August 27, 2009

Let's Talk Pre-existing

I'm grumpy today because I'm not feeling well and haven't been for...well, far too long. The migraines are getting more frequent again, and more of them hurt instead of just making me stupid (thinking through sand) and hypersensitive. The allergies are taking a different tack this summer. I can breathe through my nose, and I'm content to leave my eyeballs where they are, but I feel as though I've been wandering around with about an extra twenty pounds of weight strapped to each ankle. I am so tired it hurts to have to stay awake sometimes, like after taking a shower in the morning. I've been working from home more so I can nap. And now my temperature is going wonky. To be fair, it does that whenever I'm tired or slightly sunburnt or....

It's time to do something, which means going to the doctor. The old OTC antihistamine is no longer doing what it must. The class of antihistamines that works best for me isn't available OTC in a 24-hour form. The migraines have been successfully treated in the past, but only with drugs that are only available by prescription for a very good reason.

On top of that, it's time for another MRI of my heart. Oh, yes, and a new antibiotic prescription so I can go to the dentist without pushing myself another step closer to a valve replacement. Time is already doing that for me, but no need to hurry things along. I'm hoping the original will last until Medicare kicks in.

Thing is, there's nothing acute wrong with me (as far as I know; the static can get pretty loud sometimes). Everything I have is a pre-existing condition. Everything but the allergies dates back at least to my teens. Arthritis included.

This is kind of a big deal. HIPAA's got me covered somewhat, but needing to maintain constant coverage limits what I can do. My husband and I can't start a business together without being absolutely certain that we can afford the exorbitant prices of individual coverage, assuming a carrier will cover us. I can't pursue writing full time, or him photography, without being sure we can afford COBRA if something happens to the other's job. We also have to be prepared for something happening to both our jobs, even if we don't take any entrepreneurial risks.

I can't experience a gap in coverage (neither can he), which means we are hostage to the highest priced insurance plans in the U.S. If I do, if I can't afford that insurance, none of the crap I have to deal with will be covered for a year. Any treatment I might need, including open heart surgery, would be mine to pay for, even while I was paying for insurance.

And after all this, I'm relatively well off. I just hurt every day. I have a flexible job, so my health doesn't keep me from being a good employee most of the time. Other people lose jobs because their health makes them not unemployable, which would give them access to Medicare, but undependable, which gives them access to nothing.

Like me, a lot of these people have little or no control over their conditions. They didn't ask to be ill and marginally employable and uninsurable. Anyplace civilized, they wouldn't be punished for the accident of their health while insurance companies rake in profits.

This is why we need health care reform and, more specifically, health insurance reform.

15 comments:

Mike Haubrich said...

I had tried to start my own business, I carried COBRA from my prior job, and pre-existing conditions were going to be a problem for me, too. Not becuase of my own health but because of my daughter's. Even COBRA at 102% of my former employer's premiums was very hard to pay. I ended up having to go back to work for a large company because of it.

I was at a "Health Care Town Hall" presented by the 6th District Representative from Minnesota on Thursday. I didn't actually go insisde, it was too crowded. I was outside holding up a sign saying that I wanted a public option.

Did you know that I am an ignorant thief who hates freedom? That's what I learned about myself. I am glad I went, because I learned something about myself. There will be more detail on it at Quiche Moraine on Monday.

a daughter's mother said...

Life is a pre-existing condition, and it all just builds from there. The Republicans have a solution for that of course. If you can't afford the insurance premiums, your primary pre-existing condition gets "cured". End of problem. Right-to-life apparently has a nine-month expiration clause.

Philip H. said...

Stephanie,
I'm sure you've alradey done this, but have you sent this exact story to your Senators and Congresspersons? Maybe they won't read it - maybe they will. Yours is a compellign reason why we need healthcare reform, and your story needs to be told a thousand, thousand times to drown out the "markets will save us all" mantra from the far Right.

Jason Thibeault said...

"Thing is, there's nothing acute wrong with me (as far as I know; the static can get pretty loud sometimes)."

If this was meant to dissuade me from my newfound concerns for your health, it failed utterly.

"Anyplace civilized, they wouldn't be punished for the accident of their health while insurance companies rake in profits."

I only wish Canada could shoulder the burden of health tourism from those of you south of the border that have to sprint just to keep up with their health care, but can't bring themselves to a sprint because they aren't healthy enough... the whole situation just blows.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Phil, I went to bed right after writing this, but it will be sent.

