Honorable Steve Kagen, M.D.

Wisconsin's former 8th District Representative

January 4, 2007 to December 22, 2010

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Hobart cancer patient Laura Klitzka watches Obama unveil Patients’ Bill of Rights

Posted on Jul 8, 2010 by

Hobart cancer patient Laura Klitzka watches Obama unveil Patients’ Bill of Rights

By Larry BivinsGreen Bay Press Gazette, Washington Bureau • June 23, 2010

WASHINGTON — Green Bay-area cancer patient Laura Klitzka was back in Washington on Tuesday, this time witnessing President Barack Obama’s unveiling of a Patients’ Bill of Rights.

Klitzka is the Hobart mother of two who introduced Obama last June at a Green Bay health-care reform forum and sat in first lady Michelle Obama’s box when the president addressed Congress in September. She was among 160 guests and officials, including Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, attending the White House event.

She said she was pleased to be witness to Obama’s update on the implementation of health-care reform that he signed into law 90 days ago. The new regulations, which Obama calls a Patients’ Bill of Rights, take effect Sept. 23.

"It’s nice to see that finally some changes are going to be made, not just for myself but for everybody," Klitzka said.

One of those new regulations is a ban against health insurance companies imposing a limit on lifetime coverage, a practice Klitzka worried would send her and her family into financial ruin.

Klitzka, 37, was diagnosed two years ago with breast cancer. Since then, she has undergone eight rounds of chemotherapy, 33 rounds of radiation and a double mastectomy, only to see the disease spread to her bones, where it is incurable.

Obama told the audience that Klitzka faced a lifetime cap of $1 million in medical insurance, and she and her husband were worried about losing their home.

"They’re struggling to pay their medical bills," Obama said. "She just wants to make sure that she can spend time focused on being well and not worrying about medical bills. Laura, you’re why we banned those lifetime limits, too."

Klitzka, who was in Washington with her husband, Pete, and two children, said the ban against lifetime limits brings immediate relief.

"With all of my treatments, I’m close to hitting that cap," she said. "So with that being lifted, it will be an incredible difference."

In addition to the ban on lifetime caps, the Patients’ Bill of Rights would:

Ban exclusions for children based on pre-existing conditions.

Ban arbitrary termination of coverage because of mistakes on an application.

Restrict annual dollar limits on coverage.

Allow patients to choose their own doctors.

Remove barriers to emergency room services.

The regulations, Obama said, are "basic rules of the road that will make America‘s health-care system more consumer-driven and more cost-effective, and give Americans the peace of mind that their insurance will be there when they need it."

In a conference call with reporters later, Doyle praised the new rules, which he said will have noteworthy impact in Wisconsin. He said that 40,000 small businesses in the state will be eligible for tax credits to help them buy insurance for their employees and that 47,000 seniors in the state will get a $250 check to help pay for prescription drugs once their Medicare benefits reach a cap.

"When you strip away all the political hype that is going on, Wisconsin is a state that is going to benefit significantly," Doyle said.

Before announcing the new regulations, Obama and Cabinet officials met with insurers from across the nation and urged them to be prudent on rate increases.

"We’re seeing rate increases that, in some cases, far exceed medical inflation," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters. "We want to be sure consumers are protected against excessive rate increases."


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