Laura Wilkerson

Laura Wilkerson
Location
USA
Birthday
July 27

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Salon.com
MARCH 28, 2012 10:49AM

Life Without Health Insurance

Rate: 2 Flag
            I’ve had this odd pain in my right shoulder for about two, two-and-a-half weeks now. I don’t know what it is; whether I slept on it funny or something. It’s a different kind of pain. When I sit up it sits with me, heavy on my chest which makes me worry it could be heart related. My father’s side of the family has a strong history of strokes and heart attacks and my blood pressure has measured high the last couple of times I was in a doctor’s office and I kind of suspect that I may experienced transient ischemic attacks in the past like my dad has and that worries me, especially after seeing my great-aunt’s decline under the terrible weight of Alzheimer’s disease. I worry too that it may be lung cancer, like that which killed my mother and grandmother or breast cancer like my coworker Beth has. Her insurance, through Indiana's "affordable" high-risk exchange, runs her one thousand dollars a month, leaving her about $400 a month to cover everything else.
            If it is something serious I hope it’s the heart and it’ll be quick. The pain is in my right shoulder but I’ve read that symptoms of heart disease in women sometime presents that way. I do have a pain in my right arm but at the elbow; a very painful fare-up of tennis elbow which makes it very painful to attempt a whole range of motions. I took a couple of three bad falls a few years back so I worry the tennis elbow may actually be floating bone chips. I also hope the falls were just falls and not symptoms of something deeper, like MS.
            We have had health insurance for about two out of the last ten years. Currently we’ve been without health insurance for about two years. At my husband’s last job there was a waiting period before health insurance took effect and after it did take effect he was too busy with work to take off to see a doctor. When that job ended he tried to make an appointment with a dermatologist before his insurance ran out to have a suspicious mole that had changed colors investigated but he couldn’t find anyone who would see him.
            His status on his new job is temporary although a request has been made with the home office to make him a permanent employee but we don’t know when that will happen or what the terms of the health insurance policy will be so I still worry about the mole which has grown and turned from the color of caramels to an angry black, especially with the history of weird cancers running rampant through my spouse’s family.
            My job, which I’ve been full-time at for well over a decade, doesn’t offer any sort of health insurance. They do give their employees a 125 cafeteria plan that comes with a Visa card preloaded with a set amount of money. For full time employees that’s $1608.00 a year with part-time employees getting less money. This year I’m going to get new eyeglasses and in years past this has paid for root canals and allergy specialists when my work was trying to kill me so it is a handy thing to have. Of course it was much handier before Congress stepped in and ruined it under the Affordable Health Care Act so that we have to have a prescription, and incur the expense of an unnecessary doctor’s visit, in order to buy over-the-counter drugs with the card.
            I kind of hope the Supreme Court does rule that the individual health care mandate unconstitutional because that way, with that door closed, the only way forward would be a universal system supported, perhaps, by sin taxes on fast food and soda pop. I think the people who support the individual mandate really don’t understand the concept of having no money as they are the same people who set the official thresholds for poverty so ridiculously low.
Right now my spouse and I seem to be making a good income but it’s something of a duck’s life, it looks good on the surface until you realize how furiously we are paddling beneath the surface. Two long stretches of unemployment, coupled with a crushing burden of student loan debt, has us furiously playing catch-up and even when we think we’ve caught up Beneficial, whose original loan amount has been paid off twice over and is still at the same original amount, pulls another $200.00 charge out of its ass and starts directing their rudest, most persistent employees to call us at home, every day, several times a day. We struggle to get our finances in line to made needed repairs to the house. Not cosmetic things but real safety and habitability issues. Then there are concerns about getting older and having enough to live on and pay our taxes beyond social security and the small pensions we will draw and the need to squirrel away money so we won’t come to the shame of leaving our loved one’s body at the morgue because we can’t afford to have them cremated even.
To think that we could have access to a physician and not have to worry that the cost would bankrupt us and burden our surviving spouse with such impossible debt that suttee begins to look like an attractive option leaves one feeling like a destitute orphan gazing into the Christmas window of FAO Schwarz. Not only would universal health care be good for individual citizens, the “general welfare” spoken about in the Constitution, it would be good for the economy in not only decoupling access to health care from employment but it would be good for the economy as it would free businesses from the staggering expense of health care while giving the Government immense bargaining power to contain costs.
Until the, I will continue taking two Aleve every morning and gobble aspirin like candy every time a hand goes numb while updating our end-of-care directives to make sure costs are kept at a minimum as we plot alternate escape routes in case things take a turn for the very worst.

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Comments

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I am sorry about everything, especially your student loan debt. Speaking as one who has worked for almost twenty years as a university teacher, this I know:

1) There are no grounds for a university education to cost so much, and

2) The people who are doing the actual work of teaching sure as Hell ain't getting the money.

Too bad Obama has decided the solution is to scapegoat the working uninsured and blame them for our National Health Care Mess (yes, that's a proper noun and needs to be capitalized) and make them hand over thousands of dollars a year they don't have to our health insurance companies.

Hang in there.
I've been looking into this. If and when we return to the United States, my wife and I will have to pay something like $3300 a year for the cheapest policy with a $10,000 deductible.

The people who get to decide what constitutes "affordable" health insurance all have six- or seven-figure incomes and excellent insurance.
This makes me sad and furious.

Prez Bush said the health system in the U.S. was fine cuz ERs had to treat anybody. I think your symptoms warrant a visit anyway, ASAP, and your husband also - that sounds baaaaad. Will they take you? (And then bill you horrendously for treatment?)

Meanwhile, those fuckers in congress have top of the line government-paid health insurance. And call for more 'defence' spending and lower taxes for the rich and evisceration of the social programs you do have.

I am ashamed to tell you this. I live in Canada. On Tuesday I'll be strolling into the hospital for an optional procedure (carpal tunnel0, and the government will pay the doctor and the hospital costs. If I had any worrisome symptoms, I'd be at my doctor's in a flash, and if there was any condition it would be treated promptly. I ultimately pay thru taxes, of course, but in the days when I was poor I paid little or no taxes, and still got health care. Nowadays I'm somewhat better off and pay my taxes happily. No insurance companies are draining any of the health-care money out of the system. Health care availability is not dependent on employment. Goddam, if we in Canada can do it, and EVERY OTHER 'DEVELOPED' COUNTRY FOR CHRISSAKE, why can't the U.S.?

Even for the well-off, isn't it worth their while to have a healthy and relatively happy populace? It's all totally beyond me....

Meantime, GO GET TREATMENT! IF YOU HAVE TO PICKET IN FRONT OF THE HOSPITAL AND YOUR REP'S OFFICE OR THE WHITE HOUSE! All you fucked-over people need to stop taking it privately and get together and riot in the street!