My Health Insurance Story
It is not the intention of what I’m sharing to move you to either side of an issue related to health insurance, I just want to share what I experienced.
In late November of 1993 I moved out on my own and started a new job. I was told I could have health insurance through my job after 90 days. I went ahead and selected the best plan my employer offered based on what I could afford. The coverage was just for me, no spouse, kids, or even a pet at that time in my life at twenty years old.
As someone out on their own for the first time, I’d usually work overtime whenever it was offered. Always happy to come in early or work late to earn a little extra money.
In February 2004 I started to have a few minor health issues. Nothing serious enough to go see a Doctor, just things I’ve experienced in my life. Things like headaches or earaches related to allergy problems.
One day at work I sold some office equipment to a customer and moved the heavy box from a shelf to a cart to take it outside. The customer brought his truck to the sidewalk outside the store and while the box was heavy, this young, bold, stupid guy didn’t ask anyone for help and lifted it into the back of the customer’s truck. Sure, it was heavy, but no big deal. I went back inside and finished my day.
That night I had some back pain. I figured okay dummy, that is what you get for not asking someone to help lift that heavy box.
The pain got worse through the night. Thankfully I wasn’t scheduled to work the next day.
I called work and found out where I needed to go for a work related injury. Thankfully it was a clinic just across the street from where I worked.
I went in and explained what happened to the Doctor. He examined me and said it appears I just pulled some muscles. I got a prescription for some muscle relaxers. He told me if it isn’t better in a few days to come back.
Well a few days later it wasn’t any better. I went back and the Doctor sent me to a back specialist. I saw the back specialist a few days later. He did more testing, x-rays, etc…
He said he didn’t find anything that would lead him to believe it was anything more than some pulled muscles. He gave me a few prescriptions for better pain meds and all seemed like it’d be okay in a few days and I’d be back to work.
I got the prescriptions filled, it wasn’t too expensive without insurance, my ninety days at the new job hadn’t been reached yet. I went home, took my meds and rested.
The next morning I woke up and could not see out of one eye. Until then I always had 20 / 20 vision, never a need for glasses or any problems at all related to eye sight.
Thankfully I could still see fine out of the other eye. I followed my instincts and called the back specialist. Told the office staff what was going on and they got the Doctor on the phone. He told me that nothing he prescribed could possibly do that. He wanted me to get to my primary Doctor right away. He said medically there isn’t anything he can do but he said, I’ve got your primary Doctor’s info that I gave him in all of the forms I filled out for my appointment the day before.
The back specialist said I will call your primary Doctor, tell him what is going on and tell him you are on your way in. He said, I can at least do that and save you some time. I thanked him and told him my Mom doesn’t work far from where I was living at the time, I’ll call her and have her take me to the Doctor.
We did that and about 35 minutes later, Mom was helping me into the Doctor’s office. I was 21 at this point and had been seeing the same primary doctor since I was about 15. I could tell that my Doctor was concerned as he was waiting for me with a wheelchair. He said we are going to go across the hall and see an eye Doctor.
He wheeled me across the hall and straight into the eye Doctor’s exam room. They both looked in my eyes and saw swelling. At that time we were only a few miles from a hospital. My Doctor said we can call an ambulance or you can have your Mom take you, it really didn’t make a difference since we were so close to the hospital.
So Mom took me, thankfully my Doctor called the hospital and told them to expect me.
For the rest of the afternoon and evening, I was a pin cushion. Every possible question was asked of me as to recent activity, lifestyle, etc.. Lots of personal questions but I didn’t care as they were trying to find out what is going on with me.
Thankfully they were able to stop the swelling that afternoon.
It took awhile to figure out what was going on with me. In the meantime we gave all of the info to the hospital for billing etc… I didn’t remember when my health insurance at work started. I gave them the info and was told they’d check on it.
I soon found out that I needed to work two more days for my health insurance at work to become active. It didn’t matter that at this point in my new job I had worked more than 40 hours in overtime, I learned it had to be two days of regularly scheduled shifts. They had even started taking the payments for insurance out of my paychecks at this point, I figured the insurance was active.
So we fought with the insurance I didn’t seem to have at work, they wouldn’t make any changes. We had to fight with them for about a month to refund the insurance payments they had already been taking out of my paycheck.
During this time I was now totally blind, that happened overnight during that first night in the hospital. They finally figured out what was going on. I had two very rare forms of cancer and had a 1 in 10 chance of living six months.
After hearing what I went through with the insurance at work, one of my Doctors in the hospital, I had about 7, told me he talked with the other Doctors on my team and they’ve agreed to not charge me. He also said, the group of them was going to petition the hospital to use their charity fund to write off any expenses I’d have from the hospital part of the charges. The Doctor said I shouldn’t have to pay in a situation like that.
Time went by and I never saw a bill from the hospital or Doctors. I was home after a total of two and a half months in the hospital and living with my Mom and her boyfriend. They soon got married, which was a very good thing for me. My new step Dad worked for a large company that provided their own insurance, they just paid an insurance company to do the paperwork. Due to my age and that I was living with my Mom and step Dad, he could add me on to his insurance at work, they had no pre-existing conditions.
I’m very thankful for that. I was still going back and forth to the hospital for outpatient radiation treatments. Sometimes some of my I think white blood cell counts were so low, I’d have to get a series of shots to help boost them.
I had a home health nurse at this point who came by at least once a week, I think sometimes a bit more often, as needed.
She told me the series of two shots she was giving me cost around $200. Without health insurance there was no way I could have been able to pay for that.
I was very lucky to be on my step-Dad’s insurance and he and my Mom had the funds to pay for prescriptions and stuff until he could get the money paid back to him from work.
So a situation where a young guy, out on his own for the first time. I had a job, living on my own and after becoming blind pretty much overnight, learned that I only had to work two more days to have health insurance. As I said, they had already started taking insurance payments out of my paycheck.
Its more than 23 years later now and I’m fine, no cancer and if becoming blind is the only big effect of what the cancer did to my body, I’m very lucky. Sure there are some minor problems from time to time and I get yearly skin checks because of all the radiation I had in 1994, but I’m alive and well.
I now have Medicare and Meddicaid as my health insurance. While I don’t get sick very often anymore, I fear what options I’ll have if there are major cutbacks to my insurance the next time a problem with my health comes up and I need to go to the Doctor or Hospital.
I’ve already lost access to my Dentist due to cutbacks to Medicaid from the Governor of Missouri. I cannot afford to pay out of my pocket for regular cleanings and any procedures that need to be done.
One thing that needs to change in this country is our elected Senators & Representatives shouldn’t be able to have a better level of health care than the people who elected them.
Let the people we’ve sent to Washington DC worry about if they can afford to go to the Doctor.