Let’s talk about healthcare in America…
I’ve waited three days after Independence Day to talk about this one, because I hope everyone has gotten over their patriotism hangover by now and we can get back to the issues at hand…
Last week I had an urge to look into health insurance. You see, I was placed on Medicaid shortly after moving back from Canada, and I only recently lost my benefits. It’s cool, I’m not trying to “be on the system,” and I’ve been looking forward to the opportunity to shop this infamous “Marketplace” and sign up for coverage. I’ve also been excited to finally have a health plan that not only helps take care of my genetic “pre-existing” Hemophilia, but also hopefully helps with the costs for me and my husband to conceive a child free of this condition through the help of IVF…just like we planned to do in Canada. (See Part 1) Even if we don’t go through IVF, I want a plan that would help take care of the “what if” costs if we risked the 50/50 chance of passing my condition on by conceiving naturally. Most importantly, last week I was happy to finally get good health insurance so I could go for my overdue annual exam, because that’s something I have to stay on top of. (Also See Part 1)
Anyway, back to shopping for health insurance.
It’s not like you just lose Medicaid, and immediately get to replace it with something else. In my case, I had to go online and fill out the proper forms only to get a response to send in more information. After sending in what was requested of me, I had to wait.
And wait, and wait.
I lost my Medicaid at the end of April, and waited the entire month of May for a response from the Marketplace. And then, I waited the month of June….
Last Saturday, on July 1st, I finally went online and checked things myself. First, I checked my email just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. No email since May 2 saying I had a message online. When I logged into my account, that message was from May 2 requesting the additional info I had to send in.
…but, wait! Now I can scroll down to more pages!
Even though the original message is dated May 2, there was an addendum to the message saying I qualified for special enrollment through JULY 1.
…which was last Saturday!
I think to myself “well, at least I still have today!,” and I fully prepare myself to find some health insurance at 8am on a Saturday. I log into my account, click to shop plans, and….
NOPE. Denied. Although my online message says I qualify for special enrollment the web page says my file change doesn’t qualify me.
Since the Marketplace hotline is open 24/7, I call to see what’s going on. I get told that although my message says July 1st is the last day to enroll, it was actually June 30th. I don’t get it. I ask him why my message says I have until July 1st, he says he doesn’t know. I ask if there’s any change that can be made, he tells me there’s nothing he can do. He tries his best to be positive by telling me open enrollment is in November.
…but, is it really? With our current government fighting over the ACA, how can we know if there will be open enrollment in November?
When I asked him that very question, he answered with a “we plan on having open enrollment in November.” When I asked him if there’s a chance that plan wouldn’t be followed through with he responded with “well…..yeah……you know….” and a nervous laugh.
Welcome to America, folks.
After getting off the phone, I cried. I literally cried over the frustration of not being able to get health coverage. Then I got frustrated, and the Libra in me wanted justification. I went back and scoped all of my emails to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. No emails since May 2. I went online to my Marketplace account and checked my messages. Nothing but the one that had somehow been added onto at a later date…without changing the original date or sending me notification.
So, I called back. I spoke with someone different about my situation, and this time I got a completely different answer. Apparently a technical glitch in the system was preventing me from enrolling. Fortunately, this CSR spotted it and transferred me to someone to fix it. Long story short, they eventually fixed it so I could enroll.
Let’s just pause here and reflect on this whole situation. How many other people had the same problem, tried to call, and was told there was “nothing they could do”? How many people might have given up after that out of frustration? If I suffered from a technical glitch, I’m sure others did, too.
That’s just one of the issues with the system. Let’s talk about another: affordability.
After being granted access to the Marketplace last weekend, I was never able to follow through with purchasing a plan. Even with a qualifying credit of almost $500/month, I still couldn’t justify the costs of a plan. To get a plan covering some of the doctors in my area and some of the drugs I could potentially need for my condition, I would be paying almost $600/month. That means these plans are $1000+ without assistance. Not to mention I only had 4 semi-ok plans to choose from.
…and who knows what will happen in 2018 after all of the legislative changes and insurance companies rewrite their policies…
$600 is a good portion of our income. While, yes, we could afford it if I absolutely needed care right now, it’s hard to justify that much going to a plan that doesn’t even cover all of the doctors or prescriptions I may need. I would rather put $600 a month into an “emergency health savings fund”, and not let my money go to waste the next 6 months while everyone figures it out. It’s sad I have to make that kind of justification in the first place, but that’s our healthcare system for ya.
Now, about that annual exam…
Despite making the choice to wait on insurance. I’m still overdue for my annual exam. When I first moved to Iowa, Planned Parenthood was my go-to. I was in limbo between getting dropped from Canadian healthcare and not yet being able to get American Medicaid, and PP stepped into handle everything. They made sure I received my necessary biopsies and tests, and they stayed on top of me to make sure I got my exam when I needed it. Even when I got Medicaid and qualified to see a different doctor, I stuck with PP. They made me feel welcome and cared for, just like in Canada. (See Part 1).
The problem is, my local Planned Parenthood just so happened to close its doors on June 30th. Thanks to the recent decisions of our state government, 4 clinics have been forced to close, including the one in my local community. Now the place I turned to for trusted care is gone, and I’m stuck in healthcare limbo needing a very necessary exam because of my health history. (Really, if you haven’t read Part 1, do it. It explains everything). There’s a local community health clinic I plan to reach out to, but, I may end up having to drive 45 minutes to the next nearest PP instead.
The whole PP issue is for another blog. For now, we’ll just stick to healthcare in general. The American health insurance system is incredibly frustrating. The government’s support doesn’t help. We talk about the “American dream”, but, the truth is, if you’re an American actually trying to build your own dream with a small business, good luck getting health insurance. If this country really wants us to succeed, why can’t it develop a better system? Why can’t it support us? And why can’t it support our women?
Sometimes, I really do miss Canada.
It’s sad as an immigrant I received better care there than I do as a citizen in my own country. It’s sad that when it comes to healthcare, I’m a dollar sign in my home country, but a human being in another.
…And it’s sad that things like technical glitches and unmotivated, uncertain customer service representatives in the Marketplace could be deterring who knows how many people from being able to secure healthcare.
Add the price hikes, the uncertainties about changes and legislation, and the budget cuts that will inevitably happen, and I’m very very scared for the future.
I just want to be able to get the care I need as a woman, and feel supported to have a healthy baby. Is that too much to ask for???
Hopefully, one day, it won’t be…