I Am One of Those Uninsured Americans Everyone Is Talking About
It might make you grit your teeth and make smoke pour from your ears, but I am thrilled that health care reform passed. Let me tell you why. I’m one of those uninsured Americans everyone’s always talking about.
And it hasn’t always been this way. My parents had health insurance, so I was always covered as a child. I managed to avoid major medical catastrophes growing up. I never stayed in a hospital overnight during my childhood.
After college, I was immediately employed by a company that offered me a PPO. It wasn’t the greatest, but it wasn’t bad. Again, no major medical episodes. The job that followed that job had the best health benefit package I’d ever had as an adult, even with its moderately costly co-pays. But this was the first time I’d worked for a really large corporation (engineering firm). Aside from having to face a lot of blank stares from people in the doctors office when I presented them an out-of-state insurance card (the firm was based on the East Coast), I had no problems. I had the assurance and peace of mind that if something happened to me –- something major –- I would be okay.
I found myself out of a job in 2007 due to budget cuts. I received my COBRA packet in the mail with information on how I could continue the coverage I had with my former employer. The cost was so prohibitively high that I couldn’t sign on. The insurance lapsed. I looked for work. I received enough FOADs to wallpaper my apartment. I stopped going to the doctor. I collected unemployment.
I found a job in 2008, a year after becoming unemployed. It was a part-time job, really a temporary job to be accurate. There were no benefits, but there was a paycheck. I took the job. It was my only option at the time.
Last fall, I found out I was pregnant. I immediately started to worry about health insurance. How was I going to afford the doctor visits? After doing some online research, I applied for assistance with the state and qualified. The day I received notice that I qualified was huge. I was covered for my entire pregnancy, the birth and for six months post-delivery. You may view it as socialist and a stepping stone to communism, but government services saved me. I would, without a doubt, have had to declare bankruptcy, something I still worry about. If I experience a major medical catastrophe, I’m fucked. Plain and simple.
My Medicaid coverage expired at the end of last year. I am, once again, uninsured. The idea that I could possibly obtain affordable health care coverage absolutely thrills me. My parents are approaching senior citizen status. Their health insurance increases in cost and decreases in services every year. Our relatives have a long list of “pre-existing conditions,” and I worry that if something happened to their coverage that they’d be screwed. So reform? I embrace it. Our system is broken. No one should have to worry that getting really sick will ruin them financially.
Maybe I would feel differently about this whole thing had I never lost my “premium” coverage in the first place. I’ve got to believe that the people who rail against it –- people, ironically, who will benefit from the reform –- just can’t picture themselves in a different situation. Maybe they’ve never been without health insurance. Maybe they aren’t worried they’ll EVER be in that situation. Maybe, and I find this hard to believe considering the economic climate, they just maybe they can’t picture losing their jobs and losing their coverage, because it’s so expensive to continue it that you need to make a choice between insurance or the utility/grocery/phone/mortgage. It’s the only explanation that makes sense to me.
I know this issue isn’t a simple one. I know it’s not perfect, but I wholeheartedly believe it’s a step in the right direction.
Amy blogs over at This Northern Life.