Nothing makes me feel more helpless than the issue of healthcare in America. As a person with a preexisting condition, diabetes, this issue directly impacts my life. At present, I am a healthy, talented human being who contributes to society by having a job, participating in politics, and spending what little money I have on housing and basic necessities.
I also live in poverty, dependent on the state for the basic necessities of food and medicine. If I chose to have a job that would make me enough money to bump me up a tax bracket or two, I'd lose my medical coverage and I'd be faced with a huge, new set of problems. Problems like having to fork over $700 per month in insurance costs and medical expenses in addition to paying for rent, utilities, food, and other basic needs.
If I had a "real" job that covered all of my normal expenses, it would still cost me $33 per day just to keep breathing; that's the daily cost of my medication, the means to inject it, doctor's visits, and minimal food. That's $231 per week, and $924 per month. Individual insurance doesn't help me. In fact, with an average $450/mo policy and a minimum $5,000 deductible, paying out of pocket almost SAVES me money.
I've called for policy quotes from insurance companies many times. They have a list of questions that they ask. After determining your age and sex (and whether or not you are pregnant), they ask personal questions about your medical history, "do you have or have you ever had cancer/stroke/heart attack", "do you smoke", "do you drink alcohol", etc. At about the 4th or 5th question, they ask if you have diabetes. Then the questions stop. Once you confirm that you are diabetic (or have any other kind of chronic illness that needs medication for upkeep), they give you a quote between $450 - $550/mo with a high deductible between $5,000 - $10,000/yr. Even insurance companies that claim the cheapest rates never dip below a $400 monthly cost.
With the amount of money I have to spend on medical costs, I could be renting a 3 bedroom house and a small studio space outside of that, and still have money for utilities and food. Instead, I've been reduced to poverty and food stamps by a government and country that believes that one can only be sick and alive if one is rich. The alternative is to be either sick and poor, or dead. And with the audacity that the insurance companies display in their rising rates and premiums, their opinion is obvious; the sick do not deserve to live. Hospitals and pharmicutical companies share that opinion by refusing full and adiquate treatment to the uninsured, and with the high, rising costs of medications and medical supplies.
You might be asking yourself why I don't get a job somewhere, anywhere, with health insurance. The answer is simple, I am not guaranteed any sort of coverage that way. If I cost the insurance company too much, I will be forced to pay a higher rate to keep my coverage. The insurance company can also choose to drop me and cancel my coverage or simply refuse to cover me in the first place. This is not unheard of, nor is is uncommon. In fact, insurance companies are notorious for discontinuing their coverage if a healthy client falls ill. Also, the company I work for can also choose to not cover me. This is a little less common, but if I make it more expensive for the company to cover ALL of its employees, it can happen.
Writing about this issue is hard for me. Being objective and not losing my cool and screaming obscenities is the most difficult part. I wonder, who are they to tell me that I don't deserve to keep breathing? Who are they to tell me that I am an inferior human being? Words like "liability" and "high-risk" that are used to label the sick and disabled are insulting, demeaning, and thrown around by insurance companies as if they are harmless. I've made many a phone call for quotes that has ended in tears of hurt and frustration. Their negligence and ignorance are more harmful than any healthy person can realize.
The continuation of this line of conversation goes into the topic of how healthy people simply don't understand what it is like to be sick. This is a very basic observation, but you'd be surprised at how much it clouds their judgment and impedes the progress of reform. But I digress, and I'll refrain from going any further with this line of thought.
There are so many people in America who cannot afford insurance. There are still more who can't afford the medications that they need to live. If the government were to start regulating and charging for air, we'd all be in the same boat. Fortunately for us all, that won't happen any time soon. (Could you imagine oxygen insurance?)
The point I'm trying to make is this; our current method of health care in the United States IS NOT WORKING. It needs to be reformed, rethought, and radically changed. Even if it is done by baby steps over the next 75 years, it needs to be done, and it needs to start NOW. Discrimination against pre-existing conditions must STOP. And the impersonal treatment of the sick and disabled must end.
Write your congress people, both the senate and the house need to know your thoughts and concerns. Tell the house to pass the senate's bill, even if it does not include a public option, it may just be the baby step toward reform that people like me, people like your friends and relatives, pray for with every breath, every pill, every injection.
Healthy people of the free world, unite and help the sick. We need your support for the changes that must be made. Brothers and sisters with diabetes and the host of other invisible chronic illnesses, unite for change and reform. Together, we can make a difference and make breathing easier for everyone.