I was sitting in the doctor’s office today, sporting the season’s latest in 2-ply butcher paper wraps, trying to find something to photograph for this blog post when I thought to myself, “is nothing sacred anymore?” So I am sparing you the #TMI and using this lovely photo of BCBSNC headquarters for today’s gratitude post about health insurance instead. You’re welcome.
Now the next time you would like me to ruin your dinner party, I am happy to engage in a discussion about the importance of subsidized health coverage, the unjustifiable cost of health care in the US, or the Affordable Care Act and it’s lack of an appropriate single-payer option. For now I will refer you to this Time Magazine Post by Steven Brill (which used to be widely available but is now available to subscribers only), which exposes the indescribable cost of health care in the US. It’s quite long, but worth the read.
But this post is not about any of that. Simply put – this post is about how important having access to health care is and how grateful I am for the access I have. I am reminded of a time many years ago when I was first out of college and unemployed and therefore, uninsured. I was visiting my partner’s parents at their home in Wisconsin when I started to get a sore throat. Having slogged through a number of mild illnesses before, I thought nothing of it. But the pain grew worse and worse until swallowing my own saliva felt like swallowing teeny tiny razor blades. I tried my best to push through it but happened to share what I was going through with one of my all time bestest friends in the whole wide world, whose mother happened to be a doctor. She suggested I call her mom, which I did. I barely finished listing my symptoms when my friend’s mom said “Tonsillitis. No problem. I’ll write you a prescription. And you can get it free at Meijer.” When I got off the phone with her I was so relieved I cried. [If you’ve been following along, you’ve begun to notice a theme. I’m not much of a crier, so most remarkable moments in my life are marked by the shedding of tears.] We’ve all been in those situations where we’ve told ourselves it doesn’t hurt. It’s the only way to keep going forward. Then, as soon as we know we’re going to come out of it, the relief makes you realize how badly you were hurting.
It sounds dramatic for tonsillitis. But being uninsured is not a good place to be. In order for me to be healthy and happy I’ve done some pretty stupid stuff – including being electrocuted along the Tough Mudder course, and using ropes and pieces of wood nailed into the side of a mountain to climb to the top of it. These are not decisions I take lightly. I know the risks involved and I proceed because I’m insured. I’ve been involved in enough freak accidents to know you don’t want to be caught at the emergency room without insurance. [quick wink wink nudge nudge to my nearest and dearest who know what I’m talking about.] Medical bills can destroy a person’s entire life – and their families’.
It’s no fun to have to choose your job based on the quality of the health care provided. But if you happen to be in a place like me, with a benefits package that is the envy of most, it’s too much to disregard. I am so so fortunate to have such terrific health coverage that I can be sitting uncomfortable in this doctor’s office – an experience no one likes. I am fortunate to be so close to some of the best medical centers in the country and AND!! to have found a doctor who I truly love. She helps me make decisions about really hard things and I know she’s really rooting for me. [The advice you didn’t ask for but definitely need – don’t stop looking for doctors until you’ve found someone you really respect who takes first class care of you. It’s your body and your money and you should be in charge.] Without being #TMI again, let’s just say I’ve had some unique medical needs the past few months and whenever I get to hating all the trips to see the doc, each time I try and remember how lucky I am.
I’ve also begun to understand personal health care as a very empowering process. Just as being in control of my diet and my exercise makes me feel powerful and successful, being in control of my health care makes me feel responsible, goal-oriented, prepared. These things are all a part of knowing what I need and putting those needs first. Trained as a social worker I know the importance of taking care of yourself before you’re able to take care of others – apply your oxygen mask before assisting others. Having health insurance allows me to be there for my family, my friends, my community. It allows me to be adventurous. It allows me to be very selective in my health care providers. And it allows me to learn about my body – and my goals for my body – in a very important way. And even though I hate sitting on these little rubber mattresses under these flimsy pieces of paper, I’m also very grateful.