"Health care, bitches!"
That's what I remember seeing on my Facebook news feed around two years ago when it was finally announced that, at some point in the not so distant future, this country was going to open it's doors to a new kind of health care -- something that gave hope to people like me -- people who were either broke, uninsured or just completely unable to afford any kind of insurance due to pre-existing conditions and financial status. "Health care, bitches!" What a funny statement of defiance, I remember laughing while reading it. It meant we really were winning, we really did defeat the odds and that there was hope for the future -- we, the people, were being taken seriously. Our lives meant something.
Having gone 13 years without coverage, the idea of being able to actually visit a doctor again gave me a sense of security. Right after my cancer in 2001, I lost my insurance and never got it back. So, yes, that's right -- I have not had one single doctor's visit since 2001, simply because I cannot even afford the price of an office visit, let alone the follow up. Gawk if you must, but know this, I am in the majority. There are millions of people out there who don't go to the doctor, and it starts with not being able to afford the first visit. Truth. Like it or not.
In comes Obamacare, looking like a dream come true. Folks like me could finally imagine ourselves getting a stupid check up! Up goes the website and over to it we run, like lemmings to the sea.
And, as we all know, it took some time to get this system in place and by the time it actually became a reality only a few months ago, it was already rife with catastrophe. I watched the healthcare.gov website go up and down, kept an eye on what the people were saying, and I figured, well, if there's a place for me in this, I might as well try. So I got on board with the hopes of being part of the American dream, which now had the name: The Affordable Health Care Act.
My first attempt resulted in my finding out that I might be eligible for Medicaid, so I followed that path and after many, many attempts, I learned that if I made more than $241 a month, I could not receive this assistance. I'm not trying to sound like a rich snob, but honestly, I fart $241. What do they think people live on where $241 a month is considered an acceptable amount? What is this based on, and does one have to be absolutely homeless and destitute to even think about getting some damn aid in this town?
OK, after cooling down I figured I'd made it this far without insurance, if worse came to worse, I'd just live -- without insurance for the rest of my life. No biggie, right? Still, I was seeing how people were getting themselves insured, and I wasn't satisfied to eat crow just yet. I tried again, but this time I went to see what actually was available to me if I weren't to stop with Medicaid being my only option. I'd heard about these great tax credit breaks. Who knew -- maybe I too, as one of the tax-paying and hard-working American poor could snag one of those tony breaks?
So, I reapplied and was told that, yes indeed, I was eligible for the max amount! Oh joy and rapture, now to find a plan that would work with my newfound acceptability. Yes! Coventry Silver -- my monthly cost: $0. Tears come to my eyes. Suddenly I'm allowing myself to feel things I'd suppressed for 13 years. Suddenly I was a part of society in spite of how cool I thought it might be to come across as an outlaw anarchist fantasy hero. I felt like a long-standing hardened female prison inmate who'd been handed a pretty dress and realizes that all she ever wanted was that pretty dress. I burst into sobs -- I was no longer society's forgotten child, no longer a misfit, an outcast -- I was an American! Accepted!
Until Coventry processed my application for enrollment.
"You don't qualify for the tax credit. You make too little."
Wha--what? Wait... I qualify there, but I don't qualify here... I am eligible for Medicaid, but I'm not eligible for Medicaid... By this point, I know what is required of me: that I die out of the system, because truly, the system is set up to frustrate. This is a nervous breakdown, not a system. Without a tax credit, I'm in the same boat as the next guy who makes a fortune. Coventry's lowest plan would offer me crap coverage at about $300 a month for a single payer plan (my kid is already covered). Not doable by any stretch of the imagination!
Crushed, my hopes plummet. I try one more time, like an absolute desperado. I know exactly what to say, how to phrase it -- I am at my wit's end, as so many of my Facebook friends got to witness the other night. I fill out another application. At this point, que sera sera. Immediately, I receive my results, thanks to healthcare.gov, but most especially thanks to Florida's Governor Rick Scott, for whom I would not be in the position I'm in now were it not for him.
This is the transcript of that update:
What are the results of my application?
Dori Hartley -- Based on the information you provided, the new federal health care law provides that you could be eligible for free or low cost health care through Medicaid. However, the state of FL has chosen not to offer you this new health care coverage at this time.
You are not required to pay a penalty for not having health insurance because of your income and because the state of FL declined to expand Medicaid to cover individuals in your situation.
The good news: I don't have to pay a penalty for not having insurance. The bad news: I'm fucked for everything else.
So, let me take this out of the box for a moment and address Rick Scott, the governor behind the words written by the poor and almost apologetic copywriter who had to send me this pathetic piece of bad news...
Mr. Scott, are you saying to me that you basically don't care if I live or die, and that even though I'm a mother, a tax-payer, a hard-working U.S. citizen, someone who has paid into this system since I'm 16 and has worked almost every day of her life... are you telling me that after 13 years of being uninsured, after having had Stage 2 breast cancer, that because my pitiful salary makes me a buck or two over the limit of what I can make in order to receive Medicaid (which you disallowed the expansion of in Florida) but is still way less than anything I could possibly afford on the marketplace, are you telling me that not only am I not eligible for a tax credit, but that I actually can't be insured at all? Are you honestly telling me, Mr. Scott, that as we finally arrive at a place in history where Americans are offered affordable health care that I, Dori Hartley, cannot join the country, that I must accept my position as one of many who simply slipped through the cracks?
Do you get the implications of this, Governor? Do you get that people are actually going to die because of this? Something you could have prevented, yet you had to keep playing your "I hate Obama" game to spite us all. You are a rich man with nothing to worry about, most especially health care. How could you do this to people? I've got more life, talent, love, will to live, empathy and equipoise than you will ever know in your entire frozen solid, ignorant self serving universe. How could you take your position and treat the good people of Florida like this? How could you? Shame on you, little man. Shame on you.
Like the Soup Nazi says to his fictional customers, "No soup for you," so says the governor of Florida to its neediest people. "No health care for you!"
Is that what you're telling me about the state of my health care, bitch?
Follow Dori Hartley on Twitter: www.twitter.com/dori_hartley