Health care reform is more than a political issue for me. It’s personal.
I write about health care reform and it is a frequent topic of conversation in my life. To those who stand against reform, nothing I say will sway them. They see even minor reform through the lens of socialism, or argue that the constitution does not grant us a right to health care, or speak of the tremendous cost.
This would be a great place to insert the usual point/counter-point arguments, but that’s not where I want to lead the discussion today. This isn’t about politics; it’s personal.
I’m a 50-year old female with a chronic illness who is not eligible for group health insurance. In my state all insurers, with one exception, are free to refuse coverage to an individual. That one insurer can choose the policy and charge what they wish because there is no legal cap on premiums, nor is there a high risk pool. I live in a state that guarantees coverage — up until the moment its citizens are priced out of the market. Premiums, high deductibles, and out-of-pocket fees are rising annually at an astronomical rate, and I’m a long way from Medicare. One day I’ll get the increase notice that tips the scale.
There is no shortage of people willing to give me advice and/or excuses, though.
Opponents of reform tell me health care is not my right. Those people are generally healthy or have decent coverage or a sense of entitlement for themselves.
They tell me that it’s not fair that people who are young and healthy don’t buy insurance until they are sick. A very good point, but that’s not me. The insurance industry happily accepted my premium payments for three decades while I was in good health. Those premiums helped to cover costs for the uninsured who used the system but couldn’t afford to pay. Despite my stellar record of continuing coverage throughout adulthood, insurers are not particularly fond of me now.
I hear the problem is illegal immigrants. Maybe or maybe not, but I’m a citizen and that argument doesn’t do me much good. I’ve always been a contributing member of society. My tax dollars fund Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and ensure health insurance coverage for my representatives in Congress. My tax dollars also contribute to welfare and food stamps and any number of social programs designed to help others. Gratefully, I’ve never had the need for any of those programs myself. I don’t begrudge those who have.
So apply for disability they say. But I’m not unable to work. I have a chronic illness that presents a major challenge to working straight eight-hour days, so I have two part-time jobs and a flexible work schedule. It is a good solution and I am baffled as to why so many people advise me to stop working in exchange for a disability payment. If and when I ever face that need, I won’t hesitate, but please don’t rush me. Besides, Social Security Disability is not the same as health insurance. There is a two-year wait from onset of disability benefits until eligibility for Medicaid kicks in.
Some people argue about my costs and say I must be exaggerating or that I don’t know how to shop around. Are you kidding me? My only theory for this is that by blaming people like me, they can rest easier about their own fate, secure in the knowledge that it can’t happen to them.
It’s the American lifestyle that must be changed. Poor diet, obesity, smoking, and drug and alcohol abuse add to our health care costs. No argument here but, again, none of these is to blame for my predicament.
It’s un-American they say. I’m not sure I completely understand that argument. Sounds like they want me to take one for the team, but it’s a bitter pill to swallow — that my country says it’s okay for me to be weeded out now that I have an illness; that the for-profit insurance industry holds all the cards; that I don’t deserve options. My story is not a particularly dramatic one; there are people in far more dire circumstances than I who are cast aside. (See related reading at the bottom of this post.) And, no, I don’t mind contributing my tax dollars to help those who cannot work or otherwise would have no access to health care. If that’s un-American then pronounce me guilty.
But reform, especially with a public option, will drive insurers out of business! Oh, you mean the very insurers who would prefer that I, and millions of people like me, go quietly into the night? Sorry, but I have a hard time working up even a slice of sympathy.
No one is without health care — the emergency room can’t turn you away. But neither will the emergency room give me preventative care or the ongoing care that I need.
People will take advantage and cheat the system, adding to the cost. Of course they will. There are thieves among us and there always will be. We do our best to make it harder for them, but we can’t allow the bad guys to stop us from doing the right thing.
I wrote my representative in Congress, asking him to support his constituents who desperately need reform. His response ignored my concerns entirely, instead imploring me to have some consideration for the high-income earners who may see a tax hike. Brrr…. now that’s cold.
Am I looking for a free ride? Absolutely not. I simply what most people want — a fair shake and the knowledge that I am not a less-than-worthy American by virtue of my health status and how I happen to earn my living. I want a system that makes some kind of sense. I want Congress to put their own selfish interests aside for a change and work on that, however naïve that may sound.
There is nothing out of the ordinary about my situation. Just an average American with an average story.
Why anyone, aside from members of Congress, feels secure about their health care at this point is beyond me. No one is safe. Lose your job, use up COBRA, get sick… and even if you’ve played by all the rules, you’ll be taking one for the team, too.
Out of luck, out of access to health care. When that day comes, if you stood against reform, it should be a great honor to stand by your principles and take it quietly. Me? I take it personally.
Stories about who and what reform is all about:
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Read more: chronic illness, cobra, constitution, food stamps, health care reform, health policy, insurance congress un-american, medicaid, medicare, pre-existing condition, social security disability, welfare
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