Affordable Care Act – A Story Calls for Action

Lynn Didn’t Have Obamacare

My dear friend Lynn Moran Wilshusen died  August 28, 2005 of lung cancer because she had no health insurance. She was 58. I believe that, if Lynn had set out to die for a cause, it was to provide health insurance for every American.

Lynn was the most alive, vibrant person I’ve ever known. Animals and books were her passion. She and her husband, Jim, a self-employed contractor, won the Judge’s Choice Award, a splashy yellow and white ribbon, in the Santa Barbara Big Dog Parade in June of 2005. The ribbon and parade photos filled the bulletin board of her room at Hospice.

For years Lynn ran the Planned Parenthood book sale, which earned upwards of $100,000 and went on for nearly two weeks. She used her organizational skills gained during years as an executive secretary and office manager to streamline the book sale: She and her helpers gathered every Saturday morning at the sorting site to sort, price, and rebox the books that had come in that week. All this while working full time.

Kindness, a fullness of spirit, a sense of mischief—these were Lynn’s as well. She saw the sillinesses of life and mocked them. She laughed at the self-importance of people who took life too seriously and yet, ultimately, she took life more seriously than anyone else.

The trouble began in 1997 when the company she and I worked for downsized and she was laid off with much more seniority than my 12 years. It’s hard for someone over 50 to get a job at the office manager level making at that time $17-$18 an hour. She worked for a fish distributor and saved the company’s tuna more than once. When the fish distributor folded, Lynn got a job with an importing company. That was the last time she had insurance. When the importing company moved its offices East, Lynn was out of a job and couldn’t afford the Cobra.

After going without work for a year and a half, Lynn got a job in the spring of 2005, with health insurance effective six months after her starting date.

For nearly two years Jim had been urging her to go to the doctor, but she said, “I’ll wait until I have insurance. The doctor’s too expensive, and I’m afraid I won’t be able to pay the bills.”

Then she began having constant headaches. She’d wait until she had insurance in the fall, she said. Fatigue became her second skin. On July 25 Lynn was admitted to the hospital with severe chest pain. Cancer nodules had grown in the epithelium surrounding her heart, which protected itself by filling the sac with fluid. By the time the cancer was diagnosed, Lynn was too weak to accept chemotherapy.

This is my plea, on Lynn’s behalf, for health insurance for every American. This is my plea, on Lynn’s behalf, that no American ever again die for lack of health insurance.

By An Activist for Affordable Health Care for All