As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, my wife Lauren had another panic attack a couple of days ago. It’s horrible – two straight days of her throwing up bile and writhing around in agony and kicking at the covers and thinking she’s going to die because her heart feels like it’s beating weird. It’s the first panic attack she’s had in a year and since then, Michael Moore’s film Sicko came out. That movie contained a lot of medical stories and before I saw it, I would have been too embarrassed to tell my story. Now I know that it’s not just me; it’s the whole system. Here’s the one I’m living now.
I have a good job that I love and that pays well and has benefits. The company pays a bunch of money into our benefits plan, but not enough to cover our monthly premium. I picked Kaiser Permanente – the cheapest option – and the monthy premium was still $920 a month to cover me and my family. I had to come up with $300 or so a month out of pocket.
Early this year, they cut all of our overtime across the entire company. I lost over $1000 a month in take home pay; a big amount to lose for me. I got behind a couple of payments and was dropped. You can only sign up one time a year – January – so if you get dropped in April like we did, you don’t have medical insurance until the following January.
So, I work in a good job, have benefits but have had no insurance for the past eight months. But – surely I could pay for my own health insurance, right?
Nope – can’t even do that because Lauren’s had panic attacks before. That’s a pre-existing condition. So when I applied for health insurance on my own – not through the company – I was denied, period. Can’t get insurance because of the pre-existing condition. And the company that denied us? Kaiser Permanente.
In a month, I’ll re-sign up for Kaiser through my company and then it’s guaranteed acceptance. But right now, Kaiser won’t take us for any amount. Nobody else will either. And now is important, because Lauren’s having a panic attack right now.
So, the woman I love is writhing in agony for two days. She needs an IV to give her liquids and some medicine to stop the anxiety and nausea. We tried the local private urgent care place but they aren’t equipped for it. Our option is the emergency room. That’s what Lauren did the first panic attack she had three and half years ago, in Texas. (She’s had about five since then.) The bill was $6000. You can be sure it would be more here. When we were insured, emergency room visits were $35.
So what do I do? I don’t know, really. What I do know is that we have a really fucked up health care system in this country – and don’t let any Republican tell you otherwise.
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