Jason, migraines can cause the most fascinating somatic hallucinations. They can also mimic some of the symptoms of strokes and seizures. However, I'm generally healthy enough (believe it or not) to not have to worry about those. As for the heart, the quote about having a valve replaced was "if you live long enough."

Part of the point is that there are plenty of people with invisible conditions that need to be monitored and may need attention periodically, sometimes without much notice. We're all hostages to the system.

CyberLizard said...

My father tried to start his own business a couple of times but was always driven back to working for the man because of the need for insurance. I could never be in business for myself for the same reasons you describe. The whole thing sux donkey balls.
Even if the current health care reform is passed I doubt it will even make the slightest dent in situations like ours.

The wife has been longing to live in the UK for years, maybe it's time to start looking?

Jason Thibeault said...

So you're saying an impediment to starting and maintaining your small business is the insurance factor? Then, isn't that the kind of knock-down argument that would bring a free-market conservative around to our side? I mean, businesses can't even start up properly with the health care system as it is now!

Stephanie Zvan said...

Jason, from just these limited comments, it's pretty obviously even a bigger problem than I thought. I'm starting to think this is an issue that needs to be pushed a lot harder. Of course, when I mention it to anyone opposed to reform on partisan grounds, I get crickets in response.

Jason Thibeault said...

Hells yes. Those doors need to be thrown wide open. If you can do it, more power to you... I wouldn't know where to begin. I'm not near enough to the battlefront to talk to anyone opposed to reform except drive-by trolls on the interwebs.

Philip H. said...

I pushe dthe door a crack open today . . .

DuWayne Brayton said...

I swear, to some of these bastards just having a preexisting condition and not having the good grace to curl up and die, is irresponsible. Or having a family history of certain types of health problems...

It is, apparently, your fault your body has these problems. Or it's your fault that your father and grandfather had heart disease. Or it's your fault you were hospitalized for depression or some other neurological disorder.

It's all your fault, so fuck you - you don't deserve health care coverage.

What is good and truly fucked? With all the bad decisions I have made - with all the damage I have done to my body...As soon as I am cigarette free for a year, I can probably get cheaper insurance than a lot of people, if anyone will sell them insurance at any cost.

DEEN said...

@Jason Thibault: sounds to me the Republicans don't actually want people to start new small businesses, since that would hurt the existing big businesses.

I'm also skeptical that you can convince many people on the right by pointing out it's a good idea to make it easier for people to leave their employer. After all, these are the same people who are against unions. Why would they agree that employers should give up the stranglehold on their workers that the health insurance situation gives them?

D. C. said...

isn't that the kind of knock-down argument that would bring a free-market conservative around to our side?

Jason, you're confusing the term of (political) art, "free-market conservative" with someone who wants to have or conserve a free-market economy.

Just 'taint so. "Free-market conservatism" is about supporting the oligopolies that dominate the Fortune 1000. A genuinely free market (with lots of small independent actors) is the absolute last thing they want. There are various strategies in support of that end:

1) Non-scalable barriers to entry (e.g. SarbOx) which have costs that are proportionately greater for smaller businesses. Health insurance premiums, for instance.
2) Barriers to employee mobility (e.g. pre-existing condition clauses) prevent the start of potentially competitive businesses and also keep people like Ben and Stephanie chained to the oars.
3) Rents. Consider the way that the Medicare budget got jacked up to allow private insurers to skim off some of the cash flow. Nice work if you can get it.
4) Obstructive regulation: notice that the FCC today acts mainly to keep competition from happening to telecom companies. Other examples abound.

Look around, there are plenty of others. It's not quite the old company town of "14 tons" fame, but it's still a plantation system. Some of us are in the house, some are in the field, but we're still not free.

truthspew said...

I like how you touch on the economic issue. Put it this way I wouldn't mind changing my consulting business to a real business if only I could afford health care for all my contractors.

But now the Fed looses out, the state looses out all because of insurance fatcats.

Stephanie Zvan said...

truthspew, I refuse to cede the economic arguments to the oligarchists, largely because they're wrong on so many of them. And don't let your elected representatives and fellow citizens (and, perhaps, yourself) off the hook by pointing at the insurance fat cats as though we were helpless to stop them. It is not impossible to make so much noise that they have to listen.