Melanie Shouse, health care activist, dies at 41

ST. LOUIS — Melanie Shouse was 37 when she first felt the lump. She couldn’t believe it. But she kept up her fighting spirit, especially for health care reform.

“When I first noticed a small lump on my breast, denial seemed the only option,” Ms. Shouse told this news site at a Jobs with Justice, MO State Workers’ Union rally held outside of a Department of Social Services office here.

Melanie Shouse died Saturday, January 30. She had been fighting cancer and the insurance industry for over 4 1/2 years. She was 41.

When she first found the lump in her breast she didn’t know what to do. She couldn’t afford the $5,000 deductible her catastrophic health insurance policy required.

“For weeks after diagnosis,” Melanie told me, “I was in a state of near panic regarding how I would pay for treatment. I had no savings and no real assets, and no idea how I was going to cover these monumental co-pays and deductibles.”

“And with this prize-winning pre-existing condition, I had no opportunity to seek a better private health plan. I was shut out of the market,” she concluded.

Ms. Shouse, like many people throughout the nation, faced a recalcitrant and irresponsible health care system. She faced a system that cared more about profits than life. And until the end, Melanie bravely faced that system and spoke truth to power.  

At a health care rally last November, Ms. Shouse said, “we need to take on the big insurance monopoly and liberate American families from the slavery of skyrocketing insurance premiums and canceled coverage, which leave millions of us in a state of perpetual fear and insecurity…”

In addition to advocating affordable health care for everyone, she was an activist for clean energy, economic reform and public transportation. Additionally, she was a long-time supporter of the People’s Weekly World, the predecessor of the People’s World.
Ms. Shouse grew up in Indiana, graduated from high school in Plano, Texas, and then from Texas A&M University with a major in biology.

She moved to San Francisco, where she met her future partner, Steve Hart, on a picket line. They were together for 20 years.

Melanie and Steve then moved to St. Louis and started Sweet Meat Stix, a well known meat market that sold only humanely raised beef.

Ms. Shouse requested that her body be cremated wearing her Obama T-shirt.

Friends and family plan a celebration of her life at 2:30 p.m. Feb. 14 at Central Reform Congregation, 5020 Waterman Avenue.
The family suggests memorial contributions to Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice, 412 Greenleaf Drive, Kirkwood, Mo. 63122; Susan G. Komen for the Cure, St. Louis affiliate, P.O. Box 790129, Dept. SK, St. Louis, Mo., 63179-0129; or St. Louis Jobs with Justice, 2725 Clifton Street, St. Louis, Mo. 63139.

Melanie Shouse will be missed.

Photo: Melanie Shouse, far right, and her partner, Steve Hart, at a health care rally in St. Louis. Tony Pecinovsky/PW




Tony Pecinovsky
Tony Pecinovsky

Tony Pecinovsky is the author of "Let Them Tremble: Biographical Interventions Marking 100 Years of the Communist Party, USA" and author/editor of "Faith In The Masses: Essays Celebrating 100 Years of the Communist Party, USA." His forthcoming book is titled "The Cancer of Colonialism: W. Alphaeus Hunton, Black Liberation, and the Daily Worker, 1944-1946." Pecinovsky has appeared on C-SPAN’s "Book TV" and speaks regularly on college and university campuses across the country.