We Have A Responsibility - Please Consider Rendell's Health Care Plan


This is a difficult piece to share, and is a bit out of the norm for me, so apologies if it rambles a bit.

A few months ago, on my way home from a physical rehabilitation session for my herniated disk and spondylolisthesis, I fell down some steps on the way to the Regional Rail and fractured my right foot.

All of the next day, especially upon learning that the fracture was minor, I laughed at my predicament. The irony of it. Oh I was in pain, be sure of that. A whole hell-a-lot of it. I still am. But I could laugh because just over ten years earlier, I would not have had health insurance - and my situation would be considerably more dire.

Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg of Young Philly Politics has asked me to share with you some of my personal experience with being uninsured.

My name is Karl Martino. A few of you know me as Co-Host of Philly Future. Philly Future isn't designed to pay it's bills, it's a labor of love, so by day I work as a software engineer for a great employer, where I have health insurance as a benefit.

As I mentioned, just a short time ago, I would not be looking at my predicament and be considering myself so blessed. I was working a string of part time jobs, that either did not offer benefits, or gave benefits to those who worked full-time. A status reached when you worked a number of weeks in a row 36 hours or more. Employers would never let me work the required hours for those number of weeks straight. This kept benefits tantalizingly out of reach. It went like this for approximately six years.

Six years without a dental visit. Six years where the emergency room would be my source of primary care. Six years between the day I was thrown out of my mother's home and had worked my way to a place that could be considered "middle-class".

As a teenager, I made the difficult decision to quit High School and find work. My home situation was tenuous and I did not know if I would have a home to sleep in one day from the next. Making this decision put me out of the reach of counselors or advisers. I had no one I could talk to I felt could help. And one day, in my late teens, I did find myself looking for a place to keep warm and get rest.

It was the 90s. It seems so long ago now, and it is hard to recall, but it was a time of great opportunity. A time where employers, unburdened with the environment of fear we live in today, might take a chance on a hard worker and help that person get a leg up. An environment where millions of people could succeed in their struggle against the cycle of poverty. So that's the route I went - I taught myself software engineering and built a career.

Looking back, I realize how truly blessed I was. I had no serious health issues to address. I had no family to take care of. If I had either, I could not consume myself with my work as I did. How do single mothers and single fathers, fighting every day at jobs that barely pay the bills do it? Their choices are far more stark then mine ever were.

It's difficult to speak about my past, but I recognize I have a responsibility to my community to do so.

Responsibility is a tricky word. We live in an age of 'me', where our responsibilities to each other have been subsumed by those responsibilities have to ourselves.

Governor Rendell's health care plan may offer us an opportunity.

An opportunity to insure that no child need go without a preventive medical visit and end up in a costly emergency room visit. An opportunity to make our state an example that others will want to follow, one that will make us more attractive to employers and home makers alike. An opportunity to insure that working class people, people that want to provide a healthy home for their families, people that want to climb up the ladder of our American dream, have the tools to do so.

We have an opportunity, an opportunity to live up to our responsibility to each other.

- Karl Martino

PS - This post points to some reasons why I haven't been active on the web and in the community as of late.

This will be cross-posted Philly Future.

You can read more about the health care plan at Philly.com and rxforpa.com.

Thanks for this!

It's always great when we hear from someone telling a real story rather than the macro-view so many of us live in. I know it's private stuff, but you are really being helpful by sharing these things.

What I think is important to note here is this: if Karl was doing software work, he was probably making more money than a really low skilled worker. He was living a responsible life, contributing to society and doing good work.

Yet, if he would have had a serious injury during his years without insurance, he would not have been able to take responsibility for it. Even at an okay or good income, medical bills are just too damn high.

We have to do something about this and we have a real opportunity under Rendell's pragmatic plan. Get behind it!!!

BradyDale OnLine
The R.I.I.C. Blog
The Philadelphia Unemployment Project


During my time when I was uninsured, I was working as a cashier, or telemarketer, whatever job that came by that I can do. There were a few periods of homelessness in there.

I taught myself programming during one of my stints at a particular telemarketing job, and from there, took a loan to go to Chubb, which would lead to a middle class wage paying job, that paid benefits.

I was blessed to have been given the chance to do what I did, when I did. Those kinds of opportunities rarely come.

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