- In 1999 my husband and I got custody of (and I adopted) his son, who had just turned six (an expensive process in and of itself). Jason came to us from a very abusive home and had (and still has) severe emotional and behavioral issues as a result. We knew that he would need extensive counseling (little did we truly know) and my husband did not have health insurance available through his employer. Jason went to a counselor two times a week for three years before we got insurance (I went to work full-time in 2002 when our youngest went to kindergarten). For those three years, I worked nights cleaning at the race track, worked at a daycare (so the kids could come with me) and watched other people’s kiddos to afford those appointments.
- In 2001 (while we were still uninsured) I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. The biopsies leading up to the diagnosis and the surgery required put us in debt to the tune of $25,ooo. My husband worked as much overtime as he could and we made payments to anesthesiologists, the hospital, the doctor, the lab and every other possible medical entity known to man for years. As a matter of fact in 2007, we still had a $1,500 balance with surgeon and she sent me a letter that since I had so faithfully made payments she was forgiving the rest of our debt! What a blessing- We had been paying her monthly for almost seven years. While friends were driving cars that didn’t break down and living in houses with more than one bathroom, every “extra” penny we made was going to medical bills.
- In 2003, Jason’s behavior deteriorated beyond what could be managed on an out-patient basis. We now had health insurance through my employer but mental health benefits leave SO MUCH to be desired. Between February 2003 and November 2004 Jason would be admitted as a psychiatric inpatient three times (twice in Towson, MD, an hour and a half away from our home) and would be in numerous partial hospitalization programs. In 2004 our OOP (out of pocket) medical expenses for his care were in excess of $17,000 WITH INSURANCE. Can you imagine what we would have been facing if my employer did not offer a health benefit (that I paid $124/every two weeks for as well)?
- Then (mind you this is the very abbreviated version) a judge ordered Jason to be remanded to a residential treatment facility to the tune of $60,000/year. Do you know how much our insurance company authorized for that? ZERO, ZILCH, NADA. Know why? Because Jason had exceeded his mental health benefit (he was 11). His dad and I had to make the gut wrenching choice to sign physical custody of him to the state of West Virginia so that he could get the treatment he needed. (That was the only way he could be covered by Medicaid, to not be in our custody) You can never know what that was like if you have not experienced it.
- You would think our story would be over by then but no. I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in January of 2008. My hubby has great insurance through his employer now but our 20% of my EXORBITANT drug costs, hospitalizations, IV treatments, physical therapy and co-pays to the general practitioner, MS specialist, neuropsychiatrist (yes, all of this has left me a little depressed), urologist, hematologist, cardiologist, pulmonologist and pretty much every other “ologist” known to man came to over $13,000 in 2008 (and I can no longer work full time).
- The bulk of my social security disability check (that I only began receiving in April of 09) each month goes to paying said EXORBITANT medical costs, which will likely continue to escalate as I was just diagnosed with systemic lupus last month.
I urge you to educate yourself about health care reform, listen to those of us who truly know what it means to have medical expenses take over your life and stop the partisan rhetoric that is distracting the nation from the true issue at hand- people need adequate and quality health care coverage. AARP and the AMA have even endorsed the current bill. Is the health care reform bill perfect? No! But it would be such an improvement… For me…for all those out there like me and those much worse off.