I realize that's not the sexiest title, but I thought that it might be worth sharing some of my thoughts on health care, as someone who both uses the health care system extensively, and someone who worked in government. And since, if I tried to make this one post, the post would be approximately the length of Moby-Dick (and about as fun to read), it's going to be several posts.
Today: My background in health care and using the American Health Care System
Tomorrow: Working in Government and Seeing How Things Work (ie, nothing is free!)
Day Three: Suggestions
I wasn't diagnosed with CF at birth. I was diagnosed when I was 11. However, I had epilepsy before that, and my first hospital admit was at the age of 9 months, so I've been using the health care system intimately for a long time. I always had insurance under my dad's work plan. Sometimes the plan would change and we'd have to deal with companies that weren't quite as good as others (Cigna, I'm looking at you), but I always had insurance. And it was insurance that worked, meaning it paid for the big things, like a two-week ICU stint my sophomore year of college, and lots of not-so-big things, like IV antibiotics at home.
I always knew that I had to have a job that would provide good health insurance. Salary wasn't as much of a priority as that was. Working for the government was ideal, because, while the pay was less, the benefits were good. I had three choices of health insurance plans. I chose the most expensive because I knew that my doctors at Children's liked them (meaning, they didn't have to argue with them too much), and they were what I'd had with my parents, so we were familiar with their coverage and co-pays and all that jazz. We knew how they worked. Like I said, this was the most expensive plan and took the most out of my paycheck, but that was secondary to having insurance that was good and would cover things, like the transplant I knew I was going to have soon.
At that point--2004--I knew I had to have a job, because I couldn't stay on my parents' plan. Back then, you could only stay on your parents' plan through college. The details are sort of fuzzy now, but I think there was a way I could've stayed on their plan, or something, because of all my issues.
The other option for health care coverage, if I didn't get a job or didn't want to get a job, was Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), but I never even considered that, because 1) I wanted to work, 2) I didn't consider myself disabled. Yeah, OK, so my lungs were crap and I spent a lot of time in hospitals. But I could work. I had a brain that worked, I was intelligent, and I was going to use my fancy degree, dang it! I never considered not working, or not going to college.
So, I had a job, I had health insurance. My plan paid for my transplant--the surgery, the hospitalization after, the rehab, the drugs. It was good. It did what it was supposed to do, in short. I went back to work and continued to have health coverage. And I still, today, have health coverage (although not as good).
Obviously, I am a person who requires lots of health care stuff. I require multiple medications to survive (although not as many as I did pre-transplant. Yay!). I wear contacts. I have a cochlear implant. I see a pulmonologist, a cardiologist, an ENT, a dermatologist (because my skin cancer risk is about 10X as high as the general population), a dentist, and an optometrist. In other times during my life, I've seen a rheumatologist, a neurologist, a plastic surgeon, doctors who treat burns, a dental surgeon, orthopedists (two broken bones), and a general surgeon (for when my port was implanted). It's easier to list the departments I haven't been seen in at Children's than the ones I've seen. I am expensive to keep alive.
And even with insurance, my family and I have to pay for things. A cochlear implant upgrade? $10,000. Visits to the infusion lab at Children's for blood draws? A few hundred. Pulmonary Function Tests, chest X-rays, CT scans, and EKGs? Yet more money.
Now, that's the insurance side of it. How about the waiting side of it? Do I ever have to wait for care?
That's the quick answer. The longer answer is, sort of. My ENT, for example, works at various hospitals. When I need sinus surgery, we do it at Children's because they are so familiar with me, and that's where my lung transplant team is. So if I need surgery, I might have to "wait" if he doesn't have an immediate open slot on a Children's Surgery Day. Even then, though, it's maybe a month or two month wait, and that's because my sinus surgeries are generally not urgent deals. They need done , but it's not like I'll die if they're not done quickly.
I have never had to wait for any sort of testing or treatment. That's excellent. And it's almost always been like that, with any insurance I've had throughout my life.
I obviously have a stake in how health care is "done" in this country. However, that doesn't mean that I fell to my knees in gratitude when the ACA was passed. But that's for tomorrow, when we talk about what I learned when it comes to government and health care.