I never thought I’d see the day when I would be scrambling to get healthcare and not be able to find it anywhere. I never imagined what it would be like to have no recourse when I became ill. For years I had gotten insurance from my employers and then, when I went into my own freelance business, I bought and paid for my own health insurance for over 15 years. I barely used it. I paid $85 a month. I had no problem until my provider stopped offering health insurance. I looked around the prices had gone through the roof.
Then came the mini recession in the late 80s and companies started using fewer freelancers. They brought almost all jobs on premises to save money and hold the rights to an artist’s work. An entire stable of freelancers in the area found themselves out of work. Recognizing this, employers seized the opportunity to offer minimum wage to people who formerly earned between $20 and $30 an hour. Most were offered part time work. Many employers engaging in this practice would brag about how they had former New York art directors working for them for $9 an hour.
And of course, no health insurance.
Fortunately I found a full time job and was happily employed until we lost our largest client, a big department store. I was the most recent hire and therefore, the one to go. My boss was grief stricken to have to let me go. I was a good worker. But it was the fair thing to do.
I was out of work and began suffering gall bladder attacks. I managed to pay for the scans. With no insurance, I would curl up in bed until the pain stopped. A kind doctor gave me pain killers to manage it. She called in the mornings to see if I was alright. The only way into a hospital, as she explained, was to be brought in on an ambulance with my life in danger. I had to find another job as quickly as possible.
I found a job at The Record newspaper. A year later I went in for surgery and that suffering ended. I would work full time at The Record for 10 years until I was laid off. I got some severance and I signed up for COBRA. During that time, it paid for three breast biopsy and my doctor visits for my diabetes. But then COBRA ran out and so did most of my savings.
I barely made rent and spent days, and then months, and then 2 years searching for any kind of insurance I could use. Yes, you could get insurance in New Jersey with a pre-existing condition, but there was a catch–the insurance company would not pay for any health problem that might be related to your pre-existing condition for a year. So there you would be, paying almost unaffordable monthly premiums and getting nothing for it. You see, almost any health problem could be attributed to diabetes. I asked them about it and they told me right to my face that was indeed the case. Nothing would be covered for a year.
When you don’t go to a doctor for a while, they stop renewing your medication. I was a diabetic with no medication and no money to pay a doctor’s fee. I became sicker and sicker. Finally one day, I felt like I was dying. I frantically searched and found an Urgent Care type of place that was sore like a doctor’s office. it only charged $89 a visit no matter what they did for you. There I met Dr. Nunez. She was wonderful. My blood sugar was so high, it was hospital time, but without insurance, she kept me there the whole day, slowly reducing my blood sugar with insulin. She also discovered I had a bad yeast infection. Sshe prescribed all the medication I needed and gave me good advice. She was my angel.
Then I started having cramps and bleeding. It wasn’t stopping. I knew I had fibroids, but it seemed like my stomach was larger. I began to fear the worst. Dr. Nunez, gave me an internal and a pap which was negative. That was a relief, but I knew I was in danger. Soon after that, the office stopped their $89 policy and I was on my own again.
I started freelancing for The Record and then was hired part time, but still no insurance. I found a site on line with hundreds of pages of people who had lost their family and friends to terminal illness or who were themselves dying with no hope of healthcare. I began to fear I might become one of them.
I called hospital after hospital to join a clinic. They were mostly full and my earnings were just a tad over the maximum admission rate. When I called a woman at the Valley Hospital Clinic and explained my situation, she screamed, “YOU HAVE CANCER!!!” I asked what to do. She told me in a nasty voice to go to Planned Parenthood like the girls do. So I went. I still was in pain and bleeding.
They were very kind to me at Planned Parenthood. To my surprise there were all kinds of people in the waiting room, young and old, men and women, an elderly couple holding hands. I paid on their sliding scale. They gave me an internal despite the blood and pain and paid for the tests. The Pap smear was still negative. They suggested Holy Name Hospital. I called. Their clinic was full. No room at the inn. But Planned Parenthood gave me excellent advice about getting tests done in imaging places. If you pay cash, they will cut your price as much as half their rate. They gave me a list of all such places.
The Incredible Insurance Scam:
I again began my desperate search for insurance. Then I found something. The American Trade Association. Now I knew There were trade associations, mostly located out West, that groups of small companies joined to provide lower insurance costs to their employers. This must be one of them, I thought. But then I smelled something foul. After a month I received no papers or cards.
After searching, they turned out to be bogus. Many people had joined, and patients and doctors were scammed out of payments. One man’s wife ran up $90,000 in medical bills before her death, until he discovered that none of it was covered. I began collecting as much information as possible about these people. They moved around using many different names and locations. I managed to get my money back by calling them on the fraud. Since I worked for a newspaper, I presented the editor with a huge pile to papers to back the whole scam up. All I cared about was that some unfortunate, unrealizing person would be scammed like this:
They were caught. But still, I had no insurance. I prayed for Obamacare to come through.
The bleeding got worse. The one day, I was in a public bathroom and had some kind of hemorrhage and there was blood everywhere. I was alone and frantically cleaned it all up. I just finished when I woman walked in. I turned so she wouldn’t see the blood all over my hands and forearms. I had begun to feel that something was growing inside of me. I went to Holy Name ER the next day.
After testing, they decided I wasn’t in danger (you have to be in danger for them to keep you) and they sent me home. I had taken so many iron pills that I barely registered anemia. It’s a myth that ERs abutomatically take you into the hospital for advanced treatment. They do their best, sometimes no more than a bandage, and send you home if your life isn’t threaten. So it goes.
As soon as I heard it was coming in I registered. I had no problem getting it and I started paying my monthly fees. At first it was hard to get a gynecologist or hospital that would take the coverage, but thanks to a good doctor and Holy Name Hospital, I got my help. The doctor said my uterus was the size of a melon and filled with large fibroids, one of which had nearly grown out of me. They couldn’t do a pap, so she decided to do old fashioned surgery where she cut and removed it all a once. Yes, there was cancer, but it was slow growing and basically encapsulated.
Obamacare had saved my life.
Two months later when testing, they found a series of blood clots in my lung. They took me right in and saved the day. No problem getting help. I had another large embolism where my lungs filled with emboli, but now I had Medicare and there was no problem. Most people don’t understand what it’s like to know you have a life threatening problem but can do nothing for it. It’s an unending nightmare. I would sit at work and hear other people say they had a sore throat and would be going to see the doctor. I used to think how wonderful it would be if I could do the same. How I wish everyone could do the same.
Now I see that the GOP wants to end Obamacare. How I dread the thought of so many people suffering without health care and beginning to die again Something has to be done before it’s too late. We are our brother’s keeper no matter what excuse these people might have.