Monday, March 22, 2010

Why this particular health care reform bill mattered to me

There was a time when I left a job because it was damaging my health. Before I resigned I saw a psychiatrist for anti-anxiety medication so that I could sleep at night in order to face the working environment from day to day. After a good-faith effort to change the situation, I eventually left with no other job lined up.

I was young and healthy and decided not to get COBRA but a less expensive private insurance. However, I was turned down by all the available agencies because of my pre-existing condition, the "mental health problems" I had duly reported on my application. The time to apply for COBRA had passed and I was without insurance for the first time in my life. I went through a bout of shingles--very minor--without any medical treatment. I was incredibly lucky that that's all that happened, and I did get another job before a year was over.

Two years ago, the parish where I was working cut my position due to budget woes. This time you can bet I got my COBRA insurance. This time I was unemployed for five months and then hired as an independent contractor. COBRA was over 10 percent of my gross pay. If you take out Social Security and taxes, it was more like 15. Again, I was incredibly lucky.

Most recently when I applied for personal insurance, I was very tempted to lie just to make sure I got coverage. Of course, had I done so and then developed a serious illness, the insurance company might have dropped me under a rescission policy. However, I answered honestly and got the policy I wanted. Again, I was incredibly lucky.

This bill is of course not perfect, but it would have made a difference for me in all of these situations. It is so great to know that a health issue caused by a job won't keep people from getting insurance. It is so great to know that buying health insurance won't take 20 or 30 or 40 percent of people's earnings. It is so great to know that health insurers won't be able to use rescission any more.

It may not be perfect, but it sure as heck is better. There was lots of comment in the various social media yesterday. I followed "health care reform" as a thread on Twitter for a little while and couldn't believe some of the comments. Some notable ones were, "No on health care reform. Not now. Not ever" and "Vote no on health care reform. Stand up for self-reliance." There were more sensible ones on both sides that talked about health care reform as as policy--what about its costs, what about abortion. But the most moving to me was a comment from a friend of mine on Facebook who said last night after the vote, "Maybe my family will now be able to get health care coverage." Amen to that.


it's margaret said...

amen. indeed.

Brynn said...

Amen, Amen, Amen. When I was full-time in my private practice, I couldn't purchase insurance because I had been hospitalized for mental health issues in 1990 - and had taken meds ever since, and had engaged in therapy at various times. This made me "high risk" for some reason I still don't understand - not just because of the hospitalization but because I had appropriately AVOIDED hospitalization with meds and therapy. Sigh! I'm very lucky to have coverage through the university and now I have one fewer fear about what should happen if I were to lose my teaching gig...

Laura Toepfer said...

Oh, I hear you. Had I stayed in that job, I would have needed more medical care. Having left an unhealthy situation, I couldn't get insurance! I devoutly hope that those crazy days are behind us.