Shirley McAllister stood outside Republican Sen. Jon Kyl’s office, holding a blue folder and waiting to tell Kyl about her daughter-in-law, Linnea, who she said is suffering from a disease that went untreated because of a lack of health insurance.
Inside the folder was a copy of a Harvard medical study released earlier this year, which shows 45,000 people die each year due to lack of health insurance. McAllister, a Phoenix resident and chairwoman of Democratic Party Legislative District 9, was a part of a small group who showed up to protest in front of Kyl’s office Oct. 26.
Kyl became a target for supporters of congressional Democrats’ proposal for health care reform after he made a statement on national television that called into question whether an increasing number of people are dying in the United States due to lack of health insurance.
Kyl told NBC’s Meet the Press host David Gregory that “I’m not sure that it’s a fact that more and more people die because they don’t have health insurance. But because they don’t have health insurance, the care is not delivered in the best and most efficient way.”
Kyl was in Washington during the protest at his downtown Phoenix office and was not there to receive the packet of information from McAllister. The protest group, minus the press in attendance, was allowed to meet with Jane Grace, a registered nurse who is the health care representative with Kyl’s office.
“She (Grace) responded to some of our concerns. She said that she had read Linnea’s story, someone had given her a copy of it,” McAllister said. “We had a chance to say what we wanted to say.”
In a broken voice, McAllister explained to the media how her daughter-in-law was caught in a snowstorm in the early 80s, leading to a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. For years she was denied insurance by private companies, and eventually became paralyzed. Now, at age 51, Linnea is living in Kansas and is covered by a government insurance plan. She can only talk and chew on her own and is cared for by her daughter and a friend.
McAllister has sent letters including Linnea’s story to Kyl, but she said Kyl has not responded. The situation has prompted McAllister to become a supporter of proposals to include a public option in national health care legislation.
“I think our country is too good for this spotty patchwork healthcare we have,” said McAllister. “I hope that Sen. Kyl will take a second look on possible reform to health care and a public option.
“Linnea’s not the only person affected by this. It seems to me if she had good medical care, although there’s no cure, we could have delayed the onset.”
Former congressional Democratic candidate Bob Lord also attended the protest.
“You’d have to be breathtakingly dishonest or breathtakingly ignorant to say what Kyl said. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and think he’s ignorant,” Lord said.
Lord said he wants all senators to announce whether they agree with Kyl.
Kyl’s office declined to comment for this story.