October 14, 2009
Joseph A. Frick
President / CEO
Independence Blue Cross
1901 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19101-9131
Dear Mr. Frick –
Clearly you value bold new ideas. My idea is simple. Offer education classes for the thousands of individuals in the Philadelphia region diagnosed like I am with bipolar disorder.
When I was diagnosed with diabetes 15 years ago, my health insurance paid for a series of 6 education classes plus 2 nutrition consults that educated me on this insidious illness. Within a year I had dropped 40 pounds and learned to eat right, so that I no longer needed my Glucophage and Avandia. Since then, I’ve been diabetes-free, though my bipolar disorder still raged within.
Let’s offer free education classes for folks with bipolar disorder as well, sponsored by the forward-thinking Independence Blue Cross.
As a Keystone Health Plan subscriber, I recently thumbed through your Healthy Lifestyles brochure and read that your Connections program treats every conceivable condition – asthma, cystic fibrosis, MS, Parkinson’s – with the notable exception of mental illness. I was shocked!
Mental conditions are undoubtedly more prevalent that all of the above illnesses combined.
This void is not only regrettable but totally mirrors and fosters society’s prejudice against folks with mental illness. This terrible prejudice is what keeps the majority of people from seeking help. As you know, insurance coverage for mental health had been greatly restricted in the past and finally, finally, through dedicated efforts of mental health advocates we got our “parity” legislation passed in the final days of the Bush administration.
What I am hoping, Mr. Frick, is that you might spearhead my plan of Education Classes to all people newly diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I myself have taught scores of such classes. In July, my Conquering Bipolar Disorder class was attended by nearly 50 at the Holy Redeemer Counseling Center in Meadowbrook, PA, affiliated with Holy Redeemer Hospital. Eighty people attended my program at the Doylestown Hospital Wellness Center.
I am as staunch an advocate for the rights of mentally ill people as they come. I’ve been recognized by generous grants from the Patricia Kind Family Foundation, Douty Foundation, and van Amerigen Foundation for my work and regularly write newspaper articles and letters to the editor on behalf of of the most vulnerable among us.
Who is it that said, Society can be judged by the way we treat our most vulnerable citizens?
In closing, Mr. Frick, I must confess that God has been good to me. At age 63, I no longer suffer from bipolar disorder. Seven years ago I was forced to go off lithium as it damaged my kidneys. I discovered, to my immense glee and surprise, the disease had fled. Like a fast train speeding through town, it rattled my brains for 30 years, and then left me in peace.
I look forward to hearing from you, Mr. Frick. Call me anytime at 215-659-2142 and if I’m not baking homemade whole-wheat bread, conducting a therapy session, or pedaling madly on my stationary bike, I shall triumphantly answer the phone and know you have heeded my call.
Ruth Z. Deming, MGPGP