‘What If’ Coverage: Because Your Health Matters

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Preventive vision and dental care will become available for the 15% of American who now live without insurance or access to preventive medical care. Photo by Amanda Mills/Center for Disease Control. Photo by Amanda Mills for the CDC, public domain.

Preventive vision and dental care will become available for the 15% of American who now live without insurance or access to preventive medical care. Photo by Amanda Mills/Center for Disease Control.

Molly Cox. File photo from TEDx San Antonio. In 2004, I got sick. Very sick. Thought-I-was-dying sick.

I won’t bore you with the medical details of the eight-week ordeal, but there were eternal stays in the hospital, nine (yes…nine!) spinal taps, ridiculous weight loss, unexplained and horrific headaches, and, ultimately, a surgery.

So, at 25 years old, I wrote letters to my loved ones and prepared myself for death.

Only I didn’t die. I lived to photobomb another day.

Molly Cox at a recent SA2020 event at Geekdom with Major Julian Castro in the foreground. Courtesy photo.

Molly Cox at a recent SA2020 event at Geekdom with Major Julian Castro in the foreground. Courtesy photo.

But that doesn’t change the fact that I thought I was gonna. For real. And there’s no real medical explanation for what happened.

And because there was no “real medical explanation” for what happened, somewhere, somehow I got labeled with a condition I don’t really have. Because there’s no medical diagnosis for what I have, I got Labeled.

You see, insurance providers need labels so that they can “approve” your treatment and, ultimately, pay for it. But what insurance providers do with that label can haunt you for the rest of your insured (and uninsured) life.

Fast forward to 2006. I was better. I had moved to San Antonio (“City On The Rise” to all you locals), and was pursuing a masters degree at UTSA. After a career in radio and television, which offered health insurance, I found myself waiting tables while I went to school. (Shoutout to my MoCaf friends!) Getting smarter, apparently, means a lack of health insurance.

When you have a history of long hospital stays and unexplained headaches, you tend to err on the side of needing health insurance. Insurance has always been explained to me as a good “What If” policy. It’s why my house is insured. It’s why my car is covered. What if something happens.

So, after a near death experience, “What If” it happened again?

I was still paying off hospital bills from 2004, which I had accrued WITH health insurance. I knew that if some unexplained ridiculousness happened again, I wouldn’t be able to afford NOT to have health insurance, so I started looking into individual medical plans.

I filled out all the appropriate, lengthy forms for individual health insurance. In 2006, post-surgery and multiple hospital stays, I was a non-smoking, non-drinking, for-all-intents-and-purposes-healthy 27-year-old, and yet, I couldn’t get approved for health insurance. Why? ‘Cause of that stupid label that followed me all the way to San Antonio. And I never had it to begin with.

I spent two and a half years without insurance. I spent two and a half years saving for needed prescriptions. I spent two and a half years discovering ways to get around headaches, faking my way through “not so great days.” I kept my fingers crossed on mornings when I woke up with headaches so bad my eyes crossed that I wouldn’t end up in a hospital room. Because I knew if I ended up in the hospital, I wouldn’t have been able to pay for it.

I was anxious. A lot.

Now, let me get something out of the way: I voted for Barack Obama. Twice.

Apparently, knowing one’s political affiliation is important when talking about healthcare these days. And so…I willingly announce my voting record because where I’m about to go, however political this issue has become, is not a political statement.

The Affordable Care Act would have saved me.

The Affordable Care Act – otherwise known as Obamacare because we’ve made this a matter of politics – is the most comprehensive health care program in the United States since 1965. It is designed to expand health insurance coverage, so that more people have access to health care. To read the full law, click here.

How giving more people access to health care became a political debate is beyond me, but it has.

Let me be clear: in 2006, when I was being denied health insurance because of a “pre-existing condition” that I didn’t actually ever have, I was not thinking about politics, I was thinking about my health.

With the Affordable Care Act (ACA), my pre-existing condition (however real or not) doesn’t matter. Seriously. An insurance company now can’t turn me (or you) down or charge me (or you) more because of a “condition.” And you know what else? Once you have insurance, the plan can’t refuse to cover treatment for your pre-existing condition.

EnrollSA_LOGOLook, I am not an expert on ACA, but I have done a lot of research recently as part of SA2020’s work on EnrollSA, Get Bexar Covered.

