Making the health care debate personal

I shared a prayer request and call to action with my friends and family over the weekend that some felt should be shared.  As I said to them, I’ve been blogging a lot lately about health care reform, but I’ve been concentrating on insurance and leaving out details about ailments.  Under the suggestion that details make it more real, I’m posting some of what I shared with those who care about me, and some of what I shared in a rather angry letter to Sen. Mitch McConnell.  I am just one example among millions of others, and if you’re not already in a situation like mine, remember: you are just one pink slip away from becoming just like me.  I hope my words will spur them, and now you, to action.


For the past two weeks, I’ve been in severe pain due to something my insurance provider refers to as a pre-existing condition.  The pain normally comes and goes with varying and highly manageable severity, but in recent weeks, it’s been more intense than I’ve ever felt it before.  Other oddities about the pain show me that I undeniably need to see a doctor, but I’m afraid of what the diagnosis and costs associated with it might be.

I should also note, I’m in my late 20s, representing the largest group of un- or under-insured people in the country.  (Click here to read or hear two women who were diagnosed with cancer when they were in their 20s talk about their experience with insurance and the disease.  One chose to return to her family in Prague to get treatment rather than spend her energy fighting with insurance companies here.)

I have the kind of health insurance meant for catastrophic events.  I have a high-deductible plan with a low monthly premium and a health savings account that might have just enough money in it to cover my well-woman annual, which is due in October, and associated lab fees.  I pay for everything out of pocket until I hit the deductible, unless of course my treatment has to do with my pre-existing condition, at which point I could hit the deductible and spend an additional $1 million after that and still not get one cent of help from the health insurance plan.  I could have gone with a plan that would have eased the out of pocket expense in exchange for a higher monthly premium, and as of late, I’ve been thinking about switching to one that does just that.  However, I would be out more money each month and the results would be the same: nothing having to do with my pain, the pre-existing condition that needs to be treated, would be covered.

The pain also has me seriously questioning the determination – and I would say, even the God-given vision – I have had for almost one full year to not take or even apply for just any job that comes along, but rather to apply for jobs that I would enjoy as I simultaneously grow my free-lance writing and research assignments into a fully functioning business of my own.

This is what the current health care debate should be about – sick people who are afraid to go to the doctor and/or who can’t afford to go and would-be entrepreneurs who can’t go out on their own and possibly create more jobs because they can’t get health insurance because they or someone in their family has a pre-existing condition.  It’s not about constituents who already have insurance, it’s not about the ones who hate the black president (yes, I said it), it’s not about the representatives who hate him, and it’s not even about the word “socialism,” which most people can’t even give a correct definition of when asked.  It is a true testament to some people’s deep-seeded hatred and selfishness that fixing a for-profit health care system that bankrupts thousands of families every year, and that has left sick people who need help in the hands of an underwriter who is only qualified to diagnose what shareholders want, is even up for debate.

Yes, I am concerned about the national debt, and if there is ever a point at which I make over $250,000, I won’t want to pay more taxes on it.  But I don’t fear “big government” or more federal regulation being involved in my health care. I am already a part of an incredibly large, bureaucratic, government system, as I receive unemployment compensation.  For the most part, it runs efficiently, and it does cover my most basic needs (except health care) with the taxes I already paid when I was working full time.  Whenever there is a complication, however, it does indeed take two to three months to get it resolved.  While I wouldn’t want to wait two to three months for treatment of an illness, the complications with unemployment are no different from what I’ve experienced with private and even group health insurance plans, in which there is a great exchange of paperwork and phone calls within a large system with a lot of red tape whenever there is an unusual circumstance, like an out-of-network provider who was in the network the day before I went for treatment, or the policy that’s canceled when someone actually gets sick.  Mistakes will happen and great training will have to be invested before unusual circumstances cease to be a hindrance in a government-run plan, but I have confidence in its potential efficiency, and because it will be non-profit, I will know that I’m not being mistreated so that a lobbyist can pad my senator’s pocket.

The much-rumored “death panel” is already in place; the underwriters at every health insurance company are death panelists.  They are accountants, people with no medical training who decide which medical conditions and treatments will be covered.  They do so with one thing in mind: shareholders.  They make these decisions without regard to the welfare of those whom they effect the most, and the only time they change their minds is when a news program investigates them.

A public option, not just insurance reform, would enable me to see a doctor before my health gets worse, without fear of cost.  I don’t mind paying for health insurance or health care, when it goes toward research, technology, and qualified physicians.  I mind paying astronomical amounts for medical treatment that I NEED just because I was already sick and a bean counter was concerned about how that would eat into his profit. A public option, like Medicare for everyone who wants it, would provide a low-cost option for me and millions of others like me.  By forbidding exclusion riders, it would also force private insurance companies to abolish them from their own plans, giving me the option to do what I would like to do now: ditch the high deductible HSA plan and pay a higher monthly premium in exchange for the traditional co-pays and prescription drug benefits.  Provided I chose to stick with a private insurance company, I would actually be giving them more money annually than I am now.  Studies show that only about 3% of the American population would join a government-run plan.  The rest of us would do what I would like to do.

Have you ever noticed that arguments against this plan cancel themselves out?  Opponents say, “A public option would obliterate private health insurance providers.  It would be so good, who wouldn’t join a government-run health insurance plan?” and then they say, “How could the government efficiently run a health insurance plan? It would mean long waits and more red tape for your treatment.” These statements cannot co-exist!  If a government-run plan would be so bad, what do private insurance companies have to worry about?  And if it’s that good, what sensible CEO concerned about shareholders wouldn’t step up his game to stay competitive and retain customers?  And why are so many people – including my senator – so against it?

Reader, if you’re against real reform, please reconsider.  If you’re for it but you haven’t been vocal, please speak up.  And if you’re happy with the way things are, just wait.


© Mariam Williams, aka The Pink-Slipped Girl, and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mariam Williams and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off or, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Any use and/or duplication of any photo contained within this blog without express and written permission from Mariam Williams is strictly prohibited.


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Filed under Health Insurance, Unemployment

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