Life Without Health Insurance
When my husband, Jeff, had a full time job with great health benefits, it was great. We still had to pay deductibles and co-pays, but it was entirely manageable with planning. But when he lost that job and began two part time jobs to take its place, things became quite confusing and difficult. You see, I have a lot of health issues that need to be dealt with constantly: fibromyalgia, rhumatoid arthritis, osteo arthritis, migraines, chondra malasia, allergies, asthma, TMJ and high blood pressure. At any given time I am taking six to twelve different medicines daily.
So, what do you do when you loose your health insurance in a situation like this? First, we extended the Cobra for as long as we could, making the payments ourselves and getting some help from parents. I was frightened of being without medicine, because it can be so painful. With good care before I was able to get a part time job. But if I had to go off my medicine would I be able to keep it? Without that job, what would happen to our son's schooling?
First, we checked all options. No one would cover me for independent insurance for less than $3000 a month. That's right, three zeros. My work only provided insurance for full time workers. Medicare and Social Security turned me down for benefits. So.
I spoke to my rhumatologist, a very caring and excellent doctor, and he said he would continue to see me for the same cost as my previous co-pay. Super! He gave me samples of whatever medicines he has in stock. Great!
For general care I enrolled in the Community Clinic, which offers very low cost services to people without insurance. They were able to help with some of my medicines. Appointments had to be scheduled a week or more in advance, and there is no choice of care provider. They are volunteers, so you take whoever you get. Good.
So this is where I landed: some medicine from my doctor, some from the clinic, some on the $4 list at one pharmacy, some on coupons at another pharmacy, and occasionally short term perscriptions through a third pharmacy. All are on differing schedules, so I was having to constantly keep track of how much I had of each, where to get that one and how. It's quite a task for someone with exhausting conditions.
If I became sick and needed to see a doctor right away, it became a problem. That is not something for a rhumatologist to deal with, and appointments at the clinic had to be made well in advance. So sometimes it meant going to Urgent Care and paying the full emergency room price.
Then the tornado hit and took out not only our house, but my doctor's office and all three places I got prescriptions. So the whole process of installing prescriptions again from my various sources began again, while we were trying to put our lives back together and living with friends.
My TMJ got much worse after the tornado, and was giving me severe headaches every day. I complained to my rhumatologist, and he said, "You have TMJ." I went to the clinic and they said, "Yes, it's rough. Some people never get over the tinnitus and have ringing in their ear the rest of their life." I went to the chiropractor, and he gave me treatments that helped for a little while, at $40 a visit. I complained to my dentist, and he recommended an orthodontist. I went to the orthodontist, who finally did a work up, and for around $1000 could make me a device on my teeth that MIGHT give me some relief. If it doesn't, we will be looking at surgery.
Not having a primary care physician, everything that comes up I run through the gamut of caregivers I see, hoping that someone will take it on and do something. I have a swollen, crowded thick feeling in my throat that no one will deal with. I have difficulty swallowing that no one can find a solution to. Recently I have had pain on the bottoms of my feet for which I have seen my doctor, the clinic, and a chiropractor. I have tried cheap and expensive metatarsal inserts, moist heat, magnets, soft shoes, muscle stim, Super Blue Stuff, ultrasound and laser. Still there are days I can hardly walk. Finally now I am on some steroids that I hope will help.
I usually get samples of my blood pressure medicine from the rhumatologist. However, they don't always have it in stock. So I have to keep my supplies up or I run out. This happened recently, and I was a week without, with bad headaches every day. We searched online for specials and coupons, and finally had to pay $130 with a coupon for a month supply.
When I was having difficulty getting the blood pressure medicine, the Clinic gave me a cheaper prescription for something different. I needed a refill during a time when the Clinic was closed, so asked my rhumatologist to give me a refill, and explained about the price. He refused, since he had not given me the prescription in the first place. So once again I was without for a while.
One of my medicines required an eye test every six months or so. This became burdensome, so we changed the medicines to save the $100 eye tests.
It is a life of scrambling around to try to get everything taken care of, and keep medicines in stock. It is going from one person to another to try to find answers for problems. There is no one to deal with the little things, like a sebaceous cyst on my back that is not infected, by very annoying. It is exhausting, and I am so tired. Grateful for all the help, and tired of the scrambling around.
Now Obamacare has been enacted. I was told that I was exactly the person this new law was designed to help. This is an update on what has happened in my case:
1. I am now required to pay several hundred dollars a month for the cheapest policy available, which will only cover catastrophic medical needs, and has a deductible of $10,000 to $12,000.
2. If I enrolled in this policy, I would also have to pay full price for my medications, one of which is over $100 a week. I would also have to pay full price for doctors' appointments, all of whom are specialists. Right now I am given a special price by my compassionate doctors since I don't have insurance.
So has this new law affected me? Oh yes. Has it helped me? Ohhhhh no.