EnrollSA is a coalition of healthcare professionals – a collaborative effort that includes hospitals, Bexar County, the City of San Antonio, nonprofits, and grassroots organizations. The goal of this coalition is to empower individuals to take advantage of the Affordable Care Act in an effort to increase health care coverage in Bexar County.

So, why the heck is SA2020 involved in this? We’re certainly not “healthcare professionals.”

Here’s the deal: there are more than 212,000 uninsured persons in Bexar County, almost 12 percent of the population. Increasing access to health care is a goal set by the community as part of the SA2020 visioning process. In 2011, only 78.3 percent of individuals in Bexar County had health insurance. Our goal is to have 86 percent of the total population insured by 2020.

health insurance sa2020

Getting people enrolled in ACA directly links to increasing access to health care.

The elephant in the room (or donkey…see what I did there?) is the politics of it all.

So…let’s just talk health insurance.

There’s really nothing about any of those stats that screams politics. They all point to healthcare.

I am now insured – thanks, job – but feel the after-effects of not having preventive, regular check-ups for two years.

The weirdness that started in 2004 affects me in 2014.

I don’t know for fact that regular check-ups would have helped my brain, but I don’t know for a fact that they wouldn’t have helped, either.

But I couldn’t get check-ups because I didn’t have the option for health insurance, because I couldn’t afford it. And I couldn’t afford check-ups. I was a college student, waiting tables for crying out loud. I could very rarely afford gas for my car.

I understand that there are many issues surrounding the healthcare marketplace – additional expense, ill-managed technology, horrific public relations. But put aside the politics of it all and take a moment to really think about your health.

This is a complicated issue that has been made even more complex by talking heads, pundits, and bureaucrats who are spending more time arguing than helping explain it to the American people. I mean, seriously, have you looked at an insurance plan? It’s difficult.

That’s where EnrollSA can help. You have until March 31 to enroll for this year. After that, if you are not covered, you will pay a penalty. Attend a local enrollment event – they are happening all over the city – to get more information so you can be better informed. Just want to start enrollment? Do it.

Stop listening to the politics and start thinking about what it might feel like to know that if you’re not feeling well, you can simply make an appointment with your doctor.

“What if” you get sick? “What if” you end up in the hospital? “What if” you had health insurance? “What if” San Antonio met the community’s SA2020 goal of getting 86 percent of the population insured?

 

Molly grew up in Corpus Christi. Her focus in nonprofit capacity building grew to include her own consulting business, Nonprofit Fancy Pants. In March 2013, she joined SA2020 as the Chief of Engagement. Find her on Twitter @themollycox.

 

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San Antonio in Motion: A Tree Grows for SA2020

SA2020 One Year Later: Part Farmer’s Market, Part Big Tent Revival

Artists and Developers Eye Historic Buildings, Imagine Possibilities

 

3 thoughts on “‘What If’ Coverage: Because Your Health Matters

  1. Very interesting report! You’ve addressed the serious health care problem with good info and disturbing facts. This article needs to be published nationwide.
    ( I, too, had a mysterious illness with similar symptoms in 2006. Fortunately for permanent record reasons, I was labeled with shingles — which I doubt was my illness.) I hope you’ll experience good health from now on! Natural supplements are now important to me and my relatively good health. Natural supplements vs. pharmaceuticals and med costs would be another article!

  2. This isn’t an isolated event. There are stories like this one all across the country. People usually find a way – if they use widely available resources – to save themselves from certain death.

    For the rest of the population it’s get a job with health insurance or find a nice minimum wage job (or two) and take care of yourself, eat right and exercise. If you’re constantly on the lookout for bumps, lumps, wounds that don’t heal, sores, and you take other widely known steps you should be okay, right? That’s what I have done.

    I don’t have health insurance. I don’t want it and I don’t feel that I need it. I do however have a plan with my bank that covers the costs of a long hospital stay if it ever comes to that. I have several contingencies.

    A persons health does matter. It matters when the person has a medical condition. Some people are born with genes that will inevitably lead to diabetes, kidney failure, cancer, and other problems. Some people are born with genes that give them an intolerance and adverse reactions to certain foods and other substances.

    Then there are people that don’t care about themselves. The people who drink diet coke everyday or the people that gorge themselves. The kind of people who might even have some kind of psychological disorder be it depression or something else. Two classes of people – people that can help it and the people that can’t.

    The ACA is no panacea and it’s inefficient but without alternatives it’s our only option. A capitalist, consumerist society with no healthcare alternatives. It’s ACA or bust.

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