Editors' Note: Guest blogger Roberta Raeburn is a photographer who lives Staten Island, NY and is a Senior Action in a Gay Environment (SAGE) client and volunteer
Imagine my surprise when Catherine Thurston, Deputy Director for Programs at SAGE called to inform me that Sage was invited to the White House and my name came up to attend with Karen Taylor, Director of Advocacy and Training.
Why Me? I'm a lesbian double-caregiver, with both my long-time partner and mother in the same nursing home. By welcoming me into a support group, SAGE helped me navigate the murky waters of the health care system with thoughtful and accurate guidance, ultimately allowing me to put the focus back on my own life.
Entering the Obama White House filled a roomful of women with hope for the future of the health care system and the strong feeling that we count, we are heard and our issues will become their issues. And the government is on our side now: we will not be governed by the insurance companies. Donut holes will be relegated back to Dunkin' Donuts.
Three women took us through their ordeal with health care. Each of them had played by the rules, worked hard, supported their families but when serious illness struck the family, their health insurance fell short of the coverage they desperately needed to fulfill their medical needs. Even the health benefits attorney with breast cancer, Judith Stein, Executive Director of the Center for Medical Advocacy, had enormous challenges getting her long-time insurance provide to pay for urgently needed cancer treatment and testing.
I had the pleasure of meeting the head of the Administration of Aging, Kathy Greenlee, who recently announced that her agency would be funding the first ever national resource center for LGBT elders. I also met women from the National Council of Aging, the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, and shook hands with the President of AARP, Jennie Chin Hansen. All of these women knew SAGE and welcomed Karen and I warmly as representatives of the LGBT community.
The energy on the room was positive and hopeful and First Lady Michelle Obama said it best: ".....these women who raised us, these women who supported us through the years, they deserve better than the status quo. They deserve a health care system that heals them and lifts them up."