Tag Archives: health insurance

But how are you getting by?

How are you getting by?

I get asked this a lot and I don’t know how to answer. I don’t know what kind of an answer people expect.

I suppose people think I’ll say something like “Oh, I’m just living on savings until I find something new” or “I’m getting unemployment” or “My husband/parents/in-laws are helping out.”

No one has ever asked me this question when I had a regular job. I find that strange because I wasn’t “getting by” even when I was working. There is a misconception that if you have a job, you can “get by.” My car was repossessed when I was working. My electricity was cut off when I was working. When I was working, I had to eat with the homeless people in the park because I had no food and made too much money for food stamps.

I had health insurance at two of my last three temp jobs. Unfortunately, I had so little money that I couldn’t afford the copays to see my doctor. It’s good that I had insurance in case I got into an accident, but what good was this insurance if I couldn’t use it when I needed it for less catastrophic times? I had health insurance when I was coughing up blood, but I didn’t have $10 to see the doctor. I couldn’t go to work like that, and my job did not provide sick days, so I would either get more poor or more sick.

Since early 2006, my rent has increased 27% while my income (until I quit) had decreased 29%. I was barely able to pay my rent when it was at its lowest, so it just seems impossible now. I’m damned if I do, and I’m damned if I don’t. Right now I just can’t deal with working at a horrible job that I hate and am not good at where I’m likely to get reprimanded. I am hyperaware every second of every day that I still will not be able to pay my rent on time. This isn’t a money management problem. I really wish it were a money management problem. I can fix my budget, but this goes so much deeper than that. To quote a friend of mine: “If your boss gives you 60 hours of work to do and only 40 hours to do it, you have a time problem, not a time management problem. If you only get $400 for a week of work, but your basic expenses cost $500 a week, it’s not a reflection of your ability to stick to a budget just because you can’t make it work!”

When I was a receptionist, the company I worked for invited a personal finance counselor to come in and speak to us individually by appointment. I was struggling in a dead-end job and I was barely able to make ends meet, so I was glad for the opportunity to talk to a professional. He gave me a worksheet with a list of items on it and asked me to tell him how much I spent on each. He asked me about my utilities, groceries, my medical bills, credit card bills, and rates on car and renter’s insurance. I gave up my telephone land line years ago, and my cell phone plan is reasonable. I have not had cable since 2003. I did not even own a computer, let alone pay for Internet. I spent very little on groceries. I had the cheapest car insurance policy I could find. I spent about $200 a year on clothing and shoes combined (I spend far less than that now). I had already lumped several accounts into a debt consolidation plan that had reduced my interest rates by half. I do not buy music, go to bars, or go to movies, and I attend only a couple of concerts a year. At the time, my only consistent “luxury” was a $20/month Netflix account. My expenses were all bills I was struggling to pay off from my first two years of unemployment. After buying the basic essentials and making minimum payments, I was left with about $40 each month. It was not enough extra to see a significant change in credit card balances and the like. Also, $20 of that went to Netflix. Almost all of my money was spent playing catch-up.

The personal finance counselor told me that I had cut out all I could, and that the only solution to my problem was to make more money. He told me that nothing was wrong with my budget. I began looking for a second job, but I never found one. I was eventually fired from that receptionist position for “being unhappy.” I was only unemployed for about three weeks, but my next job paid nearly $10,000 a year less and I was laid off in less than six months. It did not occur to me that my next job would pay so much less, especially since it was technically at a higher level. It was a big pay cut, and it hurt. It hurt more when I got laid off.

So, how am I getting by? I sell some of my belongings online. When I get money from that, I put a little gas in my car, I buy cat food, rat food, or kitty litter. I eat food-bank food almost exclusively. I steal my neighbor’s wi-fi. I stopped taking all 7 of my prescription medications. I revel in the fact that the electric company won’t cut me off again for a very long time. I let my phone get cut off until I can scrounge enough money to pay my past-due balances. I think deeply. I worry. I go to a lot of used bookstores to sell my collection. I look around at the disarray and panic because I don’t have the energy to box it all up and I don’t know where I’m going or how I’m going get there. I sleep a lot. I mope. I don’t answer my phone. I wait for the sheriff to force me to leave. I jump at every noise. I don’t get out much.

