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When You're Middle Class America Drowning in Healthcare Costs

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I am one of of the many people in America who is struggling with the broken healthcare system we have in our country right now. Every single day of my life I have to fight against my multiple chronic illnesses. It is a daily struggle that sometimes I win, and many times I lose.

In January of 2014, I went to my family doctor after having been sick for days. I wasn’t able to breathe, my chest ached and I felt so sick – I thought I had the flu. I was given different medicines and told to rest. A week later I was back in my doctor’s office, having gotten worse. Again, I was given more medicines and told to rest.

I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t get out of bed, I was so sick my husband wanted to take me to the hospital then and there. But, we didn’t go. It would cost too much money, and after all, it is just the flu being compounded by my asthma. So instead, I went back to my doctor’s office, from where I was told by the doctor that there was no other choice. I had to go to the hospital. My lungs weren’t working, I wasn’t getting enough oxygen.

I didn’t leave that hospital for weeks. I was put on a breathing machine while they ran test after test to find out why I wasn’t able to breathe, stand, or even sit up. It clearly wasn’t just my asthma aggravated by a virus. My husband was at a loss, my young daughter (only 6) was so confused as to where mommy had gone and why she couldn’t see me.

Eventually I was well enough to leave and go home – still not knowing what had caused this. I was able to be back with my husband and my daughter. It took me months before I was well enough to leave my house and go back to work. Ever since then, I have been sick – I have never fully recovered.

I saw doctor after doctor, trying to determine what was wrong with me – why am I ill? Asthma specialists, pulmonologists, orthopedists, rheumatologists, neurologists, a never ending parade of specialists. Eventually, over the last three years of waiting and searching and being ill, it was determined that I have a variety of chronic illnesses – all which stem from a damaged autoimmune system. I was finally diagnosed in May of 2017. I have psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and fibromyalgia – all of which require many medications to control. For everyone of the doctors, hospitals, and medications I need, there is a cost – a big fat bill – associated with them.

You see, I have health insurance. “Good” health insurance (if any of the health insurance companies we have can be called that) – United Healthcare Oxford. My daughter and I have this health insurance through my husband’s job. Our insurance has a $2,500 deductible – per person. Our insurance costs $2,215 per month. In addition, I have to pay over $200 per month in copays to see my doctors. I take 16 different medications. Sixteen. Each one has a prescription copay, and in all, it costs more than $500 per month just to pay for these medications. This means $3,000 per month immediately goes to life-saving healthcare costs, assuming I don’t need any special treatments that month (which I often do), and excluding the $2,500 deductible.

Obviously, the crushing costs of all of this is not something we have been able to maintain. We are drowning from these costs. I have thousands of dollars in debt from medical bills. They go all the way back to the hospital bills from 2014. But this debt isn’t just mine – it hangs over my entire family’s heads. There are times I have to go without the medical treatment I need, just so we can pay the bills – just to keep the lights and heat on. There are times I have to choose between getting my daughter the basic things she needs, or paying the rent, over the medical care that I need.

My family lives in an apartment, above a store, in a nice downtown area of my town. My husband has a good job. I used to work too, and the one and only reason I was been able to keep my job for as long as I did was the Family and Medical Leave Act. Eventually it became too hard to work. I was physically and mentally unable to – my health was deteriorating even further due to my high responsibility and high stress job. Now, I have applied for disability. Of course, it was denied at first and now I am in the appeals process, with no income while I fight for money to live. But, even if I eventually get approved, the payment would cover less than one of my old paychecks per month. That is not enough to cover even the medical costs we have every month. Every minute that I am conscious I am lying in my bed, sleeping, or resting. I am not able to cook, clean, take care of my family, or able to play with my child.

All of this because I am unlucky enough to become a sick person in the middle class in America. People like me are stuck. We make too much money to qualify for Medicare or financial assistance, and yet not enough to be able to pay the medical bills and all our other bills without going bankrupt. Sometimes we even go without medical treatments and care we need, just to be able to provide for our family. I am 33 years old, with no savings. We own nothing and have nothing to show for all the hard work my 37 year old husband and I have put in over the years. Both of us have worked since we were teenagers – and we have nothing to show for it. With the way things are now in our state and country – I don’t see how we ever will.

I wish our elected officials, in this great nation could answer the many questions I have. Such as, why is this a reality for my family, and so many others? How is this allowed to be ignored by so many? How is this the America that we have, when we know that this is not the America we want and have believed in? My family, and so many others, need government help – right now.

The answer to me is supporting a national single-payer, universal health bill federally. I believe this system would save people’s lives and alleviate the pain and shame associated with being chronically ill, by stopping the accumulation of crushing debt that comes will being sick. Universal healthcare can help people get the medical care they need, without having to choose between providing for their family or going to the doctor. This would help people who are afraid to go to the hospital when they are ill, because the cost is just too high – and that is when terrible things happen, as I know all too well.

I wish our elected officials could hear my plea. I wish they could know our pain. I am on the verge of homelessness and bankruptcy due to being ill and having to fight and wait for disability, which I am entitled to, just to survive. Plus, I don’t want to just survive, I want to live. To do more than lie in my bed terrified of becoming homeless and penniless because I cannot afford to be sick. Maybe they will hear me now that I have written this.

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Gettyimage by: turk_stock_photographer

Originally published: January 6, 2018
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