I would like to point you all to a letter written by my Congressional representative, Mr. Jerrold Nadler.
And then I would like to point you to a little factoid. In the United States, 15.7% of American citizens and legal non-citizen residents are uninsured. That is 47 million people. That number comes from the beginning of 2008, and after the economic crisis that followed later that year and the rise in unemployment, I can only imagine that it has risen higher, although that is the number still being quoted.
I spent three years of my life uninsured. I was lucky in that I managed not to get seriously physically ill or injured. I did, however, have to see a psychiatrist for an anxiety disorder during that time period, which cost me approximately $350 a month, out of pocket. That was less than the lowest health insurance premium I could find that would have covered part of my visits to the psychiatrist. If I had chosen to insure myself, I would have had to pay slightly more for my premium, plus the cost of the co-pay, plus the cost of my medications-- in short, probably close to $600/month for the same quality of care I was receiving without paying into a private insurance plan. And my doctor would have seen less of that money than he did when I was paying him directly.
Now, that insurance plan, the one that would have raised my monthly healthcare costs by $250? Would still not have covered any truly serious illnesses or hospital stays. Like my little brother, if I had been admitted to the hospital, I would have been kicked out as soon as preliminary tests had been done, because they would have seen that my insurance, though expensive, did not cover the costs of the kind of hospital stay and treatment he really needed. I would have been bounced around from doctor to doctor when the doctors saw that the insurance was unwilling to cover the actual costs of the treatments he needed.
And yet, I would have been paying hundreds of dollars a month.
When I lost my last insured job, in 2007, I was not going to elect to keep my insurance. This time, the plan that was available to me would cost $547/month. That was more money than I made after taxes and rent. My mom was kind enough to step in and pay it-- which was lucky, because by that point, my asthma, which had generally been mild, had developed to the point where it required regular maintenance, including doctor's visits and inhaler refills.
I got a new job with insurance literally two months before my COBRA would have run out. I am now insured again, but every doctor's visit is still a battle with the insurance company to get them to pay what I am entitled to receive from them. And that is when I pay a premium of about $100/month. Many months, I do not go to the doctor at all. I have fallen back on visiting the free clinic at work because if I go there, I only have to pay for my prescriptions and not my visits.
But most people don't have free clinics at work.
I am a healthy, upper middle class, thirty-one-year-old woman. And the insurance industry in this country is failing me.
If it's failing me, someone who has enough education and a good enough support system to wade through the ridiculous red tape, to argue my rights with the insurance company that tries to nickel and dime every item in spite of taking my money every month, someone who can afford her doctor's visits when the insurance company refuses, what is it doing for all those uninsured people out there who maybe don't have well-off parents...or who are elderly, or don't speak English as their first language? What about people with serious pre-existing conditions?
I am sure all of you have heard by now about Sarah Palin's ridiculous accusations of death panels this week. Except to me, they're not so ridiculous. Right now, 47 million people living in this country face a death panel every time they get sick or severely injured. They face a choice of letting their condition worsen, or risking bankruptcy. They don't face government bureaucrats, who, at this moment, do run a public health care system with a high success rate, and whose jobs are dependent on the quality of service they provide. They face faceless megacorporations whose job is to pay out as little money as possible, doctors who are under pressure to cut costs in spite of the Hippocratic Oath, and the emptiness of their own pocketbooks.
It is embarrassing, the state of health care in the United States. It is embarrassing that we live in a country where people-- any people-- are not willing to pay into a system to help their friends and family when they need it most. I am embarrassed by the idea that someone making many times what I do might care more about saving a little money in their line-item deduction every year than they do about the idea that their neighbor down the road might not be able to afford to call EMS. And I am embarrassed that we live in a country where we allow our elected officials to take blood money from an industry that is behind the cause of more accidental deaths than any other in the United States. You want to see a death panel? There's your fucking death panel. Ask any uninsured parent of a Downs Syndrome kid who doesn't make as much money as Sarah Palin does.