I did something very unethical that I am ashamed to talk about, even here: prior to leaving my job, I found a year-long bus pass that had been dropped by a coworker. There was no one around when I found it, and I waited a long time and no one returned to get it. These bus passes are issued to employees for free, but they probably cost the company over $1000 (I know that they are worth around $1500).  I was a temp and did not get the year-long bus pass — I had to pay $90 a month for my own. The pass was brand new. I found it in July, and it’s good through next July. I fully intended to turn it in to security, but at some point it occurred to me that the pass was worth much more to me than to whoever had lost it. After all, they had a real job and I didn’t. Also, I’ve had so many bad things happen, that maybe this was a break for me. I don’t believe in Karma, but if I did, I’d actually think this was the universe trying to throw me a bone for once. Well, maybe I do believe in Karma after all. I kept the pass. I never heard anything about anyone looking for it, so I ride the bus to save gas, and I don’t pay a penny for it. I won tickets to a movie last night, and that bus pass was the only way I could have gone to the only fun thing I’ve done recently. I could not have paid for parking, and I did not have enough money for bus fare. Keeping the pass was wrong of me, but I’m doing it for survival.

So, that is how I’m “getting by,” if you want to call it that. I don’t even want a job right now because a job will not save me from eviction, and I need to be ready. I’m too depressed to make progress quickly, and I know in my heart that I’d be too distracted at a job, even a simple one. I had enough trouble focusing at my last job. I am using this time to focus on liquidating my belongings and finding a transitional shelter to move into, no matter how frustrating that may be.

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Filed under "In this economy", Depression, Food, Home Life, Materialism, Obstacles, Work

So it begins

I don’t remember exactly when I stopped taking my thyroid medication. I probably stopped taking cytomel in August. I stopped taking levoxyl more recently, perhaps four weeks ago. I really don’t remember. So I wasn’t terribly surprised to wake up this morning and see my eyes looking like this:

It looks much worse in person.

It looks much worse in person.

My eyes are so puffy that my eyelids have rolls. My whole face has been at least slightly swollen since my early twenties. I even had episodes of swelling in my teens. For a brief period (2004-2005), that swelling went down completely. I have pictures. I wish I had more pictures because I actually looked human during that time period. I felt well, too. In March 2006 I began a temp job as a receptionist. They took my photo for the ID badge. A year later (at the same job) I looked completely different.

Back in 2003, my doctor tested me for Cushing’s syndrome and many other things because I had the swelling and extreme weight gain for no discernible reason. I had a sluggish, awkward gait that I think I have once again, and several more symptoms that just make me feel like I should apply for a job to be a mad scientist’s assistant. The only one of my tests that came back positive was for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, a common autoimmune disorder. My other tests were either negative or inconclusive. My doctor wants to test me again because even when I’m on my medications, something is visibly wrong with me. As anyone who reads this is well aware, I have no money and no health insurance, so I have no access to further medical testing or treatment. There are clinics for low-income people, but none of them staffs an endocrinologist or rheumatologist (a doctor who could help treat and diagnose autoimmune diseases of connective tissue). They also require payment at time of service. The only free medical clinic I have found in my state is the horrible one I went to a few years ago. It’s about 60 miles from where I live. And I had to diagnose myself and tell the doctor what drugs to give me. I got what I paid for.

Prior to my mother’s death, she had promised to pay for me to stay at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and get all this sorted out. This is also partly why I quit the only decent-paying job I’ve ever had. It was bad enough that she died, but she died with her legal and financial affairs in complete disarray, and I had no idea. It wasn’t entirely her fault, but she had put her faith in people who proved themselves to be incompetent and untrustworthy when it came down to business. And I put my trust in people, too. If I had known all of the details about what was happening, I wouldn’t have trusted her or anyone else to help me, and I wouldn’t have quit my job. If I’d seen even 1% of my inheritance money, this would have been taken care of years ago. Never listen to anyone, and never trust anyone with anything ever, especially if you’re related to them.

