When it comes to our family's health, things are a little different. We can eat right, exercise, practice proper hygiene and brush our teeth twice a day, but all that and more isn't going to prevent every illness. And although I do know several people with a smattering of medical knowledge, I am not a doctor, nor am I married to one. So when my kid came in from playing outside this afternoon covered in a rash, we got a little worried. But we didn't freak out, because we have health insurance.
I was still at work, and Keith sent me several pictures of the offending rash, along with the assurance that Delia wasn't experiencing very much discomfort, apart from a little itchiness. But it was still scary. Right here is where having insurance comes into play. Because what I said to him was, "Take her to the doctor." So that's what he did. One small copay and half an hour later we got a diagnosis of Fifths Disease, a reassurance that it wasn't serious, and a treatment/observation plan.
Back in the day when we didn't have insurance, I wouldn't have been able to make that statement with any amount of confidence. I would have asked a ton of useless (to me, cause I don't really have the skill set to diagnose most health issues) questions, I would have worried through the rest of my shift, and all of us would have felt more and more frightened. What if it is nothing and we spend $125 just to hear a PA tell us to go home? What if it is something serious? We would have looked up skin rashes on the internet. We would have been confronted with dozens of options, some scarier than the others. An escalation of worry, followed by days of anxious observation - possibly one or both of us missing work or school. Probably a few doses of unnecessary OTC Benadryl followed by Calamine lotion. And then, even if she turned out to be fine, the lingering doubt that we'd made the wrong call, that she might be seriously ill and we didn't act in time. Dramatic? Oh yeah! But real. All too real.
I know it is real because we lived without insurance (just like one third of middle income families in America) for years before my small business found an insurance plan that was affordable. I know because I fought the crazies every night I heard my girl cough herself to sleep due to a cold (or allergies because it costs a lot to diagnose allergies in a 5 year old and involves loads of unpleasantness and doctors don't recommend it, or worse?), every time she had a fever that lasted more than a day or two, every time I was startled awake in the night by Keith's asthmatic wheezing. And thank the Gods, through all of those years we didn't suffer any serious health problems. Except the ER visits for asthma attacks that would have been deadly without intervention.
I sent out a couple of text messages this afternoon to friends who's kids had been playing with Delia in the past week, and one of them was on her way to the doctor with her son. He had been complaining of a pain in his shoulder, and yesterday he developed a fever. They got a tentative diagnosis of pneumonia and were sent to have a chest X-ray. Do you know how much a chest X-ray costs? The national average is $370. Turns out he doesn't have pneumonia, according to the doctor, but someone still has to pay for the X-ray, right? Of course! His mom and I thanked the Gods via text message that her shitty job at least offered her insurance (which she pays for)! Cause that freaking X-ray would eat up most of what a paycheck brings in. And that isn't a joke, not for many full time working Americans who are doing the best they can. Gah.
There is a comic pinned to the bulletin board in my office at work, with a picture of a big fluffy ginger cat, and the caption is "Diabetus cat gots no insurance. Let him die?" Which is a rip off of the discourse from one of the Republican Presidential debates - where the audience cheered the idea that the uninsured should be left to die. If you are working, but your employer offers no insurance, or if you can't afford the hit to your paycheck from opting in to the plan, this is a real question for you. My friend who was insulin dependent lost all his benefits in the divorce and had to move someplace where he qualified for assistance. Gah. I know a couple of people who can't afford to change jobs because they can't risk losing their insurance. When I was a kid I just assumed that if you got a job you got insurance. WRONG!
I don't know what the best solution to the problem is. I do know that my small business pays A LOT OF MONEY to the insurance company every quarter. It is not a cakewalk, none of my previous employers (in the same business) could see fit to do it (cuz they all had insurance from elsewhere), and it seriously impacts the profits that the business records annually. Lucky for me my boss thinks it is the right thing to do. I know that when I was talking to my boss about having another kid, she hoped that it would be a boy because the cost burden would be lighter (what the eff is up with that?). I do know that I pay taxes, and if by paying higher taxes I could contribute to ALL AMERICANS having insurance, I would be quite happy to forfeit that bit of extra money. Because it sucks to be sick, and it sucks even worse to worry, when 30 minutes at a clinic could ease your mind, most of the time, and sometimes could save your life. We live in a fairly advanced industrialized country. All the other industrialized countries have figured out how to provide health care to their populations. Why can't we?