Kadner: After 11 months of recovery, Kirk should reveal medical bills
By Phil Kadner firstname.lastname@example.org January 2, 2013 6:02PM
U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk participates in a fundraiser at the Willis Tower in Chicago in November. Kirk climbed 37 flights in his first major public appearance since suffering a stroke. | File Photo
Updated: February 4, 2013 2:50PM
U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) plans to climb the 45 steps of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., today, nearly a year after he suffered a stroke.
In an interview with the Sun-Times on Wednesday, he said he plans to look at the Illinois Medicaid program because if he had been restricted to 11 rehab visits under the program, “I would have had no chance to recover like I did.
“So unlike before the stroke, I’m much more focused on Medicaid and what my fellow citizens face.”
It’s unfortunate that a U.S. senator needs to personally experience a catastrophic medical event to understand why so many of us have been campaigning for national health insurance reform.
Kirk wasn’t a big supporter of universal health care before his stroke.
I’m still waiting for him to talk about his view on that subject today.
I’ve publicly called on Kirk to release copies of his medical bills, those paid by his health insurance company and those he’s paid out of his own pocket.
I think it’s important for Americans to understand the cost of first-class health care, which Kirk has received.
I have no problems with him receiving that sort of care.
I just think every American who suffers a serious stroke should realize what it could cost him, even if he’s covered by health insurance.
Twice I have called Kirk’s office in Chicago and left messages for his spokeswoman asking if he would consider releasing his medical bills.
I have yet to receive a reply.
Kirk is getting a lot of sympathy and support from his fellow members of Congress.
He has not set foot in the U.S. Senate since he suffered his stroke on Jan. 21.
Very few American workers would still have a job waiting for them a year after suffering such an illness.
Kirk has talked about how the thought of returning to work has helped his recovery.
I’m hoping he now becomes an outspoken champion for the disabled and those in need of medical care for themselves and their loved ones.
His remarks about reforming Medicaid are the first I’ve seen from him indicating that he understands he is a lucky man, despite his personal misfortune.
Many of Kirk’s fellow Republicans in Congress have been campaigning for personal health care accounts, similar to 401(k) funds, as an alternative to national health insurance.
I’m hoping Kirk will inform them of the folly of such a plan.
There’s no way a working stiff could save enough money to pay for the sort of health care Kirk has received in the past year.
To know that for certain, I would have to see Kirk’s health care bills.
“My hope was my recovery would be easily understood and very public and very transparent,” Kirk told the Daily Herald this week.
“Most times the public figures cover up the big problem they have,” he added.
Well, transparency is exactly what I’m after.
How much did his brain surgery cost? How much for each of those rehabilitation sessions? How much for the prescription drugs he needed and likely will continue to need?
It’s often said that congressmen have Cadillac health insurance plans, but the fact is that all federal employees can choose from a large list of health plans.
My understanding is that even the best of them pay only about 80 percent of the cost of medical bills.
Millions of Americans, of course, have no health insurance, which was the reason President Barack Obama gave for passing the Affordable Care Act.
Many Americans who have insurance often find it difficult to get their claims approved when the costs reach $1 million or more.
Some policies have a cap on them.
Yet there are still people who tell me that we didn’t need health care reform.
I know that it’s needed because for years I’ve handled phone calls from people whose lives were destroyed not by illness, but by the financial problems created by that illness.
It impacts not only the person who is the cancer patient, but his entire family.
Children no longer have money to attend college.
Mom suddenly needs to work two jobs while Dad, who is unemployed due to illness and uninsurable, stays home.
In the case of a sick child, I’ve seen families forced to sell their homes to pay the health care bills.
I knew all of this without having to personally suffer through such a tragedy, although I certainly have seen the medical bills of loved ones who were hospitalized.
It baffles me that so many U.S. congressmen act as if they are clueless when it comes to the costs of such a catastrophic event.
Kirk can give them a clear, undeniable picture of what that means.
I respect the senator’s courage. It’s been a tough road for him learning to walk and talk again.
And the fact is that he will likely never do either the way he did them prior to his stroke.
But just returning to work as a disabled American isn’t going to be enough.
He has been supported financially by the American taxpayer and now is returning to work, a benefit denied to most working stiffs who would face a similar disability.
He has an entire staff to help him get through his work day and wheel him through the corridors of the U.S. Capitol.
I would deny him none of that.
I just want some transparency. What was the financial cost of Kirk’s recovery?
He owes that to the American people who have supported him for the past year.