Healthcare Reform, pt 1: A Personal Story.

This week, I’m going to be posting about Health care Reform. Later in the week*, I’ll post some other sorts of information- including some info from various MSM resources, some data about some of the misinformation out there, etc.

Today’s post isn’t about the financial, political, or practical points that matter to politicians though. Today’s post is about what it means to us as human beings, and about the personal stories that don’t get factored in when it comes time for a politician to vote. (Well. Sometimes they do. Sometimes.)

My opinion, to be up front, is pro-Health care Reform, and pro-Public Option. I think it’s the only ethically sound thing to do. But I know that while I’m not the only one that thinks so, there are plenty of people who think differently- and are equally or more so passionate about that opinion.

They have their stories about health care and Insurance. I, on the other hand, have mine. It’s a bit long, and very embarrassing at parts, but I think it’s important to share these things faults and all. I encourage you to share your experiences in the comments, or to link me to your experiences, whatever your opinion is.

My Story

When I lost my insurance- or rather, when the insurance company realized they didn’t have to cover me anymore- was when I was pursuing psych treatment. To be blunt, I was having suicidal Ideations but was too depressed to actually go through with any of them, sure that if I tried I would screw it up. My General Practitioner heard this and asked if I would go to the hospital if he referred me. After some debate, I agreed.

In the ER (which is where we had to go for psych intake) we sat in the little room for hours. The time had little to do with doubts about my need, and everything to do with insurance. Up until that point, I had been under my biological father’s insurance as per what had been worked out in the custody agreement years before. I had been going to school up until 10 months before, and so was at that point still covered- or so we thought.

My father’s insurance wouldn’t accept the local hospital’s psych ward, despite having accepted it two years previously. They wanted me at first to go to C___ Psych, which I refused on the basis of having received poor and inappropriate treatment there in the past and because my sister had as well. Not to mention the untold number of other people who have chimed in that they received poor treatment there as well (That’s a story for another time).

Next they wanted me to go to Mercer, over an hour away- and I would have to be transported by Ambulance, which they would not cover, and I wouldn’t be allowed to have my mother with me to help me explain to strangers what was going on when words failed me. I was uncomfortable with this, and someone started the paperwork and asking some questions about transport. I was fairly insistent that I wanted the ward in the local hospital as that had been the arrangement I had made with my GP, but my mother spent a while trying to get me adjusted in case they really did have to send me to Mercer- an hour away.

After a while an attendant came in. She was very nice, but the news she had to tell us was not. It seems that after having insisted on a different site for treatment, the insurance company had suddenly realized that I was outside of the time span they needed to cover me under as I had not attended classes in the last 6 (or was it 9? I get them confused a lot when it’s an image in my head- which it usually is if it’s from paper work!) months.

Mid intake, I had gone through fighting with an insurance company over the site of treatment to not having insurance at all. I went into the ward associated with the local hospital not knowing how I was going to be able to pay for the treatment I was receiving, and not wanting to sign over Power of Attorney to the hospital in order to receive hospital funding.

(PoA was a big issue at the time for me- my step-grandmother had lost everything fairly recently due to her PoA of her would-be common-law husband being voided when she went into an involuntary commitment after seeking medical treatment. Again, a story for another time, and one that raises a lot of concerns about Elder Care and Mental Health.)

Honestly, My preoccupation with how to deal with it influenced my treatment a lot- I had something to focus on, and was demanding my rights, which means I was no longer suicidal. The doctor ignored what my condition had been on intake because by he time he saw me the next day, I was anxious about how my treatment would be managed instead of wanting to die. While it’s good that I didn’t want to die anymore, it means that my treatment wasn’t for what I went in there for, and the underlying issues were not dealt with.

After I got out, it wasn’t long before I was getting phone calls and letters about how I needed a way to pay for my treatment. At one point I shut down completely during a phone call with the financial people and started sobbing and shrieking. (Embarrassing. Memorable, but Embarrassing.) My mother grabbed the phone and told the woman on the other end that I was obviously still mentally ill and not in a position to take care of that right then.

I’ve also been reluctant to seek treatment due to this experience- even for medical issues rather than psych ones. It took me until I had a large ulcer on my skin from a bacterial infection this spring to go in, and it ended up being pretty horrible. I now have to be careful about my health because of that situation.

I still am trying to pay this off, and while I generally don’t do the sobbing any more, I have a script I have to use to get through those phone calls. Some days I won’t pick up the phone if the number doesn’t have a name associated with it in my cell because I don’t have answers for them. I’ve put money towards it when I’ve had money, but I lost my job in February. I charged off my bank account by letting it continue paying towards it and another debt rather than saving for food. Anxiety about not knowing how to pay off not dying is a near daily occurrence for me.

Thankfully, I have a happy ending of sorts in that I qualify for health care since I’m unemployed and in the process of applying for disability. It won’t take care of my past debts, but it does mean I can now get medical care, and in fact am obligated to do so because of the Disability status. I don’t know what will happen if my Disability case gets denied- I’ll probably plunge back into the world of being unable to go to the doctor.

For many Americans, though, this isn’t the case. Especially those with disabilities- especially those who wish to work and are able to. A woman on an E-mail list shared this thought, and I think it sums up the current system quite well:

The current system demands that either people be very highly functional so they can gain employment somewhere that provides medical insurance that covers pre-existing conditions, or live in poverty, in order to get medical coverage.

There is no middle ground.**

*I’m using the definition of week creatively to mean “the next 7 days” rather than “The set of time observed in western culture as Sunday through Saturday.”
** Has been edited to remove personal info and structure. To the woman that said this: let me know if you’d like me to credit you openly.

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