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Important Healthcare "Meme"

September 12, 2009

I got this one from Stefanie, who got it from Emily.

This is so important to pass on that I’m tagging everyone who reads my blog to please post it on yours and encourage your readers to do the same (especially those of you who have a huge readership, which I don’t), and if you can relate a personal anecdote that highlights how horrible the current system is (one that touched/is touching you or someone you love), all the better. “

So here’s my story.

I never gave health insurance much thought. I’ve always been very lucky to be healthy. I’ve gone without it at times in my life, but have never had any bad experiences (thankfully). All that changed when my partner got diagnosed with severe Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. This illness, misunderstood and often not taken seriously, has decimated her life. You can read about it on her blog. This has been the hardest thing in my life — to watch her suffer and to be unable to do anything about it. So, the intial diagnoses was a hard blow. And then we started getting pushback from the insurance company. No, they wouldn’t pay for this drug. No, they wouldn’t pay for that treatment. And no, they certainly wouldn’t pay for one of the few doctors who knows anything about this disease. They wouldn’t pay for acupuncture, massage, or any treatments which are shown to help ease symptoms.

So as soon as I could, I switched insurance to the fanciest option available to me at work, a PPO. I enrolled in the Flexible Spending Plan (putting money aside for healthcare not covered by insurance). This helped some. Of course, her CFS doctor still isn’t covered by my insurance, and the crazy-expensive drug treatments aren’t covered. But some other treatments ARE covered, and we have access to better regular doctors to treat all the myriad side-symptoms of her disease (neurological, gastrointestinal, circulatory, etc.). So that’s good. And once we spend $1000 on out-of-network doctors and treatments (the bulk of her treatments), we can start to send in our bills to get partial payment on those bills. Still. That’s after $1000.

However, she is unable to work because of this illness. If California did not have legal domestic partnership laws, and if I didn’t have access to insurance, she would not have any treatment options at all. That thought scares me to death. She would be unable to see ANY doctor, as she has no income. (and the Social Security Disability system is another topic altogether…)

As it is, because the Federal Government still discriminates against LGBT people, I can’t turn in receipts for her care to my Flexible Spending Plan, because it’s a federal program. I can turn in receipts for myself, or any receipts which have my name on it, but all those hundreds of dollars spent on doctors visits, treatments, supplements — which I would be reimbursed for if I had a husband, not a partner — as far as the federal government is concerned, she’s nobody to me.

I’m extremely grateful for my insurance, and for my job. In so many ways, we are incredibly lucky. But all that could change with one shift in the wind, with any number of small things going wrong. If she becomes uninsured, it could be nearly impossible for her to become re-insured because of this pre-existing (expensive) condition. I don’t know what our options would be. I don’t make a fortune by any means, but I am thrifty and frugal and we’ve been okay so far. But it worries me, being the sole breadwinner, with so much riding on me having a job.

I don’t care who comes up with the plan to fix all this. It just needs to be fixed. My partner, my mother, my out-of-work friends — should have an affordable, quality option. Nobody should be punished because they can’t afford decent health insurance.

Affordable, quality healthcare in 2009 should be within the reach of everyone in the United States (and the world, but that’s another argument). It is a crime that it is not. This is not a political issue. It’s a moral issue and it’s a very important issue to me since it directly affects my life partner and other people that I love. I don’t care what the solution is, and I don’t care who comes up with it. I think the government has too much to say about too many parts of our personal lives, but I’d welcome a government-sponsored option if it was affordable and if it meant that my partner would not have to be without care if something happened to me. I’d welcome ANY option which meant people would be able to get quality care if they become ill, with ANY disease or condition.

My top peeves are hypocrisy, bigotry, and NIMBYism… which is why I’m trying to keep an open mind. I am trying not to say anything bad or disrespectful about the folks who are obviously very worried about this healthcare issue for all the myriad reasons but maybe are expressing their fears in a not-very-productive way. So I maintain — if you don’t like what’s on the table, come up with something better. Please. We need it.
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