Happy Anniversary, Healthcare Reform!

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the historic passage of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act. Over the past 12 months, the world has not ended, rich people are still rich, and Obama has not turned white people into slaves — in other words, the Right was wrong. Healthcare reform, or HCR, has helped millions of people get insured. Myself included.

How has Healthcare Reform helped you, Persephoneers? I’ll share my story, and I want to hear yours in the comments.

When I graduated from college in March of 2009, I knew my college health insurance would end. I had seen those commercials for Tonik and other basic health care plans. Being a prudent young lady, I wanted to protect myself. So I hopped online and started applying. I had to go through years of my loosely organized health records, including a fractured wrist and an ovarian cyst. I wanted insurance in case of emergencies, and also some kind of prescription coverage. I was taking Allegra for seasonal allergies, Nuvaring for BC, and three medications to control a genetic garden-variety depression/anxiety/OCD condition. I have no life-threatening conditions, no family history of sudden horrible deaths, and all of my grandparents are still alive. I’ve never been hospitalized or had surgery beyond removing my wisdom teeth. Other than mild mental illness (completely under control with drugs) and allergies to cats and trees, I was sporting a perfectly clean bill of health.

I received rejection letters from every single company.

I was willing to pay up to $200 a month for basic health insurance for ONE person. And I couldn’t find a single company that would cover me. Insurance plans like Tonik are underwritten by the big guys – Blue Cross, Humana, Anthem, Kaiser, etc. One company told me I had “too many pre-existing conditions.” Another said they didn’t cover anyone who took more then three prescription medications, regardless of what those medications were. Another company offered me a different plan for around $700 a month.

My first job out of college was a paid full-time internship at an entertainment mega-corporation. It was a fantastic opportunity that offered great experience and a snazzy resume boost. But it didn’t offer health care or benefits.

One September morning, around 6 a.m., I was jolted awake by the worst chest pain I’d ever had. I felt like someone was stabbing me in the heart whenever I inhaled. I couldn’t afford to see a doctor, and what’s worse, I couldn’t afford to miss a day of work. I spent the day crouched over my desk. It hurt to breath so much that I didn’t even get up to eat lunch. I couldn’t walk without wheezing. I was certain I was dying. I was having a very slow heart attack or there was a tumor on my aorta or a blood clot slowly detaching to work its way to my brain. Something was terribly, terribly wrong. And I couldn’t afford to do shit about it.

Finally, I decided to visit the “campus nurse,” whose primary job function was to make sure people who tripped or cut themselves on scissors didn’t file a lawsuit. I told her about my chest pain and broke down in tears describing how much it hurt and how I didn’t have insurance and couldn’t afford to see a doctor. The nurse took pity on me and referred me to a doctor she knew personally. He agreed to see me for free as a favor to her. I made an appointment for the next day. After x-rays and an exam, it turned out I had pericarditis — an inflammation of the sac around my heart. It was not life-threatening, just painful and annoying. Motrin helped a lot. The pain went away after a couple of weeks.

The internship ended and I started as an editorial director for a web start-up. They also did not offer insurance. But they offered to help me pay for it if I bought coverage.

In January of 2010, I found a plan that cost $287/month for bare-bones health coverage. (Not including great prescription coverage. At this point, just two of my medications cost me about $125 per month.) I jacked up the amount of medical coverage provided by my car insurance and hoped for the best. In April, I thought I needed a root canal, so I called the insurance agent I’d worked with to see if it covered dental surgery. His number was disconnected. I visited their website. It was gone. The company had just vanished without warning. For all I know, I never had healthcare coverage.

I cried and cried and cried. My tooth hurt, my allergies were out of control (I couldn’t afford the medication so I stopped taking it), and if anything happened to me I was screwed. I distinctly remember my boyfriend holding me as I sobbed on his bed and asked hypothetical questions. What if my appendix burst? What if I fell and broke my arm? Every pain, twinge or ache sent me into a grief spiral. Stomachaches were definitely cancer. A headache was definitely a tumor. A cough was walking pneumonia. An ache in my thigh was a blood clot. I’m not particularly paranoid about my health, but having no money really turns you into a hypochondriac.

Around that time, healthcare reform had finally passed, been signed, and as Nancy Pelosi predicted, the actual ramifications of it were starting to happen. Yes, there were reports of people calling doctor’s offices and demanding “the free healthcare Obama promised.” I still couldn’t find a plan I could afford, and at that point I was wary of buying any kind of coverage online. Fortunately, my mom’s job told her that I would get health insurance through her — starting in January 2011.

It was a harrowing 9-ish months of waiting. But I didn’t get too sick and I didn’t have a health emergency. I was very lucky. I started a new job last month, and naturally, it doesn’t offer health insurance. But I have coverage through my mom, and when I get married in November, I will have my husband’s health insurance. My medications – including blessed allergy medicine – cost less than $15 a month, total. I saw a doctor about a rash a couple of weeks ago, and my copay was $20. The topical medicine for it cost less than a dollar after insurance. I can see a chiropractor about my chronic shoulder pain (from a pinched nerve) for $30 a visit. With the extra money I was saving, I bought dental insurance online (after vetting the company VERY carefully) and had an oral exam and got two cavities filled. I had never been so excited to see the dentist.

So that’s how healthcare reform affected me. I am eternally grateful to Barack Obama and our last Congress for passing HCR. It’s not universal healthcare, and it certainly isn’t free, but it’s so much better than what we had.

How has healthcare reform affected you? Positives? Negatives?

By STFUConservatives

Jess, the mastermind behind STFU Conservatives, is a bike-riding hippie liberal who lives in West Hollywood. Her favorite political issues are abortion, marijuana, health care, and class issues. Her favorite apolitical topics of conversation include small dogs, Diet Coke, and extensive TV viewing.

4 replies on “Happy Anniversary, Healthcare Reform!”

I was not directly affected by healthcare reform, but my house argued hard for it because of my husband’s health. He was paying for his own insurance (nearly $300 monthly) while still getting charged astronomical prices for the 8-12 asthma medications he has to take to function on a semi-normal level. All because his full-time job didn’t offer benefits.

We avoided calling 911 when we should have because we couldn’t afford the ambulance. I didn’t take him to the ER 3-4 times because we had no money to pay. I sincerely regret those decisions and am lucky that everything worked out okay each time. However, it made us acutely aware of the plight of those who couldn’t get insurance at all.

A promotion earned him coverage through his job, so our situation changed for unrelated reasons to reform. However, now we can go to the doctor when we need to. He went to the ER twice in March — once because he was coughing up blood, and once because a stomach bug dehydrated him so completely that I found him passed out in the kitchen. Our daughter also ended up in the ER on vacation.

I can’t imagine what this would be costing us if our insurance situation hadn’t changed.

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