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Jacob Dickerman Headshot

Who Needs Health Reform?

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I want to talk about me for a minute, and tell you a little bit about my health this past year. Let me start out by saying, on the whole, I'm a fairly healthy guy. I got to the gym regularly, I try to avoid eating a lot of excess sugar and fats, I cook, so I wind up eating food that, on the whole, is healthy and fresh. Don't eat a lot of meat, mostly I eat vegetables, fruits, yogurt, bread, and hummus. I don't say all this to brag or to try to encourage anyone else to follow my lifestyle. I don't care if you follow my lifestyle, I'm not attempting to leave you a path. I say this so that you'll understand how surprising it's been that my health has been so shitty this year.

My health year began in October, when finally after two intensely scary years of no health care, I finally got coverage. It had taken me a while because or money. I hadn't had enough to be able to afford a decent health plan, and I had too much to qualify for any of those "you don't make money so we worry about you" health plans. Luckily for me, by October, my job had been restructured out of existence and the possibility of affordable health care swerved into my path.

I got it just in time because that November I somehow managed to contract a bacteria called erysipelas, which decided that what it'd really like to do was live in my face. I was granted the privilege of secluding myself in my apartment for a week because I had been transformed by a bacteria no one could figure out how I'd been exposed to into the freaking Elephant Man. My new doctor, who initially assumed that this was how I normally looked (my face was approximately twice its former size and oozing) prescribed me some antibiotics, and after a hiccup where it turned out I was allergic to them, got me on some stuff that knocked the bacteria out of my body, let my face return to normal, and gave me back my life. Thank you, Doctor Nelligan.

Then! About two weeks ago, I somehow contracted Herpes Zoster, affectionately known throughout the world as shingles. I'm 24 years old. 24 year olds do not get shingles. I asked a doctor friend of mine why a healthy person of 24 years would get shingles. "HIV? Maybe cancer." Thanks, Rachel. Really calmed me down there. (I should mention that I don't have HIV or cancer. That's right, ladies. No HIV here! Line on up!) Once again, my face swelled up and I had the joy of getting to spend $400 all told getting myself cured. Once again, the medicine worked and my face was pretty much back to normal in a week. Of course, they still have no idea why I got the bastard Zoster. No one knows, no one even has a guess, which is what made this afternoon so much fun!

This next bit, I'm writing from the office of a dermatologist. I've never been to a dermatologist before, in my life. My skin's not that good, it's just not that bad either. Or at least, it didn't used to be. See, I was doing some work when I noticed that there was a spot of discomfort between my lip and chin. I shaved off the hair that had grown over it and low and behold, and angry red splotch had attached itself to my face. I waited to go the doctor for the erysipelas, I waited for the shingles, I wasn't waiting for this new bastard too. So I went to the first doctor, my doctor, and they saw me immediately, which was very nice of them, and I got to put down a $20 co-pay, because my insurance is that great. And they had no idea what the hell was on my face. So the doctor says, "You should see a dermatologist. I'll call one for you." So I get to go directly to the dermatologist where, after I need to get my first doctor to fax a referral over to my second doctor, because apparently him saying to me, "I'm calling these guys and scheduling you an appointment" isn't good enough for Oxford Health, I get to hand over another $20 co-pay. And so now I'm sitting in my doctors office and I'm worried. Because my body seems to be falling to pieces and I'm only 24 and I've actually led a pretty healthy life. But there's this other part of my head which is just chattering away and going, "Something better be fucking wrong with me or I just blew 40 bucks for nothing".

And that's the joy of my horrible damn health insurance. Because even when I sit around thinking about how I could have died at the beginning of the year, or the fact that no matter what I do or how I live I seem to be chronically falling into really weird ailments and no one knows why, my insurance lets me ignore all that and instead think about the fiscal shit-storm that this sickness has helped me dig myself into. If we had national health care, I wouldn't be able to escape into these thoughts about money, instead, when I got sick, I'd only have my health to think about, and I wouldn't be able to play those little rounds of Russian Roulette you get to play with your body every time you say to yourself, "Do I really need that antibiotic... It's pretty expensive... Maybe my body will come back from its 104 degree fever on its own."

Thanks, crappy health coverage! You keep me from thinking about my crappy health!