Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Would it surprise people to discover that I am uninsured? It shouldn’t. Regular readers know that I’m only employed on a part-time temporary basis. I live paycheck to paycheck, and periodically have to skip meals to make ends meet, but don’t tell my roommate. He might just pop a fuse.
Would it surprise people to discover that I’ve had some pretty serious health issues? It shouldn’t. I’ve written about my heart attack, and I’ve had chronic health issues my entire life. I’ve had high cholesterol my whole life, diagnosed with diabetes (not nearly as critical as many diabetic people), high uric acid, and so on and so forth.
Would it surprise people to discover that I cannot afford my medications? It shouldn’t. Without insurance and living, barely, paycheck to paycheck there is simply no money left over for frivolities like medications to keep me alive. I’m supposed to be taking blood thinner to prevent clots (plus aspirin on top of that), high blood pressure medication (which is funny because I actually have low blood pressure, but one of the “side effects” of this medicine is that it protects the liver from damage from other medicines), cholesterol medication, anti-depressants (big shock, eh?), heart medication, insulin and God knows what else. But the reality is that given enough money for medicine or food, I can live longer without my medicine than I can without food.
And, yes, this is all true.
Today, a friend of mine was expressing her concern. She asked me when the last time was that I went to an optometrist, something a diabetic should do regularly as high blood sugar can lead to vision problems, including blindness. I’m sure she’ll go ballistic when she reads the rest of this blog, but I don’t think she’ll really be surprised either. Why, exactly, she settled on optometry specifically I don’t know, but she asked the last time I went to see one. She even offered to pay for the visit out of her own pocket.
It’s incredibly sweet, and I’m blessed to have friends who love me so much that they not only take an interest in my well-being, but actively want to participate to see that I’m around for a long time. I don’t know why.
I was raised to be immensely practical. As such, I had to refuse her very kind and loving offer. My readers might immediately think this has something to do with pride, and I suppose I’d have to admit that that has something to do with it, but not nearly as much as you might think. See, it’s because I have no insurance that I won’t let her pay for such a visit.
Let’s assume that I take her up on her offer and go to an optometrist. There are two possible outcomes; either nothing is found, or a problem is found. If nothing is found, then that’s great, but it does mean my friend has paid money for nothing. And believe it or not, this is the best possible outcome.
The other possibility is that they find a problem. In this case, how could I pay for further testing? Medicine? Treatment? Specialists? The reality is that without insurance, I would not be able to afford any follow up at all, in which case all I could possibly do is wait until it gets worse, in which case…there would be nothing I could do about it.
The problem with lack of insurance is not just whether or not one can afford doctor visits. The more specialized the doctors the more expensive they become, and because of my conditions, I’ve seen more than my fair share. Recently I’ve read an article that said that older generations are foregoing routine medical checkups. This isn’t really a surprise to me; the Affordable Care Act has been getting increasingly decimated as lawsuits and presidential decrees shave more and more off of the law, making it less effective, and it seems the older generations are the ones that are being hit the hardest with cuts in MediCare and MedicAid. The reality is that there is no practical purpose to go to doctors if there is no chance of being able to afford treatment for problems they might find.
Our medical and insurance industries are fundamentally flawed. They are increasingly handicapped against helping American citizens, either because of financial realities, or restrictions on doctors. There is a reason that every presidential candidate, from both parties, has promised health care reform from Obama’s first election bid all the way back to at least Roosevelt. It’s been an issue for so long that even political scientists and historians are not even sure if elections prior to Roosevelt were promising the same. The ACA has its problems, but let’s not pretend like there weren’t problems prior to the law.