I am mentally ill. At least this has been my label--my diagnosis has gradually evolved from anorexia, to bulimia, to eating disordered non-specified with depression, to bipolar to borderline personality disorder.
At the age of 12, I was hospitalized. After spending three months in a residential treatment center, where they rewarded me for eating with tokens that looked like poker chips to spend in the hospital 'store', stocked mainly with candy, I was discharged to my parents. The insurance had run out, and I was left with a label and a pre-existing condition.
Mental health gets overlooked within the health care system. People tell me that I need medication to function properly, and I've had enough meltdowns without it to believe them, but the newest psych meds aren't cheap. The right cocktail of psycho-pharmaceuticals could wind up costing eight or nine hundred a month. I qualified for Arizona's health care cost containment system, or AHCCCS, but I was required to resubmit information on a yearly basis. It was a hassle, but nothing compared to dealing with the state mental health care system, which flounders in beaurocracy and too few psychiatrists, with a backlog of appointments that can span out over eight months.
My husband had insurance, but I had a pre-existing condition. It was not until the new healthcare law came into effect, that I could choose to use his insurance plan. The co-pays are higher, but I do not have to deal with the stigma and hassle that are prerequisites to dealing with the state mental health facilities. His insurance covers counselling with a twenty dollar co-pay. I had given up trying to get counselling as a client of the state contracted mental health provider.
This is not a rant against the public health system: AHCCCS covered ALL the costs of my pregnacy; the delivery of my son; and my son's first two years of doctor check-ups. In terms of strict medical care, I would take AHCCCS over anything else. My dilemma arises from the mental health portion of the plan, where mental health providers are contracted out by the state. There may not be a difference in general practitioners, who will and won't take state insurance, but there is a difference in psychiatric facilities and psychiatrists. In the mind of the state, the mentally ill are still a nuisance, not worth nearly as much as those with a non-stigmatized illness.
I am grateful for the option that Obama's healthcare plan gave me-the option to choose a psychiatrist, who treats me with dignity and respect, rather than just another crazy person.