I found a transitional housing place in Seattle that looks somewhat nice. They help single women get on their feet after crisis, including a financial crisis. I think that most of the women there have criminal records, drug problems, or are escaping domestic violence situations. They cook together and have their own rooms. I couldn’t take my cat, but I could tolerate that. It is $365 or so a month, which I can’t afford but if I got a part-time job or something then maybe I could. I left them a message yesterday. I imagine I’ll have to stay somewhere free until I can figure out what else to do. Even now I have barely packed at all. I am really embarrassed by how much of a hard time I’m having just with simple tasks. I suppose it’s hard to pack when I don’t know when I’m going, where I’m going, or how I’m going to take anything with me.

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Filed under fml, health, Obstacles

Who can it be now?

Another day, another knock at my door I don’t answer. I’m starting to think that my landlord and rental agency are as clueless about eviction as I am. It seems odd that they would try to approach me in person when I have not received so much as a phone message from them in about a month and I have received no eviction-related documents since my three-day pay-or-vacate notice. There have been no notes left on my door, which is even more confusing. I live in a condominium with no on-site manager. Why would someone drive all the way out here unannounced without leaving a note? The pay-or-vacate notice was left on my door, but that is all.

I can only assume it is someone who wants to talk to me about eviction. This person knocks on my door persistently, and does not approach my neighbors’ condos. Whoever he is, he is here to see me. The only reason anyone stops by my place uninvited is to get something from me. I tell myself sometimes that I will answer my phone next time a debt collector calls, and I told myself tonight that I will answer the door the next time this happens. But I probably won’t. If I had an income I might have more confidence in this matter, but as of now I don’t.

Today I drank a Diet Rock Star, a drink that can wake the dead. I hoped that by drinking it I would find the energy to pack and clean out my place a little, but I was fast asleep an hour later. I have barely moved on paring down my belongings. I have also stopped applying for jobs. I have reached the pinnacle of my exhaustion. I’m becoming more fearful that there is something very wrong with me health-wise. I have only mentioned some of my chronic health issues here, and it’s not something I really care to get into yet, but I started showing signs of illness around ten years old. I have been diagnosed with a couple of problems, but my diagnoses do not explain many other symptoms I have. I’m definitely not a hypochondriac, even though I have often been treated as such. My symptoms are visible, undeniable, and run in my family, but my medical tests are always negative or inconclusive. These issues only add to my overwhelming fatigue. Despite having a father who was a doctor, I have never had proper, consistent healthcare. My parents never took me to doctors, even when at age 12 I became violently ill and developed vertigo and intrusive pulsatile tinnitus, the latter of which I still have to this day. I still get vertigo on occasion, too, but never to the degree I had it in childhood. There were multiple occasions when I had to crawl because I couldn’t walk without vomiting or falling. I haven’t had an incident like that in about 11 years (knock on wood). By the time I was old enough to go to doctors regularly on my own, I had been disowned by PsychoDad and didn’t have a job that offered health insurance. I finally got good health insurance just in time for my Cancer Scare of ’06, but I lost my job six months after the surgery that left me scarred and hormonally wonky, for lack of a better term. It wasn’t cancer, fortunately, but no one knew that so my stress levels extremely high. Not that knowing would have changed much. It still would have been stressful and life-altering.

One of my biggest personality flaws is that I don’t ask anyone for the help I need until it’s too late. I had this problem in college and graduate school. I have had this problem at jobs. I’m doing it again right now and I don’t know how to stop it. I seem to have personal drama going on all the time, and I will struggle, struggle, and struggle with school or work all the while thinking “I can do this!” and by the time I realize that I can’t it’s too late. I’ve been asked in several situations “Why didn’t you tell me there was a problem? Why didn’t you ask for help?” My response is always “I really thought I could handle it.” But sometimes I can’t. My awareness of this personality flaw hasn’t stopped me from doing it time and time again. I guess I don’t know where the line is between self-sufficiency and foolishness. I can’t stop all of the drama, but I should be able to improve the way I cope.

