Woman Who Had Her Face Eaten By A Bear Would Like Some Medicare For All, Please!
Those of us who are prone to dramatic exaggerations often refer to things that are bad as "my worst nightmare!" — just in the last week, my own list has included appearing on "Love is Blind," being stuck at an airport with delays and without any Ativan, various coronavirus-related scenarios, camping in any context whatsoever, etc., etc. But when it comes to worst nightmare scenarios, the idea of getting one's face eaten off by a bear and then getting stuck with $250,000 in medical bills despite having insurance, and then barely being able to eat 12 years later because you can't afford the rest of the treatment you need, really puts things into perspective in terms of how bad a "worst nightmare" can actually be.
And that is a thing that actually happened to 68-year-old Allena Hansen. Twelve years ago, Hansen was just standing around on her ranch in California's Sequoias when she got mauled by a black bear. She lost 14 teeth, and her jaw, eye sockets and nose were completely destroyed.
While Joe Biden is raking in endorsements from everyone in politics this week, following the departures of Pete Buttigieg and Amy "Klobs" Klobuchar, Allena Hansen is endorsing Bernie Sanders. Why? Because, she says, dealing with her health insurance company — Blue Cross — was actually worse than having her face eaten by a bear, and she would like everyone to have good health care so that if they have their face eaten by a bear, that remains the worst thing that has ever happened to them.
Via The Independent:
Ms Hansen, who comes from a family of doctors, said health insurance, and what she dealt with in the aftermath of her bear attack, is a substantial reason why she's put her support behind Sanders for the 2020 election.
"I would like to see a standardised single-payer system and I am, have been for a long time, supporting Bernie Sanders because of that," she said. "People don't realise that there's a public benefit to providing reasonable healthcare." [...]
"Americans don't want good healthcare insurance, they want good healthcare," she said. "There is no reason whatsoever for the insurance industry to be in our public health system, zero."
Now perhaps you are a skeptic and feel that expecting to not pay out the nose you no longer have after a bear eats it is just some "pie-in-the-sky" dream. If you are a Republican, you probably think Hansen ought to take some personal responsibility for the bear eating her face, and that if we have some kind of a system where people can get treated for these kinds of things without going completely broke, everyone will be out there getting their faces eaten by bears. Or they'll become super lazy and not even try to run away from bears who want to eat their faces.
Or, maybe you think it can't be as bad as Hansen is making it out to be. Oh, but it is. She was actually told by Blue Cross that the care she needed to have a face again was not "reasonable or customary":
Ms Hansen remained in the hospital for only one day, but the larger battle occurred once she returned to her 70-acre ranch and had to implore her insurance company to pay for her treatments.
"They make their money by denying services, not providing it," she said. "Their reasoning was 'this is not reasonable or customary treatment.' No, I was mauled by a bear. It tore my face off. That is neither reasonable nor customary."
Can you imagine? You pay your for your insurance every month for however many years, you're responsible, and then you get your face eaten by a bear and your insurance company says they won't cover it, because of how unusual it is for someone to get their face eaten by a bear.
Nearly 12 years later, Ms Hansen is still paying hefty insurance costs, and she estimates she's paid upwards of $250,000 for her bills. Her health insurance denied covering most of the costs for her ophthalmological care, rebuilding her upper jaw, and other treatments.
"It went through all of my retirement savings, my IRAs, my assets. I am now living on a social security pension. Period," she said. Some of Ms Hansen's treatments were paid for by doctors who volunteered their time to her cause.
She's currently on Medicaid and has to pay an estimated $300-400 per month out of pocket for her ophthalmological care, such as eye drops and special contact lenses.
That is so much money! And it's not even covering everything! This woman can barely even eat food because she can't afford the lip implants and dental work needed to help her do that. Hansen says she's given up on most things that could help fix her up because she just doesn't have the money.
One of the saddest parts of Hansen's story is the part where she recounts that while she was getting mauled by the bear, her first thought was how much it was going to cost her.
"Literally, as I was being eaten by a wild beast, I wasn't thinking about Jesus or my family or my son. I was thinking my insurance was not going to pay for this," she told The Independent. "I had to make this calculus as I was being eaten, 'Do I want to survive this?' Not, 'Can I survive this?' Not, 'What am I going to look like?'"
She added: "I think that speaks volumes to the American healthcare system."
It sure does! For the record, I'm not including the picture of Hansen post-bear mauling in this because it's so gruesome, but it is featured in the Independent article.
Now, sure. Most people are not going to have their face eaten by bears. That is an unusual occurrence! But all kinds of other things can and do happen, and a whole lot of them are not going to be things anyone thought they could predict. They're not going to be the result of some moral failing or irresponsibility. Victims of mass shootings regularly go broke paying their medical bills, which just may be the most American thing in the world — but goddamn, it doesn't have to be.
Hansen is supporting Sanders in this race, but he is one of two candidates who think this should not be a thing that happens to people. We have options. We don't actually have to live like this. We all deserve to live in a country where if a bear eats our face we can be more freaked out by the fact that a bear is eating our face than how much we're going to have to pay for the privilege.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse