Sara’s more fashionable and hot-headed sister, Cait Amadon, will be taking over the post for today. (Note: Adult words below!)
Good riddance, 2016
I’ll say it, I’ll jump on that bandwagon: 2016 was the literal worst. Not only did we lose the White House to an over-grown Oompa Loompa with his cadre of white privileged yes-men, we also lost a number of cultural icons with a long history of fighting for those who have been shit upon by the American political system.
But on a personal level, 2016 decided to take a big, steamy dump on my life and I was helpless to stop it. About 6 months ago I found out I have systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE. In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t that big a deal; I will likely not die from this disease (nor complications thereof), with the proper treatment I may not even feel like I have it, and if I’m lucky—doubtful–someday in my lifetime they will find a cure. That being said, finding this out woke me up to a lot of things. Things like the importance of family, the importance of living a relatively low-stress life, and of course the importance of having good health insurance.
A 30-something’s history with health insurance (hint: it’s WAAAAY too complicated)
About 7 years ago, fully entrenched in the Great Recession, graduate degree in hand, I was living with my parents and working at the Gap. I was 25, working just under full-time status, unable to qualify for the company health insurance; therefore, I thought, why bother? Why bother paying some insurance company 50% of my monthly income? Why pay for something I’d likely never use, aside from my annual physical? Why, indeed. Undoubtedly, these are questions millions of Americans have been asking themselves for decades, and sadly will continue to ask themselves for years to come.
Fast-forward 2 years, working full-time at Bloomingdale’s, finally insured, feeling like a “grown-up” American. When heading out on my first real business trip to NYC I found out a co-worker/friend of mine fell ill with appendicitis. After surgery she gets slapped with a multi-thousand dollar bill because, according to our awesome health insurance company, having an appendectomy is a case of preexisting condition; therefore, a majority of the surgery was not covered. What the actual fuck? Having an appendix is a preexisting condition?! Having a preexisting condition means you aren’t eligible for insurance coverage?! Come on insurance companies! Come on Unites States legislators (um, Republicans)!
Again, fast-forward a few years to 2016. I finally make it out of retail, into a job I absolutely love, where I feel appreciated on a near daily basis for the work I produce. It’s such a great job, the company owners pride themselves on the stellar benefits they provide us (did I mention they pay our premiums, too?). And stellar those benefits truly are. Of all the health insurance I’ve been covered by, my current provider is really the best I’ve had. It’s allowed me to be seen by some truly wonderful doctors and PA’s who have helped me with my recent diagnosis. Doctors who care about me, check in on me, and help me when I’m struggling to come to terms with the fact that my own body is attacking itself.
But there’s a hefty price tag on this help. Even with my amazing insurance, I still have to shell out about $300-500 a month for my blood work and prescriptions. Then there’s the mental-tax of having to grapple with pre-authorizations for expensive medications. Medications that are essential for my treatment, which the insurance company tried very hard not to authorize. This has occurred to me twice in the last month. Even the “good ones” are a bunch of ass-hats who would rather see a big fat bottom line, than help people truly in need. And I don’t even have that bad of a disease! I shudder to think of the endless hoops cancer patients must jump through to get treatment.
The Prexisting Conditioners
Or how about people with conditions like mine who lose their health benefits along with their jobs? How will they get care when the Affordable Care Act is repealed? To legislators, I say, stand up for basic decency (let’s face it; SUPER basic). Being a human is a preexisting condition! We will always get sick, we will always have things wrong with us. Are you saying I might not have a right to exist in your system? That I’m the broken one? I think a system that discriminates against the weakened is what’s broken.
The Affordable Care Act has helped millions of us poor saps get health insurance (including many personal friends), but not even that is foolproof. (Read my bro-in-laws post on this, with more forthcoming.) I tried to apply when I was unemployed, but somehow earning $35,000 the year prior was too high of an income to qualify. And I live in LA! I was too rich to qualify for Obamacare (or really, Medical, if we’re getting specific), and I was too poor to afford to pay for health insurance.
Now we’re facing the total repeal of the ACA with some joke these Oompa Loompa followers and the progress-black hole himself, Paul Ryan, are drafting up for us. In other words, I better hope to never lose my job, or find myself unemployed, because I’m pretty sure having an incurable autoimmune disease will land me with the other untouchable Preexisting Conditioners for life.
So, what will I do for my five minutes today? I’m going to share part of my story and hope that some of you Swing and Red-Staters will call your Representatives and Senators, because I’m sure my Dems in this Big Blue State of California don’t need to hear from me again. They’re fighting as best they can in the Alt-Right Enclave formerly known as Washington.
But in the states not so liberally inclined share with your legislators how you would like yourself and others to be insured. Tell them you want an affordable system. Tell them you don’t want people left behind because of circumstances out of their control (contact info here). If they really insist on the repeal and replace route, make sure they hear from you what really matters to the American people. Be louder than the lobbyists! YOU are the voices they should be listening to. YOU are their bosses!
Call them for me. Call for the millions of other Americans, who have it so much worse than I do, and who may lose their coverage under this new regime. Call for the next generation who will inherit whatever is left of this country when the Grand Oompa is done with it.
Just call, all it takes is #FiveMinutes.