Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ballad of the uninsured in America

I knew full-well going into this whole self-employment adventure that health insurance was going to be a big problem. You see, as much as I otherwise love my country, its current system of health care is about as backwards as an ass could possibly be.

Wisconsin has some fairly progressive state-run programs for those people who lose their insurance (or never get it in the first place). I was on BadgerCare back in those first few years out of college when all I had was a coffee shop job. Between that and the Family Planning Waiver, I was able to enjoy an at least basic level of security.

Having cast off my full-time desk job on purpose, however, I don't qualify for BadgerCare. See, you either have to get through 12 months of being uninsured (and presumably unemployed) before you can sign up, or have been laid off through no fault of your own. BadgerCare Core, the program for single adults without children like me, has currently frozen its enrollment anyway, so I would have ended up on a waiting list even if I had qualified.

I would like to point out that the Core plan had only existed for only four months before so many people had applied that they had to freeze enrollment. That should tell you something about the incredible need for any coverage at all in this state, not to mention country.

But I shouldn't complain, right? After all, I chose to leave my job with an insurance plan. There are far too many people who've just plain been forced out of work, many of whom have families to support and far greater health needs than me. I respect that. Heck my family's been there. Yet while I recognize that my situation is the result of my own decision--and so far I wouldn't take it back for all the world--I also stand firmly by my assertion that our health care system is fucked beyond belief.

Why should someone who takes the initiative to strike out on their own in pursuit of more fulfilling work have to go without health care? Why should anyone, regardless of their situation, have to go without health care?

They shouldn't. Period. Which is part of why watching the most recent debate over health care on a political level has been so painful. There had been some hope of getting universal coverage, the so-called "public option," before politicians pissed it all away in the vain hope of placating those on the far-right fringes who cried "socialism!" as though it was a bad thing when it came to the very health and well-being of their fellow citizens.

Because you know what that "socialism" would have meant for, say, someone like me? It would mean that this now empty bottle of pills I'm holding wouldn't cost me over $700 to refill (where it cost $20 with insurance). It would mean I'd be able to continue treating a stomach disorder that, left unchecked, tends to cause severe pain and make it difficult for me to properly digest food.

It would mean that people, like my own family some years ago, wouldn't have to worry about going bankrupt because someone got sick. That's just messed up.

But you all know this already. Today I'm just feeling a little sorry for myself and wanted to rant. That done, the next step is waiting for my doctor to call me back and come up with some sort of plan for taking care of my butt sans insurance. There is no generic for the medication I've been taking, so I'm not sure what the solution is, but I'm hopeful that something can be figured out. Fingers crossed.

(photo by macwagen on Flickr)


RootsWire said...

Oh I hear you. I'm in the same position basically since I chose to be self-employed a few years back. On top of which it turns out that the insurance companies think I'm uninsurable, so the only insurance I can get is the state HIRSP plan. Which is all well and good, but it's very expensive and has a high deductible, leaving me at the moment staring at a big ol' pile of bills on my desk that I don't know how to pay.

Somehow when the tea-partiers et al say that health care reform will ruin business, they forget about small business people like me who would welcome ANY kind of relief for their health insurance.

John Das Binky said...

Agreed muchly.

I'll throw out one point that might be semantic, but I think gets glossed over a lot.

You said:
"Why should someone who takes the initiative to strike out on their own in pursuit of more fulfilling work have to go without health care? Why should anyone, regardless of their situation, have to go without health care?"

This is making the mistake of equating health insurance with health care. In one sense, this is what American Health Care has become. But it's an association that shouldn't make sense. You can get your car repaired without car insurance and your house repaired without homeowner's insurance. Why has health care become so tied to insurance?

To be fair, your statement is correct in a real sense. If a prescription refill costs $700 without insurance vs. $20 with insurance, insurance becomes a pre-requisite for care.

But one of my pet causes is to destroy the link between health insurance and non-catastrophic health care. Almost every other type of insurance covers catastrophic loss only. Why is health insurance different?

Sorry, down from my soapbox. Meanwhile, I'll go back to railing against the health insurance industry while sitting at my desk working at a health insurance company. :)

George H. said...

John A. makes an excellent point. Add to that the other victim of the current system, also noted, and that is the bridling effect of health insurance. "Striking out on one's own" should be encouraged, but so many of us are tethered by the necessity of employment-supported health insurance.

Emily said...

John, couldn't agree more. Thanks for making the point.

The Lost Albatross