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Congress Sequesters, Citizens Sweat It

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In an amazing amalgamation of timing, congressional sequestering and days of form filling out and faxing, I am medically insured as of March 1, 2013. Moreover, the cost of the policy is half that of the Kaiser system I walked away from last August -- $650 versus Kaiser's $1,200 monthly premium -- for nearly identical coverage.

It's a little congressional-sequestering timing miracle -- or debacle, depending on how you look at it.

Last August I abandoned Kaiser when they escalated my premiums from $400 a month to nearly $1,200 a month in a few short years because they could. I have rheumatoid arthritis, an allegedly incurable malady that can cause severe inflammation and pain, deformity and possible early death.

It also hurts like hell. It showed up in January, naturally, just four short months after I told Kaiser to kiss my backside.

GettingUsCovered is the name of the new insurance and it is the Colorado version of Obamacare, which is actually the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) of 2010. PPACA ensures those with pre-existing conditions can obtain affordable insurance.

Or it used to.

On March 2, GettingUsCovered's application process came to an abrupt, no-warning, screeching halt. Those unlucky enough to not apply in time for March 1 coverage are SOL. The feds posted this explanation on GettingUsCovered's website: "The program has a limited amount of funding from Congress ... This suspension will help ensure that funds are available through 2013 to continuously cover people currently enrolled." Those of us lucky enough to apply in time for March 1 coverage or earlier will remain covered -- unless and until the United States government elects not to.

Meanwhile, I've barely touched the new, golden insurance policy.

When I broke up with Kaiser, I also broke up with Remicade, their typical RA infusion treatments. Remicade was given a black-box warning by the FDA for being linked to lymphoma and other serious side effects. So I launched a comprehensive, holistic and integrative campaign to beat this thing. It looks like this: a no-alcohol/no-grain/no-dairy/no-sugar/no-nightshades diet, accompanied by a 46-step supplement/X-rays/allergy testing program. There's massage, a biodentist, energy healing, meditation and research about other RA self-healed folks efforts thrown in for good measure.

I know. It's exhausting just reading about it. Moreover, except for blood work, none of these integrative, non-pharmaceutical approaches are covered by the golden policy. It's all out-of-pocket and the costs border on crushing. The dollars being spent on the holistic approach are not, by the way, sitting around waiting to find a home. I'm self-employed and completely self-supporting. My financial safety net is me.

Dare I say I feel better? Two months into the regime, my wrist and feet are ever so very slightly less "on fire." And for reasons I cannot fully explain, there's something that feels so right about all of this money being channeled in this fashion toward healthy living. Perhaps the optimism springs from new-found, solid sleep that's come to me as of late. Or maybe I'm simply detoxed and energized from all the organic everything I imbibe all day long.

I don't kid myself. Those Remicade infusions kept me symptom-free for over 10 years. I could grip a jar, twirl a baton, wear high heels and a whole host of things I cannot do now. I cannot hold a knife, so chopping vegetables or anything else, for that matter, is out of the question. It takes me 40 minutes to do my hair, which is normally a 10-minute task. I sleep with a heating pad wrapped about my wrist, and there are days when stepping into my favorite boots is impossible, my feet are so tender and inflamed.

Yet I march (tenderly on those swollen feet) forward on this holistic path, a new and shiny medical insurance policy safely tucked away.

Time will tell whether it's all just an expensive experiment resulting in placebo effects. It could very well be that I'll go crawling back to Remicade before summer. I'll crawl, that is, if Congress doesn't snatch that choice away.

Cathie Beck's memoir, Cheap Cabernet: A Friendship, was published by Hyperion Books (July 2010, http://www.hyperionbooks.com/book/cheap-cabernet-a-friendship/). She is a Denver, Colo. journalist. She can be reached at cathiebeck@comcast.net