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When Health Care Is a Luxury You Can't Afford

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Many people would deny this, but health care is a luxury.

Ask the legions of chronically ill and disabled, who fall in between being unable to work but not considered disabled “enough” to qualify for disability.

Ask the ones who have to depend on someone to support them and for whom that single income isn’t enough to cover doctor visits, much less treatment and meditation to manage their disease/disorder.

Ask those with a life-threatening illness who can’t afford care… even with insurance.

Ask the single parents who provide for their kids but don’t have enough to provide for themselves.

Many people would say health care is a necessity. Obviously, many people don’t consider it one, though. People like me are supposed to suffer in silence or have the decency to die quietly so they aren’t a drain on the system.

Health care is a luxury. Pain relief is too dangerous to trust us with. Consistent treatment is non-existent to many of us.

I’m tired of suffering in silence and I’m not going to die quietly. I’m going to point out the uncomfortable truths about life with chronic illness until I’m six feet under.

For two years, I was on state medical assistance. In October of this year, I was informed during a renewal interview that I didn’t qualify. Even better — the fact that I’d been receiving assistance at all was due to an agency error.

A two-year agency error. Thousands of dollars in treatment and medication I’d never been entitled to. The supervisor I spoke to was quick to reassure me that because I wasn’t at fault, “at least you won’t have to pay it back and you didn’t defraud the government.”

Honestly, those were pluses, but also were and are the least of my concerns. High on my list of concerns was the fact that “the treatment that has been giving me marginal improvement is no longer an option for me.”

Because even marginal improvement is a big deal when you live with chronic illness. Marginal improvement meant a few days a month that I could play with grandspawn, visit family, cook dinner for my family… those few days were days I hadn’t had in over a year.

I am still receiving mental health care through a different government program (MHMR), thankfully. Antidepressants are not something it is safe to stop suddenly, but more than that, they literally keep me alive. My antidepressant is currently the only medication I’m on.

I’ve applied for disability and SSI (I did so the day after my devastating news that my Medicaid coverage was a two-year error), but waiting to hear a verdict can be a long process — as long as five months, occasionally as short as three. That isn’t counting the appeal process if I’m denied disability, and chronic migraine is often very hard to qualify for. In Texas, only about 33 percent of applications for disability are approved. The number of disability applications approved for chronic migraine is much lower.

So I wait. And while I wait… I suffer.

But not in silence. Not any more, not ever. Both for myself and the others who are weathering the same storm, I raise my voice.

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Originally published: November 22, 2016
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