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Filed under Depression, fml, health, Home Life, Materialism, Obstacles

Lazy Jane

Lazy Jane by Shel Silverstein

Lazy Jane by Shel Silverstein

I’ve spent most of the past several days tending to my sick rat. In a way, it’s a relief not to have a job because he cannot eat or drink by himself. However, if I had a job (and $50 or so) I would have had him euthanized days ago. I can tell he’s really suffering and there is no chance for recovery.  He lies with his head down and his mouth gaping open while he gasps and gasps for air. He falls over when he tries to walk. His back legs are barely moving and he’s bone-thin. I suspect a pituitary tumor in addition to his apparent respiratory problems. I let him stay with me most of the day. How I wish I had thought to buy a carry sack! His brother (and cage-mate) won’t leave him alone, and he squeaks in pain while his brother grooms him. He’s my main excuse (yes I’ll admit that it’s more of an excuse than a reason) for not going to Labor Ready today. I didn’t take much convincing not to go. Labor Ready sounds awful. And I’m sick, both chronically and acutely. What kind of construction work could they have me do?

I feel a lot like Lazy Jane in the Shel Silverstein poem. Part of me just expects a job to fall into my lap. The scraps of my sense of entitlement tell me that after nearly six years of looking, that something, somewhere will just come along. Part of me believes that my 600-or-so job rejections were just fodder for the amazing, spectacular job I’m destined to get. I consider myself a rational person, but I really, truly believe this even though I know I’m wrong. I am actively looking for employment, but I am not looking with the same hope and enthusiasm that has gotten me through job searches in the past. I wish I could stop letting my depression get to me. I should be hitting the pavement, networking, schmoozing, hobnobbing, brown-nosing, you name it. But I sleep, I make pasta, I watch a lot of Mystery Science Theater 3000, and I spoon-feed and -water my dying pet rat. I also cough and wheeze a lot. One of the first things I’m going to do when I get money is get my inhaler prescription refilled. My lungs never quite recovered from the pneumonia bout of 2008.

I have had chronic low body temperature since childhood, and if it weren’t for that, I’d think I have a fever. I am on thyroid medication that should regulate my temperature a bit, but it’s still too low. Not counting hot flashes (I have never taken my temperature during one), I have had exactly one “real” fever in my life, and that was when I was in the hospital with a post-surgery infection.

I have received a number of phone calls from optimistic recruiters, but it seems like these phone calls never lead to anything. I have now twice applied for a job at the company that laid me off in 2007. I had good references there, but my whole team got laid off while our jobs were shipped to India. The jobs I’m applying for are even in the department I used to work in, yet I am getting nowhere with these applications. Calling to follow up is hopeless –no one will let you talk to anyone, and no one will even let you leave a voice mail. I may very well end up getting a minimum wage job at a local fair. That may be more tolerable than Labor Ready. I actually like the fair.

I am unfortunately at the point where I am rationing my own medications. I will run out shortly, and it won’t be pretty. Last fall while I was a graduate student, my medical bills prevented me from enrolling in classes required for me to graduate. Because I owed about $4000 to the University Medical Center, they put a hold on my registration and effectively kicked me out of school. I protested and explained how poor I was, but I got nowhere with them. The worst thing about it was that since they wouldn’t let me register, I was unable to access my student loans. My student loans were my sole source of income, so I couldn’t even make a small payment because they wouldn’t give me the loan money. I explained to them repeatedly that if they would lift the hold on my registration, I would register, get my loan money, and then pay them. Eventually, I convinced them. Unfortunately, they demanded I give them essentially all of my loan money or get booted out of class. I complied, and was left with approximately $40 to last three months. My medications cost at least $60 with insurance, which I could no longer afford. I quit taking all of my drugs. I paid rent and other bills with cash advances on my credit card because I had a $5700 limit and just a small balance.

