We finally have health insurance after being without it for five years. Many, many years ago my union allowed the district to impose a 5 year waiting period for insurance in exchange for a bigger raise. I'm sure it made sense at the time. We've finally got it down to four years, so I was eligible in September. (Because I left for two years and that was the period when we lost our coverage, I gave up all of my seniority and had to start over.)
We weren't totally without coverage. We had a pricey hospital only policy, that in fact covered very little but we took it just in case one of us became seriously ill. Thankfully that didn't happen.
Living without adequate coverage for five years has me thinking very differently about how our health system works. I used to go to the doctor and have whatever tests they told me to have without any thought as to the cost because my copay was so low. I would go whenever I felt a little ill, rather than wait until "it" got worse.
I would get my statements that said the doctor charged $100 but they only paid him $65 because that is what he had agreed to take from them. So when I no longer had insurance, I went to the doctor and he charged me $100. I asked him to accept $65 because that is what he had been paid to see me in the past. He refused, I paid the $100 and then I started shopping for a doctor. I found a NP that charged a reasonable amount but I had to call around and ask about prices. I found myself asking why a test was necessary and if other options were available before I would agree to have them. I opted to have a mammogram only every other year. Low cost mammograms are still expensive! I discussed drug options before a prescription was written and then called around to see who could fill it the cheapest. I once saved $55 on a single prescription by calling around.
Just before we lost our insurance I had had bunion surgery on my right foot and the doctor over corrected. I have had pain in that foot off and on ever since. The summer of 2006 I drove summer school and I had pain in that foot every day. It wasn't pain I couldn't deal with, so I didn't go to the doctor. Instead I took lots of ibuprofen. The pain lasted into the fall but did lessen as time went on. It still gives me trouble but the pain is now slight enough that I don't need to take anything for it.
Last week I went to a new podiatrist. I wanted him to look at the right foot but I also have a bunion on the left that is causing me to start to limp. He took x-rays, which revealed that I had broken my right foot at some point. Now I know why I had such a hard time in 2006. For many reasons he doesn't feel that he can do much for the right foot at this time but he does think he can fix the left. I have scheduled surgery for next month. Considering how the right one is I am quite nervous about having the left done but the pain in that foot has gotten bad enough that I find myself not exercising which has led to weight gain and that has led to other problems.
Had I known in 2006 that it was broken I would have gone to the doctor even though I had no coverage for it and I certainly would not have been driving. If I'd had insurance in 2006, I'd probably have gone to the doctor just because it hurt.
How many uninsured people do you know? Maybe it is time that we solve the health care crisis in our county. I'm happy to have insurance again and glad that I am able to get the services I need. But I know there are too many people making the tough choices that I had to make. I will still be asking questions, refusing tests that make no sense and I'll continue to ask for generic drugs.