As I sat at my computer contemplating exactly what I wanted to focus the essay on this week, I kept coming back to one thing: health care. Specifically, the health care we should expect in our society.
I’ve been denied health insurance twice in my life, and both times were because of minor pre-existing conditions.
The first time it wasn’t a big deal; I was able to secure other, slightly more expensive, health insurance. I was fresh out of college (no ACA then, so I couldn’t stay on my parents’ coverage) and starting my first full-time job at a tiny company that paid us once a month and didn’t have any benefits other than a salary and the occasional attendance at a cool party (we did public relations). I then went to graduate school, and after a year had another full-time job — this time with proper benefits. I was covered.
Until I wasn’t. I decided to leave my job to pursue more education, this time in London. I assumed I would move back to the U.S. eventually, so even though I knew I would be covered by the NHS in the UK, I still had to keep health insurance here. No gaps in coverage were allowed, and because of my other minor pre-existing condition, I didn’t qualify for any insurance. Which meant I paid over $460 PER MONTH (as a graduate student) to keep COBRA health insurance that I didn’t use because I wasn’t in the U.S.
When I returned from London, I was able to secure much cheaper insurance, but first I attempted to use the COBRA I had paid over $5000 into. They denied my claim. Fuckers.
Meanwhile, when I lived in the U.K. I made use of the NHS once. I saw a physician the same day, received a diagnosis, and was prescribed two medications. I paid 7 pounds 50 pence for the whole shebang.
And you see, I’m lucky. Other than the occasional bad cough and of course the need for regular preventive care, I don’t use my insurance much. I haven’t had a devastating acute illness, and I don’t have a chronic condition requiring expensive medications.
I’m also not a jerk, because I recognize that it’s harder to enjoy life, or liberty, or to pursue happiness if your time here is cut short or drastically degraded because you don’t have proper health care.
And yet here we are, a nation that has this piecemeal approach to health care that improved with the Affordable Care Act but still needs work. And the work that is most likely to happen is not focused on making improvements, or giving us the universal coverage we all should be demanding. Nope, its focused on kicking people off of their health care so that money can be re-purposed as tax breaks for rich people.
Which is utter bullocks.
I attended a town hall tonight, hosted by one of my senators. I didn’t get a chance to ask my question, but I listened to over two dozen other people share their stories and ask their (mostly thoughtful) questions. The Senator (a Democrat) had some great answers, some good answers, and some disappointing ones, but I left believing that she will continue to fight for our access to quality care.
Unfortunately, that fight can only be successful right now if we can get 51 Senators to agree that we need to be providing care, not decimating it. That we need to make sure that people don’t die because they can’t afford the premiums, or the co-pays, or the treatment that isn’t covered. That reproductive health care is health care. That if you had cancer as a child you shouldn’t be prevented from having health care as an adult.
I’m still hopeful, but I’m also wary, because from where I’m sitting, there are still 52 individuals who are acting like jerks by even entertaining the idea that preventing people from accessing affordable health care is a good idea.