Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Monday, March 22, 2010

I Am One Of Those People.

Playing in the background: Weird jazzy funk version of "Bolero." Pretty cool actually.

I have better things to do than write this blog post. I have a job to find, for one. I have calls to make, follow up letters to write, emails to send. But I'm interrupting this morning because of some unbelievable stuff I'm seeing on Twitter and Facebook from people whom I thought were relatively sane human beings about the new health care bill.

Look, you don't have to be in favor of this bill for me to like you. There's a lot wrong with it. It guarantees huge profits to companies that have clearly shown they don't deserve them, it raises taxes in several places and there's the possibility left open (though that door is mostly shut now) that public funds could be used for abortion (a point on which I'm not in favor; abortion is a private decision and it should be paid for by private funds). But fergodsake y'all, can we take a breath before we all go crazy? And I mean that in the nasty way, not in the "Jen is crazy" way that gets bantered about a lot around here.

This is a complicated bill. It's over a thousand pages long. If you're going by sound bites on the news, you really haven't the faintest idea what it does and does not cover. For the record, though, there are no death panels, Medicare is not going to disappear and nobody's paying for illegal aliens to have plastic surgery with tax dollars. No, I'm not suggesting you read the whole thing, but do a little research, will you please? Consumers Union has a pretty good article here on some of the scarier myths, and here's one from Inc. Magazine - not exactly a liberal bastion - about possible effects on small businesses. The AARP, also one of your more conservative gatherings of humans, has some pretty good information too. In fact, Google "What the new health care bill means" and pick and choose your sources and you'll find quite a bit of information. There's a lot of good (ie, not hysterical) information out there. Go read. Again, don't go crazy.

Which, just incidentally, brings me to my point. By far the most important thing this bill does, in my humble opinion, is end some restrictions on health insurance brought about by those same companies I mentioned earlier. One of them is what we call the pre-existing condition clause - that with which a person cannot get health insurance, from any source, at any price. If you have the misfortune to be born with something like, say, spina bifida, you can't get health insurance that will cover your doctor visit for strep throat (for you nonmedical people, totally unrelated to spina bifida) unless one of your parents has the good fortune to be covered under group insurance. Lots of good families, with good jobs, end up giving them up and living in poverty to get Medicaid to cover conditions like this. That is ridiculous in a civilized country. Uh, let's say that again in bold caps: THAT IS RIDICULOUS IN A CIVILIZED COUNTRY. If this bill takes care of that and that alone, it was worth passing. If this bill covers the uninsured, even at the risk of "forcing" people to buy insurance, it was worth passing. If it closes the Medicare "doughnut hole" that has seniors skipping doses of medication they need because they can't afford them, it was worth passing.

Reason I bring all this up is that I am one of those people affected by one of those things, the pre-existing condition clause. The "bipolar" designation that got slapped into my medical records over the summer makes it impossible for me to get health insurance, of any kind, at any price, from anybody. (The asthma didn't help, either, but some insurance companies will sell you a policy if you can prove you haven't had an attack in three years - though how you'd do that, I can't imagine). I can't get a policy for $500 a month and I can't get one for $5,000 a month. I simply can't get it.

Now, as y'all know, I recently lost my job. Joan and I went through a very tense period of waiting to see what my employer would do about offering me continuing coverage. The firm was too small to qualify under the COBRA law mandating continuation, and there's a state law mandating a shorter time period but there are also some exceptions. Well, in the end they did offer it. It's pretty expensive for someone on unemployment and it only lasts for six months but I don't have any choice. Sigh of relief? Not quite. If they decided, tomorrow, that the insurance was too expensive and wanted to cancel it for the whole firm, they could do that and I'd lose my coverage. I'd get no warning, have no recourse, and have no way to buy insurance on the private market.

Which means, in all probability, that I'd be dead very shortly.

I am not being dramatic. Any sudden cutting-off of my health insurance would mean I'd have to go off all my meds at the same time because I'd no longer be able to afford them. These aren't meds one goes off of all at once, or at all if one can possibly avoid it; the number one reason for bipolar people to end up in the hospital, in a position where they're likely to hurt themselves or others, is not taking meds. If one does have to stop taking something for any reason, one tapers off under a doctor's supervision and again, I wouldn't be able to afford the doctor visits. Tapering off one med can be problematic enough. Tapering off all of them at once (I'm taking four) is just begging for trouble.

By the way, bipolar disorder has the highest suicide risk of any mental disorder, and not just due to active suicide attempts but also due to wild risky behavior, like, say, driving at 100 miles an hour in a rainstorm and hydroplaning on purpose or brawling with the drum-major or chasing my idiot neighbor down the street with a club at three in the morning shouting "Come back here, you motherfucker, and pick on a woman your own size" after he beat up his wife. (Not that I've done any of those things, mind, and anyway I was a lot younger then.) Do we have a public hospital? Sure, but I made too much money last year to qualify and anyway, it doesn't cover prescription drugs and what I need the most is...yeah.

By the way, the portion of the law that would require an insurer to accept me won't go into effect until 2014. So it won't exactly help me now, and I still don't know what I'd do if the worst happens. I just kind of hope it won't. And again, you don't have to like this bill to be a friend of mine. Just please tone down the rhetoric and remember it's a crime, not to mention bad karma, to post about harming certain members of the executive branch of our government just because you don't like a piece of legislation. And remember that there are a lot of people like me out there. People with cancer who lost their insurance because they got sick and had to do without the chemo treatments, people on welfare who turn down jobs because the new employer wouldn't offer insurance and they had a diabetic child, people who can't get insurance at all at any price.