I was fine for a couple of weeks or so, but then the brain fog set in. Worse, my thyroid became large and inflamed, and I developed a small (but visible) goiter. It was somewhat difficult to breathe and I felt like I was being strangled nonstop. All I did was sleep and go to class. I don’t even remember what happened the first six weeks of the term. My grades were the worst I had made in the program. I promised myself at that point that even if I had to rob a pharmacy, I would never go without my medications again.

I may very well go to St. Vincent DePaul, even though I’ve had bad experiences with them for two out of the three times I have used their services. The second time I went there, the man there made me cry after he made a comment about how ‘people like me’ were always coming in and taking advantage of ‘nice people like them.’ The third (and last) time I went there the woman I dealt with was sarcastic and rude. She acted as though I was poor because I’d spent all of my money on drugs, and even implied as much to the pharmacist on the phone (to paraphrase “Well, she says she’s underemployed, but who knows what she spends her money on?”). Much like in the aftermath of my negative experience with a free clinic, I decided it was too much trouble to bother with them, even when I really needed help.

Update: About 90 minutes after I initially published this, my little rat passed away in my arms. I’m heartbroken because he was the nicest rat I’d ever met (and I’ve met quite a few and they’ve all been nice) but I’m glad that he isn’t suffering anymore. I still feel guilty that I was unable to give him proper care.

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Sickness is a sticky wicket

As I mentioned in at least one other post, when I was 25 years old, I worked for a phone sex line. While I don’t regret working there, it was actually a very dark period in my life and I don’t look too fondly on the memories. I never sought out to get a job like that; I only applied for it and accepted it in a moment of desperation. I’d been looking for a job (any job) for about six months, I was living in a mold-ridden apartment with a friend, I was denied unemployment, and I was mostly living on credit cards. One day, another job-hunting friend approached me and asked “Would you ever consider working at an adult phone line?” “Sure,” I said. And that was that.

It was at that job that I began to realize that I don’t work well with the public, especially when the public is going to be both demanding and unpredictable. The job paid only commission, so I had to actively solicit men to get them to call me. I wasn’t very good at that. There was no hourly base pay, and there were no benefits. When I worked there in addition to one or two part-time jobs, I made enough money to get by, but there were long periods where my only job was at the phone sex line. During one of those long periods, I became very ill.

I don’t know what I had. It may have been strep throat; it may have just been something similar. I was in a lot of pain, I had virtually no money, and (of course) no health insurance. Despite my illness, I kept trying to go to work. I didn’t know what else to do. Day after day I showed up, and day after day the manager sent me home. There are few things less sexy than the sound of a woman’s voice when she is stricken with a sore throat, laryngitis, and phlegmy coughs. The manager would hear me answer the phone and would send me home almost immediately.

Three weeks of misery went by, and I had barely worked. That meant that I had barely been getting paid. Phone sex operators do not get paid sick days, vacation days, or personal days. If I wanted to pay rent and bills like a responsible adult, something had to change. My manager gave me some information about a free medical clinic in town, so I went.

It was winter, so it was cold and rainy in western Washington. The clinic attendants made us queue up outside and would not let us in until they were ready to see the first appointment. I had lost my voice, but that didn’t stop me from speaking to a few people in the line. Most of them had illnesses like I did, and many of them were regulars.

It was a very confusing experience. I waited, waited, and waited, and then I was able to sign in. I waited, waited, and waited some more, and then my name was called. They asked me a few questions about what I needed, and then they sent me back out to the waiting room to wait all over again. About two hours after my arrival, I got in to see the doctor.

The clinic room looked like any other clinic room. The doctor was a man in his late 40s. He asked me to sit on the examination table.

I had terrible laryngitis, a cough, and my throat was swollen and sore. The doctor looked in my mouth and said “Hmm. I don’t see anything wrong.”

I protested immediately –as best as I could with almost no voice. I told him that I could see that my throat was swollen just by opening my mouth and glancing in the mirror. He had peered into my mouth with a flashlight and a tongue depressor and then had the audacity to tell me that he didn’t see anything wrong.

