This is not a political piece. This is not a sob story. It’s personal experience with how the other half lives.
I know I sound like I’m a nice white lady who’s lived a privileged life and never been to the wrong side of the tracks. That’s not entirely true. While I do consider myself a nice white lady, I grew up in a modest lower middle class childhood. We never had health insurance, that I recall. We always seemed to have what my mother called “hospitalization” or sometimes “major medical.” It was the type of insurance that would cover major catastrophic medical events.
We had no co-pays or prescription drug coverage. It was what-you-see-is-what-you-pay kind of coverage. And you know how we dealt with it? We didn’t get sick. And if we did, we didn’t go to the doctor. On the odd occasion that we did, we crammed as many kids and ailments into that appointment as possible. But I never realize any of the realities of healthcare.
I moved away and went to college. They required all students to either be covered by their parents’ medical insurance or enroll in the student medical program. My dad was unemployed at the time so I went with the student coverage. I have no idea how much it cost because it was rolled in with the massive costs of attending a private school. It took me 20 years but I did eventually pay for it all.
With student coverage, I went to Health Services anytime I felt like it. I didn’t pay for anything. They gave out prescription medication. I paid nothing. After college, I had no insurance and started experiencing a ringing in my ears. I went to an ENT, a specialist. All you have to do is utter the word specialist and your bill is well over $200. That’s when I realized the importance of healthcare. Because this stuff’s expensive.
Many years later, I’m brought back to the reality of the uninsured, or in my case, greatly underinsured. I worked, I got laid off, I got state continuation of my employer’s health care coverage. It’s basically COBRA for small companies. We managed and survived for the last year or so because we had government assistance in paying for the premium. Otherwise, over $1000 per month would have been difficult to swing.
And then the government assistance ended and the paperwork changed hands and I inadvertently missed a deadline. The result? Policy cancellation. Impossible to reinstate. That meant no health insurance. Not a situation I ever wanted to be in.
We looked at applying for a private policy which was surprisingly not nearly as expensive as my employer’s policy, with close to the same coverage. My husband declined. He was hoping to find another job with good benefits and save the day because his employer offered only a Healthcare Savings Account (HSA).
We waited and my husband panicked. He felt sure that not having any coverage was a sure way for something catastrophic to happen. So he signed us up for his HSA as a safety net. Now it’s the end of January and no new job and no new insurance.
Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal. I probably go to the doctor’s two or three times a year and that includes my routine check-ups. My son goes once or twice a year and my husband a little more frequently. We’re actually a pretty healthy family, for the most part. That is, until this winter.
In my usual manner, I blathered on way too long and split this into two posts. Come back tomorrow, for some shocking figures from my own personal experiences on Healthcare, Healthcare, Wherefore Art Thou?