This is my insurance biography. I think the time has come to tell this tale. I warn you it’s long, but I think it’s important now that we’re at this stage of the Insurance story. The short version is that the Senate proposal now under discussion is planning on taxing my current insurance plan (i.e. my family and my husband’s employer) to pay for health care. I’m not happy about that. Read further and maybe you’ll understand.
I got married when I was 21. 5 days after my wedding my husband and I moved to Nashville with nothing waiting for us here other than an apartment and a possible grad school scholarship and a possible job for him. It was 1991 and the country was in a recession not unlike the one we’ve been in for awhile now. His possible job and possible scholarship fell through. He worked PRN (as needed) at a
jail hospital for mentally ill children. I went to the now defunct Travel Institute and trained to be a travel agent. I also called upon my mad typing skills to get a job that paid $5/hr to type their accredadation manuals. We didn’t have insurance and when I got sick in July, it caused us to max out our one credit card–which had a limit of $500.
I got a job after 4 months. After 90 days there (so we’re now talking around January of 1992) the health insurance plan kicked in. The job–a reservations agent at a phone bank which serviced several membership travel plans–was entry level into the Travel Industry and the health plan reflected that. The few times we had to go to the doctor barely anything was covered.
I had that job for four and a half years, during which time my husband went to grad school and worked as many hours as he could handle on the night shift in local hospitals for mentally ill children who had committed crimes. He’d study in the wee hours while trying to keep the 10 year olds from raping the 2 year olds, with the occasional interruption to restrain a baby mass-murderer during that child’s psychotic break.
Things happened and he eventually got a job using his psychology degree in a different field. He went from clinical psych (helping sick people) to Industrial/Organisational Psych (helping sick businesses.) He got a job as a consultant and worked for years with insurance companies. On the side he administered evaluations to corporations and then put those evaluations through a statistical analysis protocol to write a report. In 1995 I quit my travel agency job, even though I’d worked my way pretty far up the ranks. It was a lousy work environment; I had stayed only for the insurance. When my husband got insurance through his consulting job we figured it was time for me to finish my degree. I had put that off so I could help support the family while he finished grad school. I never did finish my degree. Instead we tried to have a baby–that didn’t work out either. Eventually I went back to work–this time for a local photo album and gift book publisher as an Administrative Assistant. He worked at a start-up company that itself went through several iterations. The main reason he stayed at the startup company through many payroll delays (startups don’t always have a lot of cash) is that the insurance was always covered. It was an okay plan–not the greatest, but at least it was something. I had started passing multiple kidney stones so we needed something to at least get us in the door at the hospital. The plan did that, but we still had to pay thousands out of pocket to cover IVs, IVPs, ESWLs, KUBs, painkillers and hospital beds.
We were still trying to have a baby, and it still wasn’t working–eight years after we started trying. I had resisted having any type of surgery to diagnose my innards, but finally a neighbour down the street who got pregnant in her second month of trying convinced me to go under the knife. In January of 2005 I had my first laparoscopy. We had basic insurance, so it only cost us about $1200 out of pocket. They found endometriosis growing everywhere. I was never the same after that surgery. Instead of getting better and getting pregnant I got sicker and sicker. Since my OB-GYN did the surgery and a lot of my pain was abdominal we went back to him. He knew I’d be in some pain from the endo, but had no idea what else was going on. He suggested I check with my Urologist. The Urologist found nothing and sent me back to the OBGYN. And our insurance was okay and still covering some things. But not every test they wanted to do, and not every visit they wanted to send me on. Most of these tests to find out what really is wrong cost you at least $500 out of pocket. Just for YOUR part of the test. And they’re painful and invasive.
I had to quit working full-time. I was too sick to be a reliable employee. Even though the company I was at begged me to stay and offered to be flexible with my sick leave I was ashamed of my falling performance so I quit. As I grew sicker that turned out to be the right decision, as I would have eventually only been able to go in one day a week, three days a month. I turned to blogging and writing to save my sanity. Thank God for Nashville Is Talking, where I met a lot of great people who kept me from feeling like a crazed shut-in. Although most of the people who are now my friends were once my enemies. I took a lot of pain out on other people for a very long time.
My husband eventually lost his job at the startup–they were bought by someone else who laid off the team after one year. He was unemployed for 7 months. We had COBRA, but those payments were more than our mortgage. We didn’t want to lose our house and we arranged to pay cash to my OBGYN for my annual visit and cash to our PCP for any visits we had there. They were kind enough to keep seeing us without insurance. Each visit would cost us $120 out of pocket. That, plus any prescriptions, was FAR cheaper than the $1850/mo that COBRA cost.
During that summer a woamn in our Sunday School class who had heard about my long-undiagnosed problems suggested that I might have lupus, because I sounded like her sister-in-law. We had never considered anything like that before; since my problems seemed to start in my abdomen I hadn’t paid much attention to any diagnosis that didn’t center around kidneys, bladder or uterus. But as I talked to friends with Lupus and read up about it on the web, everything started to make sense. I talked at length with a nurse in our church who herself had lupus. She assured me that everything I had going on sounded very much like lupus indeed. We didn’t have insurance at that point. My husband didn’t care and wanted to have me go to the doctor then and there to start treatment. But I was pretty sure he’d get a job eventually and knew that if I saw someone before that, it’d be another year before his work insurance would cover me as they could write off my condition as ‘pre-existing’.
He started his new job on August 1, 2007. Our insurance started a month later. I started going to doctors as soon as I could. The diagnosis pingponged awhile before they settled on Rheumatoid Arthritis. It’s a cousin of Lupus and has many of the same symptoms. The good news is that it is less harmful to your major organ systems and therefore less likely to cause you to die in your 50s.
The point of all of this is that yes. I have great insurance now. Now that I am 39, almost 40. Before I had that great insurance I never once cost the state any money for my health care, even when we had to pay out of pocket to see doctors and had to pay full price for our medications. I spent a lot of years with a lot of basic health plans or no health plan.
Now that we’ve got a good health plan, that keeps me and my evil Chronic Pre-Existing Can’t Get Insurance On My Own self off the TennCare roles. If I weren’t married to a man with a good job, I’d qualify for TennCare.
So basically, right now my husband’s plan is the goose which lays the golden egg that saves any government plan a lot of money. To tax that plan is both cruel and foolhardy. It’s ignorant and vile. And actually, it’s kind of evil, too.