on this program – the only
one to take me – for several years. It saw me through every doctor visit and surgery. Yet MRMIP did not cover the cost of my hearing aid.

MRMIP was not a perfect solution to my health insurance concerns, but it allowed my parents and I to worry less about paying for medical care or gaining permission for my specialist visits. Therefore, I was able to concentrate on earning my BA from Pitzer College and my Master’s from Cal State Northridge, leading to my current career as an Educator.

No health insurance or inadequate insurance can equal more illness, more incapacity and more dependence on government living assistance (welfare, SSI and the like.) Special Education is supposed to help people with disabilities become productive and functioning members of society. However, without proper healthcare it is difficult for us to achieve this goal. Improper or inadequate healthcare contributes to absenteeism in both school and the workplace, and an inability to work or learn at full capacity.

This brings me to the purpose of my letter and my plea to you. The Affordable Care Act was a momentous step in the quest for universal health care. I am asking you to continue to work
towards the end of private insurance monopolies and the implementation of more affordable or free insurance that addresses the real health needs of the entire U.S. population in a comprehensive and timely manner.

Appropriate and accessible healthcare is paramount to a fully functioning society. With stable healthcare, people can more single-mindedly apply themselves to study, work and the pursuit of opportunities that cater to their personal interests. The vast amount of opportunities offered in this country has always been the backbone of the American Dream. Prohibitive healthcare costs and inadequate coverage impede access to the American Dream.

People with disabilities are largely unemployed or underemployed. Some who are unemployed but have marketable skills become entrepreneurs and open their own business. This is a barrier to healthcare, as people with disabilities often rely on group insurance for affordable medical coverage. However, it is difficult for anyone with or without a disability to get or retain a job – particularly one offering health coverage. So, a person with a disability would be well advised to maintain individual insurance, but it is difficult to get adequate coverage for a reasonable price.

The insurance companies have been unduly prejudiced against people with disabilities for too long. In order to gain the full benefit of the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Affordable Care Act, I urge you to head a healthcare reform which guarantees no-cost, full-coverage care that is equally accessible to all people regardless of their disability.

Thank you for taking the time to read my concerns. I hope the information I have given you puts the situation in a new perspective. I hope to see you as a strong voice in insurance and healthcare reform.

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Originally published: November 29, 2016
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