A Personal Story

People may wonder why Universal Health Care for all Americans is such a passionate issue for me. I believe that the government of any nation should be there to help the citizens of its nation. Others throughout history have thought the same thing. That’s why we have public schools, public libraries, police, fire department, infrastructure, etc. We used to have a government for the people and by the people. Now it feels like it’s a government for the corporations and by the corporations. I’m not blaming any certain person or political party for that. Both parties are basically bought and paid for by corporations and special interest groups.

I just wanted to share my own story about my how health suffered at one time because I didn’t have health insurance.
When the hubs and I were married in ’99 he had a job that offered insurance. Thank goodness. I was fully aware that now that I was getting married not only could my parents no longer claim me as a dependent on their taxes, but their insurance would no longer cover me. Being novices to adulthood, the hubs didn’t add me to his insurance the proper way and so we had to wait for open enrollment at the beginning of the next year to do it. It was only for 4 months away so we thought it would be no big deal.
And then winter came. And winter does havoc on my asthma stricken lungs. Then something else happened. My inhaler ran out of medicine. My inhaler is my lifeline. I don’t leave home without it. Next I developed a really bad cold. Colds always go straight to my lungs. I would cough until I would give myself an asthma attack. The only problem was I didn’t have an inhaler to stop the asthma attack.
I’m very aware that people can die by having an asthma attack. I’ve read the news stories and also my doctor has made me very aware of my need for a “rescue inhaler.” They call it a “rescue inhaler” because it basically rescues you from death.
Not having insurance I couldn’t renew my refill. And we couldn’t afford to pay for a new one out of pocket. At that time, I think I was making $7 an hour, and the hubs was making something like $12 an hour. We could barely afford to make ends me, let alone plan for things to go wrong.
Because I didn’t go to the doctor my cold got worse. Finally the hubs decided to buy an OTC inhaler, but this did nothing for me. My asthma is different than most people’s. I have chronic asthmatic bronchitis. Which basically means when I have an asthma attack I can breath as deep as anyone else…I just can’t expel my breath. Most asthmatics have the exact opposite problem. Even though this happened 10+ years ago, I can still remember how scared I was. We were only a month away from open enrollment, could I afford to basically not breath until then?
I went to work during this time because I had to. Not only did I not have sick pay at my job (and we couldn’t afford for me not to work), but getting someone to cover my shift at that job was next to impossible. It was also the Christmas season…the most busiest season for my job of the year. My Mom stopped in to visit me one day and as aghast. She told me that’s the worst she’s ever seen me look. She said I looked close to death and was angry at my employer for making me work in that condition and not sending me home. I told her we couldn’t afford for me to miss a shift. She urged me to leave immediately and see a doctor. I couldn’t afford that either. Without insurance I couldn’t afford an out-of-pocket doctor’s visit. Let alone trying to find a doctor who will accept a patient without insurance. I was also worried that they’d send me to the hospital (I’m always hospitalized when I have pneumonia and I was pretty sure that this is what my cold had developed into) and I certainly couldn’t afford a hospital stay in the thousands of dollars.
When she found out I didn’t have an inhaler, my Mom was enraged. She was mad at the hubs for filling out the insurance papers wrong, she was mad at me for not coming to her and asking for help, she was mad at my work for not recognizing a severely ill person and sending them home. Luckily for me I worked in a grocery store and she marched right over the pharmacy and renewed my inhaler prescription and paid for it out-of-pocket.
Breathing in the abuterol was like oxygen for a normal person. Within a few days of getting my medicine my breathing returned to normal. The cold went away, now that my body and lungs were strong enough to fight it off. My sister got married during this time. She was staying with us (she lived out-of-state at the time going to law school) since my parent’s house was a zoo of family members from out-of-town. Between my horrible, awful cold and my sister contracting the stomach flu, the hubs had his hands full taking care of us both.
I could have chosen to go to the doctor and suffered the financial consequences, but I was too scared to. If my Mom hadn’t bought me a new inhaler I probably would have just gotten sicker and would have ended up in the ER. Who knows what could have happened to me? I’ve almost life to asthma a few times, I wouldn’t doubt that I could have lost it this time. I can’t even bare to think of the hubs being a newly wed widower.
There are thousands of stories like mine across the country. However, a lot of them didn’t turn out well. People have died. People have gone into financial ruin. People have been bankrupt over not having insurance. It’s truly sad and maddening.
So what’s the solution? I don’t think the health care bill in Congress right now is the solution because it doesn’t contain a public option. However, it’s better than nothing and bills are constantly changed and amended over time to make them better.
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