The ten-year anniversary of my health disaster

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Hubertine Heijermans, My Hosptital Bed, Watercolor Painting Nr. 14

By Yuliya Shneyderman

In a couple of weeks, it’s going to be ten years since I survived a catastrophic health event thanks to the persistence and caring of my co-workers.

At the time, I found out that I had extensive blood clots in my brain.  There were so many that a doctor looking at my MRI a few months later called colleagues into his office in amazement. There are several reasons this happened: behavioral, genetic, and iatrogenic. I have a genetic mutation, I was taking birth control pills, and I smoked.

I was young (only 27), and presumably, healthy. Yes, I was still trying to quit smoking and hadn’t yet succeeded. But I was also getting preventive health care and regularly seeing my primary care physician. Various health indicators were normal, other than the headaches I complained about to my doctor. I was trying to be good and prevent an unwanted pregnancy so that I wouldn’t have to use even more healthcare dollars getting an abortion or maternity care.

Luckily, I was also working for an organization that provided me with access to a great health insurance plan. After I recovered from the blood clots and received my explanation of benefits, I calculated how much my company and I paid to the health insurance and how much they paid out to my doctors. The health insurance company still made money off my case, and I’d only been paying into the system for about a year.

Health insurance companies are not healthcare providers. They are gatekeepers to healthcare. They are middle-men. They are paper pushers. To conflate health insurance with healthcare is to obfuscate their real role in the healthcare marketplace (already somewhat ridiculous words).

Everyone deserves healthcare, and everyone should be able to get it without going into debt. Health insurance companies make monetary and economic decisions based on percentages and profits. hey are not compassionate or ethical. They must make money, otherwise, why would this company exist? This layer of administration and extra money does not exist in every country, and it’s not the only way to do it and have a healthy population. There are so many barriers currently in place between the American people and health and wellness, and yes, insurance companies are one of those barriers.

Obamacare worked within some very narrow confines to try and remove some barriers. That’s why the individual mandate exists – to provide bigger, healthier pools of people so that the monetary risk is more diluted. That’s why preventive care is free – to lower the humongous costs of chronic health issues that are the leading causes of death and the leading healthcare costs in the US. That’s why the Medicaid expansion took place – to provide care for those who are most at risk because of poverty and stress and before they go to the emergency room with a worse problem.

Unfortunately, ACA did not do enough to curb actual healthcare costs, at least not in the very short time that it’s been in effect. The lower costs will only be seen if we keep it in place for many years and if we consider other reforms – things like cheaper or free education for those going into the healthcare professions (or at least debt repayment), curbing of direct-to-consumer and direct-to-physician advertising by big pharma, better health education in schools and workplaces, and so on and so forth.

Instead, what the Republicans have come up with will force millions of people out of the health insurance risk pools, thus raising costs for all of us. It will also worsen the health of various vulnerable populations, and, in some cases, cause their deaths. Vulnerable populations include all women, children whose parents don’t/can’t work or who don’t earn enough to purchase insurance and all their parents, all people of color, all LGBTQ people, all undocumented immigrants, and the elderly with little or no income. That is the majority of this country.

But, it is in large a disenfranchised majority, a majority that is suffering in many ways. We will need help and we must help each other. Those of us in states with wavering senators will need to call them. Those of us with relatives who support the Republicans and this administration will need to at least try to talk to them. Those of us who have better ideas for governing this nation will have to run for office. This and much more.

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