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Thursday, September 10, 2009

A single stay-at-home mom's story about healthcare

I am one of the 40 million people in this country who does not have health insurance.

The recent debating about Obama's health plan has made me quite uneasy about the state of my future health.

While I would like very much to see a public health insurance option enacted, my biggest fear about the new plan not being enacted is the loss of the clause that says insurance companies can no longer deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions and they can no longer drop people for expensive-to-treat diseases.

See, I'm healthy now. But I have committed the cardinal sin of going without health insurance, not just in the past year, but a couple of years ago for approximately seven months after a layoff. I worry that one day I will contract a hideous disease and even if I have insurance, I will be denied care because of my lapse in coverage.

I don't think it's fair that people can be denied coverage because they lost a job and couldn't afford to shell out $400 a month for COBRA while unemployed. And it's equally unfair to discriminate against someone because they made a life choice that doesn't line up with typical American lifestyle.

The thing is, for the most part, I have always played by the rules.

As an adult, I have been a contributing member of society and I have had health coverage.

I went without insurance during my college years, not an uncommon occurrence amongst the young. When I was 22 I married a military man, which meant the government covered me. It was, if not the best, certainly the cheapest health coverage I have ever had. (It was all free, even prescriptions.)

By the time my ex was discharged from government service I had gotten myself a job with a lovely benefits plan. For seven years I worked that job and enjoyed plenty of doctor's visits, and a low co-pay.

Then I decided to go back to college and get a degree. When I graduated I moved jobs, but I still had health insurance. It wasn't quite as good, but it did the job.

Then, a layoff. Boom. I was told I'd have coverage for two months, but when I went to refill a prescription a month after my layoff, I was denied unless I paid full price because my coverage had been canceled. I couldn't afford the COBRA So I went without.

Sixteen months ago when I left my job to stay at home with Annika, I knew that once again I'd go without coverage for some time. My employer covered me for six months after her birth. But when that lapsed, I was, once again, vulnerable.

And again, I couldn't afford COBRA.

I've heard people say things about uninsured folks, as if they are lazy or just losers who don't have a good enough job to have insurance. Maybe they just don't care enough. Maybe they want to get sick and have to go to the hospital and then skip out on payment because they are deadbeats.

I'm so sick of that attitude.

People don't have health insurance because of circumstances that leave them with any sort of safety net.

When I left my job to stay at home with Annika, I had two choices when it came to health care.

Go without or get a job and take my daughter to day care. But I believe that babies need to be near by their mothers (or fathers) during the first years of life. The reason I chose this route wasn't because I wanted to sit around at home, but because I wanted to give my daughter a healthy start in life.

Staying at home with Annika meant I could nurse her full-time. It meant she could slowly integrate into this world with the person who cares for her the most. Being a stay-at-home mom meant I had time to bond with her. It meant the world to me. Honestly, the insurance thing wasn't much of a quandary at all. I just knew that I'd go without.

So, there's my story. I hope that if anyone is reading this who thinks Obama's plan is a bad thing, all I ask of you is this. Please try to assume that most folks who don't have insurance aren't lazy losers, but honest folk just like you who are just trying to get by in the world. Shouldn't everyone who lives in the richest nation in the world have access to affordable health care?

My mom met a woman at the doctor's office yesterday who told her that she had brain cancer, and is currently using COBRA because she is laid off. But when her COBRA expires, she'll be left without health insurance and will, in all likelihood die.

It makes me sick to think that people are being swayed by the arguments against this bill. Who cares if illegal immigrants are allowed to purchase a public option? I bet nobody is checking the records of the big insurance companies to see if they are allowing illegals to purchase their policies.

So here it is, time for health care reform. Will it happen? Will we finally get some change in this country or are we going to let health industry lobbyists and bi-partisan bickering continue to kill people?

1 comment:

  1. I can't believe your mom met someone who could actually afford COBRA.


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