Reporting Gigi Barnett
ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (WJZ)—One of Maryland’s leading health commissioners wants to put a face on the health care issue–in light of the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the president’s health insurance law.
Gigi Barnett speaks with Dr. Peter Beilenson about his diagnosis.
The Howard County health commissioner sees a doctor regularly because he has health insurance. But he says without it, he would be like millions of Americans. He would not be able to get well.
As President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act received backing from the Supreme Court, Howard County health commissioner Dr. Beilenson watched the debate closely. Not only because he’s at the forefront of health care for all in Maryland, but because he recently revealed that he has early on-set Parkinson’s disease.
“It’s characterized by rigidity, stiffness, slowness in movement and tremor,” Beilenson said.
Belienson sat down with WJZ at Johnny’s Bistro in Ellicott City. He talked about the day he self-diagnosed the disease, shortly after taking the helm of Howard County’s Health Department.
Another doctor confirmed it.
“Honestly I figured it out, so I had some time to deal with it. It wasn’t hugely impacting my life at the time,” Beilenson said.
Until now Beilenson kept the diagnosis a secret, only telling his family and close friends.
That was five years ago. Now he says there’s a reason to come forward.
“No one really talked about how it affects a real individual. I thought it was important to say, ‘Look, here’s someone who deals with health policy but also has a condition of his own, and this is why it’s important to have health care reform,’” Beilenson said.
But Beilenson has health insurance — good insurance from the state. Without it, he says life with Parkinson’s would be much different.
“The point is, I’m fine. And I’m fine because I have health insurance,” he said.
Beilenson said the next step for him now that the Supreme Court has ruled is to continue to help people who do not have health care. He says the next step is working on a statewide health care cooperative that would give insurance for millions of Marylanders.
Beilenson lead the Healthy Howard initiative, which provides health care for Howard County residents who have little to no insurance.