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Cathie Beck

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Bitter About the Burden

Posted: 12/18/2012 10:00 pm

My mother's wooden leg made her visit our neighborhood doctor every so often. Most never knew of the leg (lost in a farm accident at age 3), but when she wore a callous on the stump and needed some salve, she'd tote us five kids down the 1960s neighborhood street and around the corner to an unassuming brick house.

That house held the local MD's office. His bungalow's living room served as a waiting room, the gutted kitchen an examination room. The doc would glance at her stump, apply a medicinal salve of some sort, and send the tube home with her.

It was crazy simple.

Fast forward 50 years later to me, her uninsured daughter with two perfectly good legs, and though I was diagnosed with (alleged) rheumatoid arthritis 20 years ago, I have been asymptomatic most all of those years. (See inaugural HuffPost blog, Oct. 15, 2012, "Going Rogue: Kiss It Kaiser.")

I'd like to stroll over to that doc's house/office and get something if I get shingles or the flu this winter, but I cannot, because our health care system asks me to give it $15,000 a year for that privilege. For that price (less co-pays, medicines and the dreaded hospital admission), I'm bequeathed the possibility of being seen by a physician entrenched in a Kaiser or a Blue Cross/Blue Shield system.

The pressure is on. Newly medically-uninsured, I must take a deep breath and dive into this project of figuring out what I'll do when the medical needs demand strike. Yet I procrastinate. I do this because my soul knows that the time, energy and psychological wherewithal needed for this endeavor won't be easy, won't be conclusive, and most likely will produce unsatisfying, even frightening results.

My psyche helps keep this pressure on with at least one weekly dream of: "You'd better hurry up and pull out all the stops, smart girl, and find some sort of insurance coverage quickly, or any assets you've to date acquired are gone and you're screwed."

Here's what I know: Because of that long-ago (now) asymptomatic rheumatoid arthritis label (and in spite of feeling and living 100 percent well and without medical issues or medications of any sort), no Colorado insurance will cover me.

I've checked. I had insurance brokers check. Then I checked again. Insurance brokers and insurance carriers scoff or a send curt "no" when asked about providing me medical insurance. That is why my former carrier could confidently and without explanation catapult my premiums from $400 a month to nearly $1,200 a month the last few years. Their knowing that "no one will ever want you, sick girl," served them very, very well.

It just didn't serve me.

Inevitably, I'm going to need to see a doctor. But I work 50 hours or more a week, and I've got a 140-year-old house that I maintain on my own. I've got a life, and it's the holiday season for crissakes. Holidays take time.

Bloomberg's data today states that 15.4 percent of Coloradoans are uninsured, which is close to the national average of 15.6 percent for all states. Be that as it may, I am not homeless, nor am I unemployed. I know these people have the real burdens. Still. The thought of tackling the task of figuring out what to do next makes me want to eat a bottle of Aleve and go into a deep sleep.

I know that I should be examining and interviewing the pay-as-you-go docs recommended to me by good friends and colleagues. And I friended something called www.projecthealthcolorado.org on Facebook. I've been told there are organizations that give special health dispensation to women, and I'm told public health care clinics might make me wait all day to see a frazzled, overworked doctor should strep throat show up.

Yet I procrastinate and dread. Generally, I don't believe in bitterness. It's such a waste. Yet, I cannot help but think that figuring out how to get medical care and not go bankrupt should not be a part-time job.

Maybe I'll work to figure this out, to research and make the phone calls and listen to the limitations and hope to secure an answer of some sort during some scheduled, holiday down-time.

In the meantime, I trip upon a photo of my mom dancing and think of how she managed everything with that heavy, draconian, one-hinged wooden leg, with its thick, hot leather straps and its weight on her hip, the sores that would appear and aggravate her every so often, and the need for medicinal salve.

And I dream that stump is mine and I that need a doc and then I awake in a start and think, "I really need to find some coverage."

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