A few months ago, I stayed home from work for two days straight with crippling abdominal pains. My first thought was maybe extreme menstrual cramps but I soon realized that this was something else. Never had I had cramps and pains so bad that it kept me from going to work or even getting out of bed without a struggle. There was one point where I literally almost called an ambulance to go to the hospital because I thought I may be dying. Seriously -- it was that bad.
These cramps encouraged me to go see a doctor -- a move that I admit I had not done in almost two years, and I was way past due for a physical check-up. I admit that since I had not been to see my doctor in a while, I was somewhat apprehensive of what they might find. Leading up to my doctor's visit, I found myself Googling everything from kidney stones to fibroid tumors to uterine cancer, trying desperately to get a handle on my symptoms and what may be wrong with me. I don't mind telling you that I was pretty scared!
When I finally saw my doctor and had a complete check-up, aside from a few brief scares like an "unreadable" mammogram -- which meant that I had to take a second one (which also scared the hell out of me) and which, thank God, came out negative -- I was given a fairly clean bill of health, except for one thing. I was diagnosed with a fibroid tumor in my uterus.
For the most part, most doctors will tell you that fibroids are fairly common in women and are almost usually benign and non-health threatening. The only problem with this is that they don't know definitely if it is benign until they remove it and have it examined. So, to confirm my health status and find out exactly what needed to be done to treat me, I made several trips to a specialist who poked and prodded me in places my fiancé has not even been allowed to go. Given that I have a pretty good job and thought I had pretty good health care, all of this cost me some out-of-pocket money but up until then it was nothing I could not handle; so when all of the poking and prodding was finally completed, I made plans to have the tumor surgically removed, which I was advised as the best solution to the problem. Although I admit that I was a little scared (this would be the very first time in my life that I would undergo a surgical procedure of any kind) I was prepared to do it. That is, until I had to meet with one last person -- the lady from billing.
She sat me down and went through all of the things that my insurance would cover and then she proceeded to go through all of the things that my insurance would not cover, which turned out to be most of it!
I found out that even with my insurance, my out-of-pocket expenditures would include: $2,150 for the doctor to perform the actual surgery, $1,100 for the anesthesiologist (just to put me to sleep for the surgery) and $5,250 for the privilege of having all of this take place in an actual hospital (I guess instead of in the Greyhound bus terminal). A whopping grand total of $8,510 (out-of-pocket) just to remove a fibroid tumor, and this is for someone who actually has health insurance! The next kick to the gut came when I was also notified that all of this had to be paid up-front before the surgery. No talk of a payment plan, no discussion of "we'll work with you," just a straight forward "we need all money up front!" I felt like I was at the betting window for the Kentucky Derby. If this is our system of health care, I truly cannot imagine how people without insurance ever manage to stay alive, let alone healthy.
So here I am, sitting here knowing that I have a tumor inside of my body (that may or may not be benign) and not being able to afford to have it removed. Payments, I can handle; $8,500 in up-front cash, I, like most people in this country, cannot handle!
And yet, there are people in this country, including several on the Supreme Court, who think that reforming our health care system is somehow "unconstitutional" and "un-American." To those people and those justices (who coincidentally are about to announce a decision on the future of health care reform in our country) I say, no, what is "unconstitutional" and "un-American" is allowing citizens in this country who work and serve and pay taxes all of their lives to blatantly suffer from illness only because they happen to not be born rich or be a celebrity or have a corporate (or government) job that provides them gold- and platinum-status health care coverage.
I'm still pretty scared (and occasionally in pain) because I honestly don't know exactly what I am going to do. I know that there are people out there with health problems much worse than what I have, but scared is scared and degree doesn't matter much when you know you're sick and there's nothing at all that you can do about it. The feeling of helplessness is overwhelming! I'm currently working on some other possible solutions to my problem, which I hope and pray to have solved by the end of the summer, but isn't it funny that those of us who work and pay taxes are actually, literally paying for the health care coverage for those in our government who insist on deeming us unworthy of the same kind of coverage that they themselves enjoy... at our expense! To them I say, I WANT MY MONEY BACK -- maybe then I can afford to keep myself alive!