Monday, September 7, 2009

Canada to U.S.: Our healthcare rocks.

I admit, this has nothing to do with being vegan. I wanted to post it on Thursday, because I had a four-day weekend coming up, but I was lazy. Positively slothful, I was. But this video, from US Health Crisis, is so beautiful and honest, I started to cry. Everyone deserves a safety net, and it's obscene that our country hasn't yet seen fit to provide one. I was uninsured for about a year after being laid off—for about three months in the middle there, I had insurance through my temp firm, but it was so pathetic I might as well have been uninsured. Seriously, y'all, I maxed out my benefit limit (a whopping $200) with one vaccine. So for the past year, I've been counting pennies and pills, hoping I wouldn't get really sick or injured. I called in favors from friends who worked at doctors' offices, and I begged my doctor for prescription samples. I sprained the hell out of my ankle in November, so I iced it, wrapped it up, and hobbled around until it healed. It would have been nice to have the option to have it checked out, but I didn’t want to drop a couple hundred bucks to be told that 1) it was sprained, and 2) to stay off it as much as possible. “But what if it was broken?” someone asked me. “Oh well,” I said. If I came home late from yoga, I’d find Red all wound up, afraid I’d been in an accident and we’d have to sell the house to cover our bills.

When I landed my current job, which doesn’t provide insurance, I tried to buy a policy myself. You’d think this would be easy: have money, get coverage. Basic capitalism. But alas, I have any insurance company’s favorite disqualifier: a pre-existing condition. This can be anything from migraines to freakin’ cancer, and it was enough to get me rejected by several major insurance carriers faster than you can hit “Send.” Never mind that it doesn’t affect my productivity or quality of life, that as long as I have prescription benefits, it’s completely managed. No hospital stays or expensive treatments. One pill a day. Never mind that otherwise, I’m an insurance company’s dream: a young, healthy (vegan!) female nonsmoker who can afford to pay. The last time I got that soulless letter telling me I wasn’t eligible for coverage, I lost it and, in my frustration, told Red that we should just get married already.

Three months later, we did. Not because of the insurance. We got married because we wanted to, but we got married then because we were sick to death of fucking around to make sure I had the care I needed. Neither of us could see planning a wedding for a year or more in the future while I kept fighting the system, so we got our families together and got married on a beautiful Saturday morning. Red has excellent benefits, and my coverage kicked in the day we got married. This is a rare privilege afforded to far too few Americans, and I don’t take it lightly. It’s made me realize the hypocrisy of the current healthcare system, which is set up to shift responsibility and deny care rather than provide it. It’s brought home to me the bone-deep cruelty of refusing to allow certain couples to marry while encouraging their neighbors to throw extravagant, glitter-coated weddings.

It’s why I’m adamantly in support of reforming the U.S. healthcare system. When conservatives hiss about not wanting to pay for lazy people who can’t take care of themselves, I want to introduce myself and ask, “Like me? Employed, stable, healthy, and uninsured? What do you have to offer me? Because clearly, I’m nothing but a drain on your perfect system.” I’d gladly pay more taxes for the right—not the privilege—of universal healthcare. Because one day, I want to tell my child what it used to be like. And when she asks, “Mommy, what’s a co-pay?” I’ll hug her and cry, because she’ll never know the hollow feeling of rationing out pills, hoping to make it one more day.


  1. I love our system. I can't even IMAGINE a world where if I hurt my ankle i wouldn't be able to call my doctor and get it checked out.
    Or that if I have a child I'd have to pay 15 thousand dollars.... JUST to have a baby.

    Now- we most certainly have some things that we have to pay for- like medications that aren't covered by medicare... or our insurance at work. Since Mr. Harper and the conservatives came into power, two tiered health care has slowly been creeping up- cuz stephen harper is a jerk.
    I heard some beautiful clips of Mr. Obama's speech and am hopeful for all the Americans out there. :)

  2. So good to have your perspective! Thanks for sharing. Yeah, I've heard that Harper sucks. I have my fingers crossed for Obama--he inherited a HUGE mess down here!