I grew up outside of Princeton, New Jersey with my mom, stepdad, one brother and 3 step-siblings who we saw every-other-weekend. After high school I moved to Pittsburgh to attend college at Carnegie Mellon where I was active in human rights groups working to end apartheid and secure rights for LGBTQ people. In 1990 I was working in a bar/restaurant when a friend introduced me to Beth. We ended up at the same New Year’s Eve party where there happened to be a mistletoe hanging and that’s was our beginning. Here we are 31 years later. In 2013, when the Supreme Court ruled that legally married, same sex spouses could receive federal benefits, we quickly planned a wedding – we had been waiting so long for the privileges that came with a marriage license, one of them being the ability to put Beth on my employer provided health insurance through Highmark.
For years I watched Beth suffer excruciating pain. We saw doctor after doctor; neither medications nor serious brain surgeries provided relief. There were days when she writhed on the floor just begging for the pain to stop. It was agonizing watching the person I loved most in the world suffer like that and to be powerless to help. In 2019, when she was finally diagnosed with a rare cancer, we felt fortunate to live in Pittsburgh where we have UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, a world class facility. And then, before her treatment was completed, we were told that UPMC and Highmark were soon going to sever ties and that once they did, we would no longer have access to Hillman. We were devastated and simply refused to believe that this was possible. We wondered- how could a nonprofit hospital that was subsidized by the taxpayers be able to just shut us out? Since they had a near monopoly in the area, the only other option for Beth’s treatment was Cleveland. It seemed crazy. Thanks to the internet, we found others who felt the same way. Having volunteered for community groups and participated in marches before, it was a no-brainer to join with others to form a grassroots coalition to make sure that thousands of peoples’ lives weren’t put at risk simply because two insurance companies couldn’t get along. Through the power of our activism and our voices, we got the attention of the PA Attorney General and with his support we succeeded in our goal.