Posts Tagged ‘health insurance’

My healthcare story and reflections on the American Health Care Act bill.

Okay, I’m going to get personal and political about healthcare coverage.

My story:

Over many years in infrequent doctor’s visits, I omitted the fact that my family has a history of depression. I did this partly in order to avoid receiving a diagnosis, to avoid the stigma of the label, and also to avoid having a “pre-existing condition.” My parents were both self-employed and had to buy private insurance, so any diagnosis (especially one I was not seeking conventional medical treatment for) might put that at risk.

After college, I generally had several jobs that included health insurance benefits. After I got laid off in 2011, I was able to apply for private insurance without much of a hassle. At the time, insurance carriers seemed to look for any reason not to cover people — or at least charge more for their care. I was relieved and grateful that I didn’t fall into this category.

But then something else came up: in the late summer of 2013, I discovered I had a tumor on my right ovary. This discovery, along with the subsequent open abdominal surgery, meant that I would have a pre-existing condition. With the beginning of the Affordable Care Act in 2014, I was able to easily get coverage. And with my recovery from the surgery, I also struggled to recover emotionally and fell into a deep depression. I decided to seek further treatment, which included hospitalization and taking medication and later an intensive therapy program.

When I moved back to New Mexico, I qualified for Centennial Care, their Medicaid Program, under the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. Under this program, I was able to get my Dialectical Behavioral Therapy program covered as well as occupational therapy for my sensory issues. It also covered my preventative care visits, pelvic ultrasounds, and follow-up appointments to make sure the tumor hadn’t returned. I felt so grateful to have these needs met.

These days, I am pretty healthy. I still take antidepressants, and have not had another major episode of depression. So far, my tumor has not returned.

Today, the House of Representatives passed a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. This bill includes changing the current guaranteed protections to pre-existing conditions.

A recent quote from an Alabama congressman: “My understanding is that (the new proposal) will allow insurance companies to require people who have higher health care costs to contribute more to the insurance pool. That helps offset all these costs, thereby reducing the cost to those people who lead good lives, they’re healthy, they’ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy. And right now, those are the people — who’ve done things the right way — that are seeing their costs skyrocketing.”

I see quotes like this and I get frustrated. Honestly, I get frustrated anytime I hear or read something from any side of the political spectrum that implies that people have full control — as if merely being responsible will ensure their good health — whether they’re talking about potential healthcare law changes or holistic healing. In my perspective, yes, there are things I can do (and do do) to help keep myself healthy — but that doesn’t guarantee my continued good health.

Yes, there are people with pre-existing conditions who don’t take care of themselves. There are people out there who have pre-existing conditions because they didn’t take care of themselves. There are also people who can’t afford to take better care of themselves — they do what they can, but they may prioritizing caring for others, and/or need to work two jobs to provide for themselves and their families, etc. And there are people who take care of themselves and do everything “right” and still end up falling ill. And sometimes “pre-existing condition” just means that a person sought out treatment for something they needed medical help with, which resulted in a diagnosis. This can run the gamut of regular, human life experiences, including childbirth. In this so-called healthcare bill, the list of what qualifies as a pre-existing condition goes on. 

Hearing and reading about all these potential changes does scare me on a personal level — it would be a huge financial burden for my husband and me if our healthcare costs went up in order for me to at least get preventative coverage, and that’s not even looking at potential serious health issues in the future. We are currently both covered through his employer, and this bill would likely extend to these benefits as well.

However, I am young and currently healthy. I am concerned for others. There are others whose higher cost or loss of coverage could be the difference between life and death. There are children who are born with pre-existing conditions whose parents might have to make hard decisions. Many people will lose coverage.

The Senate is said to be considering creating another version of the American Health Care Act; in any case, the review of the bill in the Senate is likely to be a longer process. 

If you are concerned about the future of healthcare coverage in the United States, here are some things you can do:
Call, write, or e-mail your Senators.

Write thank-you notes to Congresspeople who voted against the bill.  If your representative voted for it and you disagree with them, let them know (for reference, these are the votes).

Share your story. Write in your social media channels, share in a blog post. Personal stories can make a huge impact.