Thursday, June 3, 2010

Healthcare Scare

A few months ago, I received a letter indicating that my children are no longer eligible for the income-based, state run health insurance program that has covered them since birth. Suddenly, without warning, they were two of the 50 million + Americans without health insurance coverage. This is totally new territory for me. I don't recall a time when I've ever not been able to whip out a handy card and push it across the desk in a physician's office in lieu of cash. With the girls suddenly "exposed," I've discovered a strange and horrible wasteland of fear mixed with panic. Each time one of them coughs, my heart skips a beat. Each visit to the park, each time I catch my oldest doing headstands in her bedroom I feel a momentary panic at the possibility of freak accidents and broken bones. I've had to delay a dental check up and a physical while I try to figure out exactly how we're going to move back under the safety and comfort we're accustomed to. Adding them to my plan at work would be astronomical therefore out of the question. There's another health plan I can try, designed especially for children with higher income limits but even that's not guaranteed. I applied weeks ago but have yet to hear back.

So currently, we're in limbo. And of course, as luck would have it, I received a call yesterday from my daughter's daycamp that she had cut her leg and needed emergency care. It was as if the entire world went silent for a few moments as the full weight of the poor timing came to rest on my shoulders. It was a though an imaginary meter started running. I've never really paid attention to medical bills, I never really felt need. Regardless of the cause of the visit, I'm accustomed to paying a small copay and continuing with my life. I've only heard dark tales of massive charges for even minor procedures, $100 band-aids, $1,000 Tylenol. I knew immediately that our already shaky financial footing was in jeopardy.

Once I'd collected my little patient, we headed to the doctor's office. I called in advanced to explain the insurance situation just to make sure we wouldn't be turned away and was delighted to find that we were welcome to come in and that I could pay whatever I could afford. Novel! Unfortunately, my elation was short lived when the doctor who examined my daughter's leg promptly announced that they could not mend that sort of tear and that we would indeed have to go to an emergency room. The forms that were passed across the admissions desk felt condemning. I was actually embarrassed to admit that we did not have health insurance and cringed when the nurse scrawled "self pay" across the top. Hours later, we emerged from the ER at our nearest children's hospital with seven stitches closing a deep puncture wound in back of my daughter's leg.

And today, I had a root canal but that's another story!

The most important part of this ordeal is that the incident was not life threatening, that, though it looked bad, the wound in her leg was an easy fix and she had little pain. But,
if what I've encountered over the past few months is anything like what families experience who lack insurance I can absolutely understand the push for universal coverage. This really has me wishing I'd paid more attention to all the fine print health care reform bill that passed earlier this year! I'm going to go get a copy to read and hope that, in the meanwhile, we can avoid incident!


Lindsay said...

This drives me insane! It is sad that you don't have healthcare; I didn't have it for a few months this year. BUT the country should not have to pay for it. Healthcare is not a right. We need heathcare reform, not universal healthcare. You should read the bill because all of the kickbacks are absurd. And universal is widely unpopular because it simply doesn't work. Do you want your healthcare in the same hands of the people in control of the DMV and the IRS...have you ever had a good encounter with them?

Terri said...

My parents used to lecture me that I should never go a day without insurance but the costs and restrictions have increased since those days. I wanted to spare you the political speech (not usually my style), but I think that health care should be a right, not a priviledge for those who can afford the $100 dollar bandaids. Nearly every other 'civilized' country has universal healthcare and there is a reason for that.

Anonymous said...

The bill that passed isn't universal health care. It simply creates more choices for people to pick their own insurance, there are more government options so more people can qualify, and income limits aren't as much of a problem, but also forces private insurance to compete with each other. The hope is that consumers with more choices force insurance prices to drop to affordable levels. This law, like every law isn't perfect, but the good news is they are breathing documents so as the system takes effect it can still be adjusted and reformed to address problems that arise.

The best analogy I have heard on it so far is this; if your neighbors small child fell in front of your house and needed a band aid you would give him one, you would not tell him to go home and stop freeloading.

Health care comes into account in peoples lives at the worst possible moments, when someone is hurt or sick and when you don't plan for it. Access to care is the key issue, and money should not be the reason a person has to skip every other chemo treatment because they weren't planning on getting laid off and loosing their insurance without warning

Anonymous said...

I'm glad your daughter is okay, but this is one of the reasons I am so glad I live in Canada. For all the faults our healthcare system has, it's reassuring to know that I can show up at any hospital, anywhere in the country and get the treatment I need, when I need it...regardless of my income or employment situation. Healthcare is a right, we live in a society, and we're all in this together...sometimes that means you shoulder a little more than your share of the burden. But, when the chips are down, other people will be there for you, too. Imagine what a great place the world could be if, instead of raging against the injustice of the government paying for healthcare, everyone had a little empathy for those who are struggling.

Carrie said...

I hate the healthcare situation too. I have amazing coverage from work right now 100% coverage and I only have to pay a copay on doctor's visits not on treatment or tests, but I'm 26 with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. If I lose my healthcare for any reason I won't be able to get it back and being self employed which has always been my dream is no longer an option because I'd either be denied or individual coverage would be prohibitively expensive. We need universal healthcare.

MonsteRawr said...

Due to the industry that my husband and I work in, we change jobs a lot, and often have to go without insurance. And I tell you what, it's fucking terrifying. We've been lucky in that we've been able to avoid any major injuries or illnesses, but there are still worries, like how to pay for my birth control or my inhalers. And if we were to incur a major injury or illness? We would be bankrupt.

Fig said...

I'm glad your daughter is okay! I hate the healthcare system too. Sadly I'm still without insurance and have a huge hospital bill to pay from a kidney stone happening a few months ago. The healthcare bill helped me...but only starting in Jan 2011. So I'm in limbo too and hopefully nothing else happens!

Anonymous said...

Dear Lindsay, I am APPALLED by the fact that you would say that health care is not a right. what else if anything (apart from water and food) should be a right. why should people some people who have money be able to pay for health care and others not.

they get sick and and pay for it and can't go to work. they can't pay because they don't have work and they can't work because they are too sick. it's a never ending spiral.

i am SO thankful that I live in Canada where everyone chips in for the health of everyone else. how dare I live and be healthy while my neighbour is sick and is in pain. a community is only as healthy as it's sickest person.

And to Working Girl I really hope you will be able to find some sort of coverage for your girls. I am not a mother but I certainly know how it it to worry about how you are going to have to pay for something.

jersey_girl said...

I hope you find coverage for your girls! The prices of health care are way too high these days in the US.

Lindsay: I can't believe what you said! Have you lived in a country with universal health care? since you're claiming it doesn't work. Well I can tell you it does work! I know from experience it works very well.