I am sick. Not just your average cold or flu sick. I have a rare, progressive disorder that, in large spurts, gets worse and worse. It has slowly stolen things from me. My physical life, my social life, many of my pastimes and my ability to work. This is the downward spiral I have lived in for over 9 years now but out of everything I have lost, being financially stable was the most demeaning and, yet, the thing I could not solely blame on my illness.
When I was in my twenties, I didn't always carry insurance. Mostly because I could not afford it but also because I worked a lot of temp jobs. Then I got a career not of my choice but because of necessity. I opted to carry insurance because I could now afford it and was getting older.
I worked for a local company back then and it was just me I had to carry insurance for. The premiums were not too bad. I never paid more than $10 for my prescriptions and co-pays and all was right in my world. As a few years went by I moved with my client to a bigger sales and marketing company and had to start paying for a PPO because my company was based out of California. The higher payments and co-pays were still worth it since this is about the time my mysterious disease started hitting me.
After a couple more years, I had to put my husband on my insurance because he became disabled. Now my premiums for two people were taken from my check 24 times a year at a whopping $865 a pop. It cost me and my husband $40 to see a doctor and most our prescriptions, because now I was battling a rare disease, were in the third tier so I was out of pocket up to $500 a month for medicine. This is not including any procedure my husband or I had to get done. Those ran me a few hundred dollars each and happened at least three times a year. All told, I was paying over $25K a year for our premiums and out of pocket expenses. That was almost half of my $55K salary.
At this time we had been renting a house and were always on time with paying rent and utilities but as the medical bills piled up, I learned how to juggle and juggle I did. I found out that in Massachusetts they could not shut off your power from October 15th to April 15th and would go months without paying that bill. I could live without cable but needed internet in the house for when I worked at home. We got rid of the landline and used just a cell phone. We lived on a lot of foods that were cheap and not very healthy which wasn't good for my disorder since my lymphatic system no longer works.
My landlord was very sympathetic since he had two daughters my same age with health issues of their own and would let me slide on paying him when he could. I'd end up borrowing money from my parents just to cover things when I needed to but hardly ever could pay them back. I borrowed $30K against their home equity over a three year period and took loans against my 401K just to stay afloat.
On top of battling my sickness and helping my husband deal with his, I now felt like I was a burden and it was a huge blow to my dignity every time I had to beg and borrow. I wouldn't go as far as saying I stole though that is what I felt like every time I needed to ask my parents for another few hundred dollars. I'd feel guilty anytime I splurged on a dinner out or a new article of clothing for work. All through this I continued to work no less than 50 hours a week and sometimes up to 90. The mental stress was making me sicker but I saw no way out.
Finally three years ago, I had to stop the madness. My husband and I moved into my parent's house. We are now the stereotypical kids living in their parent's basement but we were very lucky to have that option. I know many others struggling with medical issues and paying their bills who will go weeks without power or will eat next to nothing just because they cannot afford their medications and food together. They silently sit suffering because they don't have the money to see their PCP but are not sick enough to warrant going to the emergency room where the hospital has to treat them even if they cannot afford to pay the bill.
About two years ago, my symptoms got bad enough that I no longer could work. With that I lost my insurance but I was put on Mass Health (aka Romneycare, the basis of the Obamacare) and though I pay no premium or co-pays and my prescriptions are $3.65 or less, I still cannot get most of my medications I need because they are not covered. One medication that worked really well for me costs $600 for 30 pills. Needless to say, I don't take that pill anymore and I deal with the symptom as best I can.
So what does telling my story say about our current healthcare system in the United States and why I believe in Medicare-For-All?
Well, first of all it angers me that there are companies out there making money off illness. I'm not talking about a little money. I am talking huge profits. For example, UnitedHealth Group made $10.3 billion in profits in 2014 and Pfizer, one of the Big Pharma companies, made $39.2 billion in gross profits in 2015.
Secondly, we are touted as being the greatest country ever and yet we find it acceptable to treat our most vulnerable like they are a blight. The elderly, disabled and poor do not deserve to be helped in some people's eyes. I love my country. I always have but this is disgraceful.
With Medicare-For-All, the program that Bernie Sanders is promoting, the government would be the sole customer to Big Pharma and they would be able to fight for better prices. Also getting rid of private insurance companies would make it so the doctors and hospitals would only have to deal with one system.
There are many other benefits including economic ones that I won't go into detail about here. If you want more information on it go to http://www.medicareforall.org/pages/Benefits
My driving goal in advocating this plan is that I do not want what happened to me to ever happen to another person or family. I will use all the energy and time I can muster and continue to fight for Medicare-For-All.
As for my support for Bernie, it is this program that brought me into the fold but the many other programs he is proposing that will be a godsend to many, many people who are vulnerable right now in this country's current economic environment, that makes me appreciate him a little more every day. He genuinely cannot stand seeing people suffer in anyway and wants to make this world a little better for everyone.
After all, LOVE TRUMPS HATE!