It’s been a while since I’ve had time to write in this space. Several times over the last months I have begun and then discarded my inadequate attempts to make sense of the increasingly wacked out world in which we live.
But then other stuff got in the way, like parenting and cooking dinner and laundry and celebrating birthdays and, you know, life, and the days melted into months.
So now, here we are, creeping up on six months since all hell broke loose in Washington, D.C. And I find myself alone in my house, as my children and spouse are otherwise engaged in the pursuit of summertime pleasures, with nothing to do but watch MSNBC and/or Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt OR write a blog post. And since I watched a couple Kimmys last night and ate my lunch while watching MSNBC, I thought I’d write.
Just joshing. I’m giving it more thought than that. I’ve actually been struggling with how to wrap my head around this whole health care nightmare.
Not sure what’s going to happen, but I know that it’s not going to benefit me or anyone I know. How do I know this? Because from what I can tell, the only winners in this whole debacle are the ultrawealthy who will gain a large tax break with the death of the Affordable Care Act tax, which subsidized Medicaid expansion and access for others to the health care system.
And no one in my circle of trust or life or what-have-you will be accessing any of that cash.
So my thoughts, naturally, go to my children and those with whom I work. Most of those guys are covered by Medicaid under the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Their parents can seek out yearly physicals and mental health services for their kids through their managed Medicaid health plans. My own kids always have been fortunate their parents’ jobs include the option to buy health insurance, and so they’ve never gone without.
But my oldest two children are 21 and 19. They’ve got one foot out of the nest. And, like my father before me, I worry about whether they’ll be able to find jobs once they’re finished with college that will provide health insurance. This will be especially important for them because they each, along with their younger brother, have what insurance companies will consider pre-existing conditions.
My oldest child has asthma, a condition he developed after contracting RSV as an infant. His brother and sister both have celiac disease, an inherited autoimmune condition. These conditions are mild, as far as health issues go. But they are chronic and lifelong.
I remember my parents telling me, when I was nearing the end of college, that I needed to aim to get a job that provided health insurance. And I didn’t really even have a pre-existing condition.
Except, as it turns out, that I did. I had a big one.
I’m a woman.
Yes, that was a shocker to the 23-year-old me, figuring out that my very identity made me a risk to my health insurer.
And to think that I’d lived all those years and never realized how risky I was. What a waste. To think of what I could have accomplished had I known. I was oblivious.
But one day, shortly into my tenure at my first newspaper job and after the prescribed waiting period, my health insurance took effect. Yay! I was excited. I had Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Kansas, because my employer was a newspaper owned by Stauffer Communications, based in Topeka, Kan. (This is only mildly interesting, but I must point out that Mary Stauffer, granddaughter of the company’s founder, is married to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback.)
My hubs and I had been married about six months, and for part of that time I’d been covered on his insurance through the Boy Scouts of America, where he worked. But with an actual full-time job, I would qualify for my own coverage. And at that point in my life, about the only thing I needed was access to birth control pills.
We’d been married less than a year. We were 23. And we were in no way, shape or form ready to be parents. Under the Boy Scouts’ health insurance plan, my birth control pills were covered, except for a reasonable co-pay. And I assumed it would be the same under my new Blue Cross plan.
But when I went to pick up my prescription that month, I found out otherwise when I had to fork over $50 for the 30-day pack.
It was 1992. I made less than $16,000 a year. The hubs made not a lot more. And that $50 was a big hunk of money. Much less than raising a child, to be sure, but still, it was ginormous for a couple of kids who sometimes went to the grocery store on a Saturday and feasted on samples to save a few bucks. There must have been a mistake, I figured, so I called the insurance company.
Nope, they said. Your policy doesn’t cover birth control pills. Or birth control in any form.
“Gosh,” I said to the customer service representative. “What about maternity care? Is that covered?”
“Oh, yes, there is coverage,” the woman on the line said.
I remember sitting in silence.
“So,” I said, “if I get pregnant, go to the doctor for nine months and have the baby in a hospital, all that is covered?”
“Yes,” she said, as if speaking to a small child.
“But the birth control pills aren’t covered,” I said.
“No,” she said.
“So nine months of maternity care and the birth and a short hospital stay is covered,” I said. “But $400 or so yearly to keep from getting pregnant is not covered.”
“No,” she said.
I remember asking, “Does that make sense to you?”
But I don’t remember her final answer.
So I worry. I worry about all my kids and their current and future health needs. I worry about my daughter, who because she is a woman will be penalized under the health care bills put forth by both the U.S. House and Senate. I am concerned about both my parents and my in-laws, who are in their 70s and on Medicare.
And I worry about my clients, many of whom couldn’t afford to be able to see doctors regularly for preventive health care without Medicaid.