For most of my adult life I have been blessed to have health insurance. And I took it for granted. I had no concept of what life is about without it. Until I was unemployed.
When I lost my job, I kept my insurance under the COBRA program. It cost me a substantial percentage of my unemployment. That lasted a little over one year. I then had no health insurance for the next two years.
What was life like without health insurance? For one, I was extra careful. I didn't want to get injured, because it could cost me my house if I racked up even $100 worth of medical bills. So I thought about everything I did. I opted out of cleaning my gutters for fear of falling off the ladder. I dashed my plans to climb Mt. Everest. Ok, just kidding. But you get it.
I prayed I wouldn't get sick. I have had annual bouts of bronchitis or pneumonia for years and I was scared that such an illness would strike. I prayed some more.
I couldn't go to the dentist for my three times a year periodontal cleanings. I prayed that gum disease wouldn't come back.
My glasses broke. A friend told me I could get glasses online for $50. So I sold enough wild foods to pay for a visit to the eye doctor, got a prescription, and ordered new glasses. They broke within a month. Super glue now holds the frame together. I guess you get what you pay for. I think about those folks who can't afford to go to the eye doctor. They don't get to see the stars at night or the leaves on the trees, maybe they can't even read. How can this be?
I prayed that my thyroid issues would stay the same, because I could no longer get my annual blood test, ultrasound, or biopsy. I worried about what might happen should the cysts get larger. Or turn cancerous. What would I do?
At night I limped around my house (and still do), because I have a painful tendinitis in my Achilles tendon. I have had this issue for over a year. It is affecting my ability to walk normally. I could not afford to get help.
Then I was offered a good job with full health insurance benefits. As soon as I could, I got my thyroid tested. I had my feet checked out. Today I saw a podiatrist, who says because the tendinitis was left untreated, I have developed scar tissue that may or may not go away with the proper treatment of physical therapy and inserts.
Ten weeks ago I could not get any help for my health issues because I had no insurance. Five weeks ago I went to a doctor, had blood work, Xrays of both feet, and a visit to the podiatrist for a very small copay. What a difference a month makes.
I am still the same person as I was prior to getting my job. Yet now, I feel, I AM, privileged. What makes me so special as to have health insurance while so many are without?
I watch others I love struggle to meet their monthly private pay health insurance payments, only to deal with prohibitively high deductibles when they need to use it. They choose not to get help for things they are suffering with. They might as well not have any insurance at all.
I have lived on both sides of the fence on this issue. And that experience strengthened my belief that everyone should have equal access to health care. There shouldn't be "haves" and "have nots" when it comes to the health of our bodies and minds. We are all special, sacred human beings. Each and everyone of us.