A campaign supporter, Cherish, who lives in a north Atlanta suburb, shared this story with me as we discussed access to affordable healthcare on Facebook. Sadly, it isn’t the first and it won’t be the last example of how many in our community are frustrated, scared, and feel a little trapped by the failure of Piedmont and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia to negotiate their contracts:

“My family is now impacted by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia and Piedmont feud which made everyone out-of-network as of April 1st. I went to Piedmont Hospital today for my mammogram and walked out before having it. I had abnormalities last year and followed up at the Doris Shaheen Center for a few months with advanced testing to eventually get an all clear to resume normal annual visits.

Now, Piedmont is out-of-network, which not only means the Shaheen Breast Center is out-of-network, but also my triplet’s pediatrician, my gynecologist, and also our internist. The boys have to get tested for cancer every three months and are thankfully, tested at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, but these orders are submitted through their Piedmont pediatrician.

Piedmont is offering 60% discount for those abruptly impacted with out-of-network fees, but it still would have cost me hundreds of dollars in extra out-of-pocket. They advised that I ask BCBS to submit Continuation of Care letters for every Piedmont doctor our family visits to allow in-network charges without switching doctors.

I ran into one of our kids’ nurses in the elevator at Piedmont, and she advised to wait a month before switching all our doctors. She said this happens every time the contracts are up and assured me it will get resolved. I can’t believe we could face having to either pay out-network rates (UNACCEPTABLE) or change ALL OF OUR DOCTORS in our family. I am so livid and disgusted at BCBS. This greed may very well cost lives, and BCBS of GA would be to blame!”

With everything Cherish has to deal with between her own health issues and those of her children, you’d think it’s enough to just manage her and her family’s doctors’ visits and budget for her bills. But we all know that isn’t the reality.

Surprise medical emergencies can cost thousands of dollars, and the uncertainty of getting insurance to cover preexisting conditions remains a big concern for many Georgians.

And this contract between BCBS and Piedmont? Without it, half a million Georgians (including many in our district) face my friend’s situation – having to pay much more to see their regular doctors, or find new care providers as soon as possible.

This isn’t right.

It shouldn’t be up to lawyers and accountants whether you can go to the doctors you have trusted for years. And no one should have to choose between paying for an emergency room visit and paying their mortgage.

Our legislators haven’t done much to try to fix this situation. But, they sure have talked a lot about “personal responsibility.”

I’d argue that by allowing lawyers and accountants to interfere with access to medical care, we are taking away a person’s ability to be responsible for their own health.

Let’s stop blaming people who are sick and in need of our compassion and support. And let’s start helping people get the care they need so they can be healthier and contribute more fully to their families and their communities.

I made healthcare one of my top policy priorities because I believe it IS our government’s responsibility to provide access to affordable, quality healthcare. A strong government can support a growing economy without trampling basic human needs.

As your representative in the Georgia Senate, I will vote my values, and I will fight for a single payer system to make sure everyone in Georgia is covered. No one should have to fight their insurance companies while fighting for their health.