Archive for Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Letter to the editor: People’s lives aren’t trash

November 14, 2007

To the editor:

The Kansas Health Policy Authority Board Health Reform recommendations for improving health and health care in Kansas identified three priorities for health reform, including providing and protecting affordable health insurance -- to help those Kansans most in need gain access to affordable health insurance. "Affordability" is not our only concern.

Providing and protecting affordable insurance is an admirable priority, but if certain illnesses or groups of medications are excluded, and if it remains permissible to accept limited insurance coverage for crisis care vs. prevention care, our policies will look good on paper, yet they will be no better than what many Kansans have today. It is currently legal for an insurance company in Kansas to discriminate against a person because they have received care for a psychiatric illness or related disorder. An individual may be denied life insurance, and the quality of their insurance coverage frequently suffers too.

I shudder when hearing people refer to their mother as schizophrenic, their friend as bipolar; or a soldier coming back with severe head trauma often talked about as a "thing." Those peoples' illness or disorder is a "thing." And it's not so hard to throw a thing away, if you feel it has no value. It becomes an object; it can easily be designated as trash.

Stigma doesn't affect only those in the military with psychiatric illnesses or related disorders; it affects all of us. And it doesn't just affect our service members while they are on active duty. By discriminating through insurance, housing or the work place, we do begin to throw away people's opportunity for leading a regular life (a valuable person who is a contributing member of society). We in essence throw away their opportunity for life, just like we'd take out the trash.

We dispose of "things"; they are inanimate objects. It's considered normal, even good, to throw out trash. It's considered a normal part of cleaning. Whether at home, work, school or at play, there's often a receptacle for trash nearby. It's a place to put unwanted objects, not people's lives.

Bustin' the stigma.

Sharon Cunningham
Minds and K9s Inc., Leavenworth

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