Tag Archives: america

On Being Young & Uninsured in America

220 to 215.

I tire of watching American television not just because it’s all commercials, but because as far as advertising goes, the commodification of  healthcare seems to beat out Christmas toys 2 to 1. America can commercialize the birth of Baby Jesus til the four horsemen of the apocalypse come crashing past Santa’s sleigh, and I won’t bat an eyelid. But every time some silken voice suggests I ask my doctor whether Zoloft or Lipitor or Enablex or Viagra is right for me, I want to scream. 

What is wrong with this country?

Whenever  Alex Trebek gives pause, we’re bombarded by video of forlorn-looking people who live mired in pain and shame over their illnesses. Overactive bladder. Erectile dysfunction. Manic depression. Fibromyalgia. Then they ask their doctor…and the miracle medication with a Star Trek name propels them into a world of color, a world of horse-riding, soap-bubble-blowing, small-children-tickling. They smile distractedly at the screen while an in-the-event-of-emergency voice, a required-safety-instructions voice, informs us of the possible side effects, something that can never be done in a single breath. In extreme and rare cases, it most always causes death.

I don’t want to be diagnosed by the television. I don’t want to ask my doctor about it either. If I’m in need of medication, I want a doctor to tell me so, not a drug company. Because that’s a doctor’s job.

Worse are the insurance commercials, the ones with radiant-skinned nuclear families and the Blue Cross  that promises their protection.

As if it’s entirely reasonable that your health is something else to shop for.

In the meantime, a health care reform plan squeaks through the House at 220 votes to 215.

Democrats say the House measure — paid for through new fees and taxes, along with cuts in Medicare — would extend coverage to 36 million people now without insurance while creating a government health insurance program. It would end insurance company practices like not covering pre-existing conditions or dropping people when they become ill. (New York Times)

I’m continually baffled that members of a largely civilized and educated democratic republic do not feel that their government should be at all responsible for their wellbeing. And that the state has made people so fearful of government intervention that its citizens even actively resist measures designed for their own protection. Their government-instilled fear of government itself allows the state to evade any moral obligation to its people. It’s one of the greatest ploys in American political history.

In that respect, I don’t fear government as much as I fear what we’d do to one another without it.

And I feel about as much stigma at being called a socialist as I would at being called queer or a feminist.

As in, I couldn’t have put it any better myself.

I understand the American attitude toward hard work and self-reliance and a sense of entitlement, I do. America teaches you that, ye ole rags to riches. But what I cannot begin to fathom is the active resentment of the have-nots, the absolute refusal to even consider anyone else’s needs but your own.

Because another thing America should teach you is how quickly you can go from riches to rags.

Especially as far as insurance is concerned. My situation in not anomalous to the American experience. I didn’t end up uninsured because I’m a degenerate who’s never contributed to society. I ended up uninsured because I’m sick.

I was supposed to have a full healthcare package along with my teaching assistantship from the University of Michigan. But because I got cancer, I couldn’t go to Michigan, and ended up without the healthcare.  

So coming out of the NHS and into the never land of the American healthcare nightmare has me perpetually on edge. I’m what I was always afraid I would be: young and uninsured in America (because I don’t consider being on Medicaid being ‘insured’ any more than living in a shelter would convince me I weren’t homeless). And I’m what I never even dreamed I would be: young and uninsured and a cancer patient. Scheduling the appointment for my CT scan in Pittsburgh had me in tears with the receptionist. Because the primary concern at any American hospital is not what’s medically necessary, but what your insurance covers. Or rather, doesn’t.

“I don’t understand why you’re giving me a hard time,” I said to her.

But I do. I do understand why. It’s the system we live in. It’s not her fault–but the problem isn’t that it’s someone’s fault, but that it sometimes appears to be no one’s concern.

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I survived the NHS

I think I need to get this printed on a T-shirt and wear it around Western Pennsylvania.NHS

One of the things I am most dreading about my imminent return to the US is having to face the omnipresent Republican propaganda which, in absence of cogent analysis of the issue at hand, somehow makes continual recourse to the following tagline:

“If I lived in England, I’d be dead.”

I lived in England. I got breast cancer. I was treated. On the NHS. And am living to tell about it. Continue reading

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