Next month, I will undergo my 73rd operation since experiencing a car accident as a teenager in 1983.
Every bone beneath my waist suffered multiple fractures in the wreck, and although we worked valiantly to save them, I eventually relinquished both of my legs during the '90s. The massive pain I still live with confounds some of the best pain specialists available … all of whom state that people with my level of trauma and pain are under sedation, in nursing homes, or dead.
Throughout this ordeal, I've never received one dime from lawsuits, disability funds, welfare, or any entitlement program … and our family continues to live on a modest salary. At the end of 2008, our current debt for my nearly $9 million in medical bills, including more than $10,000 in ongoing monthly prescriptions, is zero. That's right … no debt!
Due to extreme diligence, my family thrives in this medical nightmare. Although considered "uninsurable," we have changed insurance companies six times since my accident without experiencing an even one-hour gap in coverage. I wear the best prosthetic limbs on the market, and whatever my doctors deem medically necessary … is readily available to me. The answer is not because I am a privileged member of society, nor is it because I am wealthy (you'd laugh … or cry…if you saw our checkbook). No, the answer comes from the one topic everyone seems to avoid: personal responsibility.
You see, my health-care issues are not yours, and I don't vote for candidates who promise to take care of me (as if they would or could). My issues belong to me and my family … and we work hard to make sure services are rendered properly, billed accurately and paid for timely.
With no health-care training whatsoever (my husband and I both majored in music), our more than 20-year journey has provided so much understanding that my husband even created a simple three-step plan to strengthen our current national system with billions of dollars … without raising taxes. Health care is not a political or academic theory to us, nor is it even a vocation … but rather a 24/7, 365 days-a-year scenario for us. If we don't remain diligent, I may lose the ability to walk … or possibly my life.
Listening to able-bodied politicians with no credible health-care experience force their opinions on the American people is insulting. The federal government is currently charged with maintaining three national health programs: Medicaid, Medicare and the Veterans' Administration (VA). The administration of these programs in no way inspires confidence to increase the role of the federal government in health care.
Health-care reform begins with individuals taking responsibility for their own lives. It must not be reduced to a political trophy, nor used to create more voters for power- hungry politicians. I am living proof that the government is not needed in order to survive a catastrophic (or any other) medical crisis.
Many "experts" have other opinions … but my experience trumps their opinions.
Gracie Rosenberger is the founder and executive director of Standing With Hope, a non-profit prosthetic limb outreach to developing countries. www.standingwithhope.com.