Fit Pitchin’ Friday: On a serious note

Morning Nuggetiers, it’s Friday.. woot! And what does Friday mean here at The Nuggets? FIT PITCHIN’! I know one of my typical fits runs more along the line of frazzled mom on the edge of sanity. This fit isn’t going to be, “typical”. I’ve decided to put on my grown up hat and get serious. I was lucky to meet so many amazing people at SITScation in Las Vegas last month. One of them was Melissa Smallwood who blogs at Organized Life By Design. 

I was so impressed by Melissa, she really asked thought provoking questions and had great advice for other bloggers. What got me about Melissa, even beyond her charm, was the story she told about her struggles to pay for medication she needs in order to BE ALIVE!I know that politics isn’t really something I get into here. The thing is the more I talked with Melissa the more I came to understand that this wasn’t a political issue. I asked Melissa to come guest post for us today. I think hearing her story is important. No matter your party affiliation, no matter what you think you know about the subject, Melissa puts a face on this topic and I encourage you to hear her. I now turn my blog over to Melissa… (sorry for the font thing, blogger hates me today)

There I said it.  The three little words that incite anger, misinformation, partisan politics and even hate mail.   Because of my experiences I feel obligated to share my story, in the hopes of opening a genuine discussion about how truly necessary health care reform is in our country.  Sadly, unless you have personally experienced a health care crisis in your life or witnessed it in someone else’s you may be misinformed about what is at stake.  I hope my story helps you understand a little better:
  • 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.
Don’t get me wrong, God has provided for us time and time again.  I am constantly amazed, looking at the $ amount going out compared to coming in, how we are not bankrupt.  We haven’t lost our home, our vehicles, or our sanity.  But we are fortunate. 
So many people have lost everything.  People that didn’t deserve to have to choose between their medicine and groceries.  People that shouldn’t have to wonder if they should see a doctor or not, because they can’t afford it.  People that have died because they waited too long to get medical attention.
So, what are you saying, Melissa?  I am saying that reform is necessary, whether we like it or not.  Both Presidential candidates agreed on that in the last election. Yes, I have read the 1000+ pages of the proposed bill, and while I do not agree with every thing in it, I am glad that the President has the courage to introduce it.  Because it is necessary
Yet still, there are some gross misrepresentations being made and fear mongering to distract people from the real issue. Which is: REFORM IS NECESSARY
Why is it necessary?  Accessibility!  Affordability!  Ability to have options!  Eliminate pre-existing condition clauses!  Not have to worry about the cost of being sick for the rest of my life- I can’t even imagine!

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.  

I know this is a polarizing topic, heck my own mother (stark raving conservative lunatic, I say that with love and a giggle) believes that death panels will be part of the plan.   My family and I are lucky enough to have great coverage. I can’t even wrap my mind around having to make the choices Melissa talks about. I’m not hear to tell anybody what to do, I’d just like to hear people talk.. CIVILLY about this. If you have a story like Melissa’s and you’d like to share I’ve wrangled Mr. Linky into this post. Link up your stories. We might not all agree on how to do things but I think we can all agree that something NEEDS to be DONE! (you can also find Melissa at Multitasking Mama and on twitter as @multitaskingme) 

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