I never feel more like a parent than when my child is sick.
My role is clear and certain then. He needs me. I am there. It is simple -- and also very complicated. That is what parenting IS -- keeping children healthy and safe.
During my two decades of parenting, I have given silent thanks every time I call for an appointment without having to make a calculation of how I will pay. I am thankful again when it comes to settle the bill for the visit. I can focus on soothing brows, filling prescriptions, plumping pillows and telling him everything will be okay; as I do these I'm aware of the parent who can't focus because there are bigger worries looming. The parent who waits until the fever gets higher or lasts a day or two longer; the parent who hopes that ice will make everything go away, because he or she can't afford a trip to the doctor, or worse.
My family has had fewer of these moments than many, and more than some. There was a badly broken leg that required months in a wheelchair. The time five fingers were broken at once, requiring surgery. There were a few trips to the ER, including the time a quarter got stuck in his windpipe. Each of those could have broken us without the card that came with the jobs for which we are thankful in large part because they come with that card.
Then there was the scare. Some funky test results, which led to more questions, which led to biopsies and treatment and hints that this might be something he would live with forever. As it turns out, he is fine. But he has a medical trail that might cause an insurance company to take notice. And you never want to be interesting to an insurance company.
My first thought when we got scared -- even before his possible mortality, or the fact that he might suffer -- was about insurance. The others were a close second, but the first thing that flashed through my brain was he might be uninsurable. This card of mine can only protect him for so long. He would need me, and I would not be able to be there.
Debate the specifics of the Affordable Care Act (as I know you will), but to me it indisputably means that a parent can better care for a child. Fewer young children will lose care because they have illnesses that cost too much (technical term, "a lifetime cap"), or started at birth ("a pre-existing condition") or are otherwise interesting to their insurers ("we don't have to tell you why, we can just reject you"). More parents will have insurance and won't have to calculate whether their child is suffering enough to call the doctor. And my son will be one of the 6 million young adults who are allowed to stay on their parents' policies until the age of 26.
After that he cannot be turned down. Not for himself. And not for his own children when he one day takes them to the doctor and says his own silent thanks.
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