Health Care in America

March 22, 2010

I have believed for some time now, that health care in this country has been an issue overlooked. I know it's an issue that causes much controversy and distress for many people, but I also think that over time, it will be a positive change for many, many, many lives.  I know a few other women who have had their share of health issues and insurance woes.  By no means does my story even remotely compare, but here it is:

In 2001, I developed a strange rash on my legs that, over a period of 5 or 6 months, continually got worse and started spreading to my torso, arms, and, at one point, my face and head.  Thankfully, although I was going to school at the time, my parent's insurance continued coverage on dependents through the age of 25.  I had insurance, I had access to doctors both at the University and through my parent's insurance that were good, and I (well, more like my parents) was able to afford the numerous appointments that I made during this period to try to figure out what was going on.  After almost 6 months, I finally got a diagnosis for both the rash (vasculitis) and an autoimmune illness (lupus, which my mom also had).  Thankfully, after receiving the diagnosis, I found a really great rheumatologist and began treatment that caused the rash to go away and solved a number of other ailments that I had (which had been caused by lupus).

Over the last 9 years of living with this illness, I am so lucky to have a very mild version of if.  I have had no organ involvement, and only deal with ongoing joint pain and fatigue which I have learned to live and control. Nevertheless, at the age of 25, after being hired at a small firm, I found myself in a panic because I was on the verge of being without health insurance.  My parent's insurance would no longer cover me, my company, because of it's size, did not offer group insurance (although if it would have, I probably would not have qualified- simply because the pool would have been too small), and I could find NO individual insurance policy that would accept me.  Even though I had little health problems, because I had received a diagnosis of a pre-exisisting condition, no one would qualify me for health insurance.  It was very stressful to go through this realization, and ironically, stress is a contributing factor to how lupus affects me (stress = pain & fatigue).  I wondered why someone with health issues, who is already probably suffering in more ways than one, would be forced to go through such a stressful ordeal.

Finally, after coming to the conclusion that 1) I had a pre-existing condition and 2) I could not qualify for insurance I learned that my only option was to go on COBRA insurance for 18 months and then, when that ran out, I would be able to get on Texas Risk Pool insurance (although I've heard that once you go on that, you can't get on normal health insurance again, even if it's group- this may or may not be true).  Again, I was thankful that I was in a position that I could actually afford the high monthly insurance payment ($500- almost as much as my apartment rental payment).  I was on COBRA for almost 12 months, at which time I moved in with my soon-to-be fiance/now husband and, luckily, I was able to get on his insurance as a domestic partner.

So many aspects of my story are really just luck.  I am lucky that I was diagnosed with lupus relatively early- sometimes a diagnosis can take years.  I am lucky that I have a stable, well paying job.  I am lucky that my husband works at a large company with group insurance.  I am lucky that my illness has been in check for the most part and I have not needed serious treatment and can continue to work.  I am lucky that I have a good selection of doctors and a wonderful rheumatolgist that my insurance covers.  Many people are not so lucky, and those are the ones who will hopefully benefit the most from this new plan.


HisBirdie (Ali) said...

Thanks for sharing your story. Mine is similar to yours, in that I've been lucky to have my parents insurance (and money) when I was diagnosed with diabetes and now I work for my father's co and they have excellent health insurance. If it weren't for those things I don't know what I would have done.

Christina Peng said...

Thank you for sharing your story! I really believe this is the right direction for our country - It is a moral issue!

mrs shortcake said...

I couldn't imagine not having universal health care (I'm Canadian). I don't think any of my family would be financially solvent if we didn't have government-funded care!

TwoWishes Tara said...

My dear, I had no idea of your vasculitis/lupus diagnosis. So glad to hear it hasn't affected you too severely, and that you are doing well at managing the day-to-day fallout. Sometimes I wish I could go back to college and choose a career all over again -- I'd go into autoimmunity research because there's still so much to learn and so many people to help!

Anyway, I hear you on the pre-existing condition front. I've always lived in fear of losing my work-sponsored coverage because of it. (Thankfully, my federal-employee disability status keeps me on the government insurance rolls, because Mr T's firm is too small to offer us an alternative.) In other words, thank heavens for any progress the new health bill can bring!!!

Dead Flowers said...

I'm so glad you shared this with us! I agree health care reform was overlooked and completely necessary. Here's to hoping it makes a difference over the next few years.