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Why the health care issue is a big deal to me. (Long post.) [View All]

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Captiosus Donating Member (711 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-12-08 11:10 AM
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Why the health care issue is a big deal to me. (Long post.)
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Edited on Sun Oct-12-08 11:14 AM by Captiosus
Affordable health care for everyone in need is a big deal to me.

I'm 31 years old, but for the last 7 years I've felt double that age. In 1999, I started realizing I had these very oddball moments that seemingly came at random. They were characterized by getting extremely hyper and excessively worried along with heart palpitations and "the shakes". I didn't know what it was, but it happened so infrequently that I never really gave them a second thought.

In early 2000, the frequency increased to a noticeable level. Since I was insured, I went to my general practitioner who referred me to a psychiatrist. After a couple of visits, I was diagnosed as having Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder. I was started on some "maintenance medications" (the Doctor's words) and things looked up.

Then I got laid off in October of 2000.
Then unemployment insurance wore out.
Then COBRA became unaffordable.
Then I was a statistic - another uninsured American.

I could no longer afford to see my regular doctors. I could no longer afford the medications.

'No problem,' I thought. I'm well aware there are low income options in my area. By this time, I had been off my medications for a year and the anxiety disorder was becoming increasingly problematic. So off I went to the local so-called "low income" mental health clinic (the Newport News/Hampton Community Services Board).

Sure, they reduced the amount by 80%, but they would only treat me if I saw a psychiatrist ($40 per visit every 2 weeks) and a psychologist ($35 per visit every two weeks). On top of this, they couldn't guarantee any help with the medication costs, leaving me holding the bag on very expensive drugs. Not including drugs, that was going to be $75 every two weeks, or $150 every month. Essentially I had to choose between paying my electric bill or getting the medical help. Guess which option won that debate?

So I turned to the State. Perhaps Medicaid could help me. After three months of dealing with a case worker and bringing in documentation I was told we had "too much gross income and assets" (my wife, the only worker in our household that year, had a gross income of $17,452 on our income tax). They went on to tell me that if I wanted help, we had to reduce our assets by selling our car and our second hand mobile home. To those reading this, I submit the question: What kind of help is it to be told to get medical care you have to sell your only reliable form of transportation and the roof over your head?

Likewise, the Federal Government is of little help. The doctor and administrator I saw during my few visits to the local mental health board recommended I apply for SSI. However, SSI has excessively stringent rules governing disability for mental health patients. Declined twice, my only recourse at this point would be to hire a SSI attorney and to try to fight and show why I qualify under the SSI's rules. However, I've been told by a local leading SSI attorney that my chances are slim because my last date of treatment was so long ago which puts me in a catch-22 of sorts.

This has been my fight for the last 7 years. And with each passing year, the anxiety conditions grow worse, the panic attacks more frequent. They have progressed to a point where I'm nearly full blown agoraphobic. I can't even go to a store 5 minutes away without having to fight off a panic attack. I'm currently trying to build a sole-proprietor business that I've been working on for nearly a decade, but I feel doomed to fail because most of the time I simply cannot go a day without a severe panic attack. Yet there's still no assistance for people in a situation such as mine.

This is just one of two recurring medical situations. In 2006 I was rear ended by a driver who was not paying attention which caused me to break or crack several teeth when I hit the steering wheel. Thankfully that was the only personal injury. However, his insurance wouldn't cover the dentistry costs. They called it cosmetic and no lawyer would take my case because it was so minor. As a result, since I can't afford major dental work costs out of pocket, my teeth are now in a complete state of disarray, despite taking care of them, because of the broken two and the cracked ones.

I know quite a few people in similar situations: struggling to get by, living in chronic pain unable to get medical care without having to pay excessive amounts out-of-pocket. One of my best friends, for example, was diagnosed with diabetes a year ago. When he got laid off, he lost insurance but was temporarily covered by the state. When his benefits ran out, so did his medical assistance. Now he struggles from month to month to see doctors who will prescribe the glucose medications he needs.

Through all of this, I keep thinking back to the Declaration of Independence.
The unalienable right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

If chronically ill people have no access to health care, life deteriorates;
If life deteriorates, so does liberty and the ability to pursue any form of happiness.

In that context, it's my opinion that affordable health care which is available to everyone, not just people who meet a certain set of strict (and often very silly) "requirements", is a fundamental right.
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