Thursday, March 18, 2010

Our Real Cost of Health Care

Like most Americans, and all parents, I've been keeping close tabs on the fight for health care reform. Every night, I tune into my MSNBC trio: KeithRachel and Chris. I rely on them to distill and disdain and listen with care as they navigate these murky waters. With a vote on health care reform looking like it just might happen on Sunday, and just might pass, I had my own personal experience this week that drove the basic issue, accessible and affordable health care for as many people as possible, very close to home. 

Monday night our oldest began to complain about her ear hurting. She'd just come off a bug the week before, so I took a look at it and it looked red. I gave her a mild pain reliever, but it didn't work. An hour later, she was seriously uncomfortable. I called the after hours number for our insurance carrier, who took my number and had a night nurse call me. She suggested a different pain reliever, which I gave her and which worked. Our daughter fell asleep and I thought we were all right. 

At 12:30, she woke up in severe pain. It was too early to give her more pain relievers, so I called the after hours number back. This time the person on the other line advised us to head to the local ER. I gulped and thought about the hard to pay bills other trips to the ER had cost us. I asked the person the uncomfortable question about whether we were covered for this. She said yes, we were covered. My whole body relaxed. I called to my husband and asked him to warm up the car, bundled up our daughter and headed out into the early morning. 

We were treated quickly and very well by a caring ER staff, given some numbing ear drops and an antibiotic and we were back in bed by three in the morning. 

This could have been a very different picture. Our kids are covered on a plan through the state of Colorado for middle and lower income families called CHP+ which provides quality health insurance for uninsured children and pregnant women. The reality is that without this program we could not afford health insurance. My part-time job offers no benefits, nor does my husband's adjunct faculty position and with the ups and downs of our employment and financial status this past year, as well as working more than full time when you add up all the freelance work we do, making a monthly premium that would be over $1000, and that's with a high deductible, is just out of reach. 

A number of years ago when we were covered by a more traditional employee-based plan, I made a similar trip to the ER after one of the twins tripped and knocked her forehead on the stone fireplace mantel. Despite a good chunk of my paycheck getting taken out each twice a month, the cut in her forehead which didn't need stitches, but a $500 purple liquid bandaid. I let her keep it on an extra week just to get our money's worth. 

I'm extremely grateful for this program which allows accessible, respectful and affordable health care for our children. I'm also extremely aware of how different the other night could have gone, from the decision to not seek appropriate care because we're terrified of walking out with an outrageous bill, or dealing with the stress of the debt that would come from not having any other choice at 1:30 in the morning when your child is sick and needing medical attention.

The medicine has worked and our daughter's ear is feeling better. 

I don't want to imagine the alternative. Nor should anyone. 

Pass this damn bill and let's make this country a place where caring for one another is just what we do. Because we can. Because we must. 


Liquide said...

"Pass this damn bill" - my thoughts exactly.

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