He looked again. “I still don’t see anything wrong.” At that point I was furious. I was exhausted, sick, cranky, in pain, and I’d been there for hours just to have this guy tell me I was just fine when anyone could see that I wasn’t. I continued to protest –if my voice had been strong enough, I’d have been yelling. He said “I can’t get your tongue to go down at the back, so I can’t even see your throat.”

I told him “Yes, that happens every time I get sick. It gets sore and swells up back there.”

“So…what, your tongue hurts?”

I was just stunned. Was this guy a real doctor?

“No, I have a sore throat! I’ve had this exact problem many, many times in my life!”

“What has helped you get better before?” he asked.

“Antibiotics.”

“Okay, then. Let’s get you some antibiotics.”

This is the treatment poor people get. The best part of the whole experience was the “toiletry pack” they offered me on the way out. They gave me a Ziploc bag containing soap, a trial-size tube of toothpaste, a toothbrush, some dental floss, some Q-tips, and a small assortment of feminine hygiene products.

Despite the generous toiletry pack and the free antibiotics, I have since avoided free clinics. In 2008, I came down with a respiratory infection that turned into walking pneumonia, and I just waited it out for a couple of months. When I started grad school, I signed up for the student insurance, but after paying over $150 a month on the premium, I still got billed over $4000 for a battery of tests I had during a freakish lupus-like episode.

My $4000 medical bill caused me a lot of problems in grad school. Because I had the tests done at my university’s hospital, they had the power to prevent me from enrolling if I couldn’t pay my bill. I was living on student loans, and very meager ones at that, so it just wasn’t possible for me to pay much towards these bills. They also seemed to have difficulty figuring out what my insurance would or wouldn’t pay for. To this day, I have no idea what I really owe.

I grew up with two chronically ill parents, and I have spent most of my life around illness. My mother was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was about seven years old. She had gestational diabetes when she was pregnant with me, and two out of three women who get gestational diabetes end up with diabetes later. Type 1 diabetes is usually associated with children, but occasionally it shows up in adults, too. My mother was overweight when she was young, but she was a pretty normal 135 lbs at the time of her diagnosis. Strangely, she always hated sweet foods and never ate them.

Within about two years of her diagnosis, she had to stop driving because her vision had gotten so bad with retinopathy. At times it was like living with Mister Magoo; she once made me a peanut butter and spaghetti sauce sandwich because the spaghetti sauce was in a similar jar to the jelly. Another time she made me a pizza with green cheese because she hadn’t noticed that the mozzarella had gone bad.

Four years after her diagnosis, her kidneys failed and she was put on dialysis. I was 12 years old at the time, so this meant I had a lot more responsibility around the house. My father was diagnosed with prostate cancer the same year. My parents continued to act as though everything was normal, so it took me a long time to realize that I had a lot to contend with at age 12.

Dialysis was brutal. So were my father’s surgeries and radiation treatments. Despite living in the same home, I barely saw or spoke to my mother for three days of each week. She had dialysis very early in the morning on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Sunday was her only really “good” day because it was the longest she went without being hooked up to that horrible machine that took her blood away. She would leave for dialysis before I woke up, and come home shortly before noon. During the school year, I’d come home and she would be asleep, or at best dizzy, nauseated, and grumpy. Either way, she was hardly an attentive parent, but I hold no resentment towards her for that. During the summers, I would sometimes go with her to the dialysis center. She shared a television with a 17-year-old boy and they would watch cartoons or The Price Is Right together while on their machines.

It was difficult for my mother to travel because of dialysis. We had to make arrangements in advance every time she went out of town for a few days. During the summer of 1994, we went on a short trip to Australia. Arranging dialysis in another location was always difficult, and those difficulties multiplied while we arranged dialysis on another continent, especially prior to the age of e-mail. We were also planning to stay in one city for one week, and another city the following week, so we had to make accommodations for each one. There were a few screw-ups with her first reservation, but eventually we got her in at a nice unit near the hotel. The differences between the Australian dialysis center and the American one were astounding.

