I’m Facebook friends with James Grissom and we have many friends in common. I read his post in my feed and was very moved, as were many of his friends. Now that his story has been shared in the media and is going viral, it seems OK that I share it here with you…
In 2007, author and gay New Yorker, James Grissom (he wrote the terrific Tennessee Williams biography, Follies of God) found himself facing a serious cancer diagnosis. Hillary Clinton was his senator,
I was working part-time in the bookstore of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and was diagnosed with bladder cancer. I did not have insurance, and I did not have savings…
I attempted to pay, as well as I could, the fees for the treatment, but the hospital chose to report me to a collection agency, which began legal action. My physician was startled, and suggested that I contact both the billing department and my senator.
The billing department told me I earned too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but I could apply for financial aid offered by the hospital. However, I was told, the collection process would continue.
Grissom contacted Clinton’s office and spoke to someone there… after a few calls, at one point, the phone was passed to the Senator herself. Clinton told him,
“You did not enter a credit agreement with that hospital, so I cannot fathom why they are pursuing you as if you did. In addition, that hospital is aided by the state of New York and the federal government, so they are way out of line. You need to fight this cancer and get well: You don’t have time for this nonsense. Let me look into it.
Grissom says that call did the trick…
“Within a week, the collection calls ceased, and within a month, Hillary Clinton put me in touch with two organizations offering financial aid to people undergoing cancer treatment. These organizations eliminated half of my debt, and within eighteen months, I had paid the remaining amount, without any collection activity or annoying calls.
I just re-read the letter that Hillary Clinton sent to the hospital (It was Roosevelt, if you must know), and in her indignation, she refers to me as her friend. Not a constituent, but a friend. She prevailed upon the proud history of the hospital and the medical profession to do the right thing, and adjudged the collection activity to have been an “unfortunate mistake or oversight.
On two occasions I received letters from her, and once a phone call. The doctor from Planned Parenthood and the oncologist recommended by that organization continued to treat me at discounted rates. My friends–again female–at the Museum kept my cancer a secret, and probably saved my job.
I am now receiving treatment through insurance made available through the Affordable Care Act, and while I am cancer-free, there are still follow-up procedures that are necessary.
I thought for a time that Bernie Sanders might be our best option for President. I liked his radical ideas, and I believed, and still believe, that things need to be changed. But then I was reminded that some people speak well and inspire, and others actually show up and get things done. It may not be as inspirational; it may not lead to a slogan or button, but the showing up–consistently and firmly–changes lives.
That’s my time with Hillary Clinton. Sorry I looked away for a time. But now you can deal me in.”
As a follow up since that first post, James just shared this,
“I so appreciate receiving this. As you may know, she has a few things on her plate right now.
‘James, I’m thrilled to hear that you’re cancer-free and insured through the Affordable Care Act. I wish I hadn’t needed to write that letter, but I’m so glad it helped you during your treatment. Your story was so touching to read yesterday morning while I drove from Harrisburg to Johnstown on a bus tour through Pennsylvania. Thank you for sharing it.” –Hillary Clinton
That’s not politics, or reality TV, that’s real life. If you want to see James tell his story on TV, he’s on the Lawrence O’Donnell show tonight on MSNBC.