Remembering Senator John McCain
By Stacy Keach
In March of 2000, it was my great honor and privilege to go to Washington, D.C. to work with Senator John McCain on an issue involving definitions of cleft palate conditions according to the medical insurance policy positions at that time.
I had been an honorary spokesperson for both the Cleft Palate Foundation and the World Craniofacial Organization for a number of years (and still am), and Senator McCain with his wife Cindy had recently adopted a young girl, Bridget, who was born with a cleft and who required additional care.
When Senator McCain enquired about the status of medical insurance for Bridget, he discovered that cleft palate repair was defined as “cosmetic” and as such, was not considered worthy of treatment of a birth defect, thereby excusing them from covering surgical and hospital costs.
Senator McCain and I raised our voices together, and in due course, the insurance companies acknowledged that children born with clefts, nowdefined as birth defects, were entitled to the full coverage for surgery.
However, there are still ongoing issues with post-operative needs, such as speech therapy, family counseling, and, when necessary, psychological profiling to gain and enhance emotional support for both the young patient and their family.
The cost of such procedures remains an ongoing dilemma and is not clearly defined by the insurance companies.
It remains a challenge for those of us involved with people affected by cleft palates.
However, there is no doubt that Senator McCain’s influence helped to ensure that families whose children are born with clefts need not fear their child’s health status with regard to surgery because of lack of coverage/funds.
My deepest condolences to Senator McCain’s family. He was a great and compassionate man, and his legacy reminds us that there are leaders who hold dignity and respect and human decency above complacency and ignorance.
Thank you, Senator McCain for your benevolence and your inspiration, which lives on. It was my great honor to know you.