At the American center, food was not allowed on the premises. When my mother left each day, her blood sugar and blood pressure were dangerously low, which is to be expected when you’ve had your blood scrubbed clean. Not being allowed to eat until she left the building exacerbated her lightheadedness. She could not drive herself (both because of the weakness and the retinopathy) so we hired a “public chauffeur” who drove her straight home. She would come home, make herself some salty instant soup, then sleep the rest of the day.

In Australia, not only did the dialysis nurses allow food on the premises, but they served tea, crumpets, and fruit to all the patients. The equipment was visibly newer and cleaner, the staff were kind and they interacted with each patient. Best of all, my mother wasn’t a weak mess when she left each session. I spent a lot of time by myself in Australia, but I spent a lot of time with my mother as well. We did a lot of shopping together and we enjoyed many coffees and conversation at Myer, an Australian department store. She felt well and was up to far more activity than usual, and I will always remember those two weeks because I felt like I had gotten my mother back.

I was young and did not handle the finances. I have no idea how much it costs to be on dialysis. I do know, however, that once my mother got a kidney transplant, her immunosuppressant drugs cost in the neighborhood of $1000 a month, and that was over ten years ago. That was including insurance coverage, which had premiums of several hundred dollars a month, just for her. She had a pre-existing condition, so her insurance plan left much to be desired. My parents were wealthy. They could pay this. Most people wouldn’t have been able to. Although my mother did not live to average life expectancy, I can’t imagine how early she would have died had we not been able to pay for her treatment to the extent that we could. If I have the same fate as my mother, I will probably not be so lucky –and she wasn’t lucky at all.

Partly because of my mother’s condition, I have done a fair amount of volunteer work with the local branch of the National Kidney Foundation. I have a lot of sympathy for people who struggle with diabetes and kidney disease. For two years, I drove dialysis patients to and from their appointments. One of the patients I drove was a 25-year-old man. He had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was a young child. One day, there was a complication, and he went into a coma. He woke up blind and with no kidneys.

He was no longer able to work. He had a young daughter, and was supporting her with his disability checks and miscellaneous government support. He lived in a terrible neighborhood. This kind of thing can happen to anyone, and it frequently leads to poverty and bankruptcy.

I listen to a lot of political talk radio. I was quite surprised the other day to hear a clip of President John F. Kennedy discussing healthcare back in 1962. I have long believed that the United States falls far behind every other industrialized country in the world, but I didn’t realize that others had felt that way for so long. President Kennedy had a vision for the way things should be in this country, and we’re still so far from getting there.

One of the main arguments I have heard against healthcare reform is that the government will cut us off and not give us the care we need. It appears that insurance companies are doing that now. My mother died in 2003 after a very long series of illnesses. One illness led to another, and they all fed off of each other. She broke her hip, got bedsores, and was left with blood poisoning and brain damage. She spent most of the last two years of her life in a hospital. They discharged her prematurely several times (for insurance reasons), only to have her brought back in an ambulance within 48 hours. The last time she was discharged, they weren’t able to get the ambulance fast enough.

My parents worked very hard and made a lot of money. The problem is that lots of people work very hard, but not very many people make a lot of money. I am completely content with paying higher taxes if I have the security of knowing that I won’t be expected to pay $100,000 medical bill because my insurance company dropped me when I finally got a diagnosis for my mystery illness. Of course that’s easy for me to say now because I am unemployed, but my mindset did not change when I was better off. As a person born into a family with many illnesses, I have a lot of things to worry about. I had surgery in 2006 to extract a large (benign) tumor, and the surgery would have cost me over $30,000 if I hadn’t had insurance. As it was, I only had to pay $3,000, but the whole thing could have been prevented if I had the privilege of regular, affordable healthcare at the early stages of my illness. I do not have insurance right now, and I don’t know if I’ll ever have a worthwhile insurance plan again. Preventative care is the key, and our current system does not encourage it and in some cases does not allow it. I’m willing to bet that most Americans do not know the true cost of healthcare. The security of access to the care we need far outweighs the potential cost. President Obama had better not back down.

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