I went to the doctor for the first time in five years today. Although I'm young, I had neglected a couple of health issues for at least a year. I couldn't afford care and was left hoping none of them developed into anything more serious. As a small business owner who narrowly missed the threshold for buying on the exchanges, I'm enrolled in Medicaid for this year until I can bump my income up a bit. The day my confirmation of benefits and card came was among the best of my life. I nearly broke down in tears.
But that isn't what this diary is about. Today, I went to the doctor for the first time in five years and saw first hand why Republicans have fought tooth and nail for a system that was so broken for every single stakeholder - except the insurers and the politicians who enable them.
What I found made my blood boil. Follow below the fold for a living example of what our "health care system" could have done to me and millions of others before the ACA. Let's just say the cheesy poof holding the fold would have been more than the food in my pantry.
My state has done fairly well with the Medicaid expansion, minus some delays in processing paperwork that might be expected in such a situation. Accordingly, last week I received my confirmation- albeit more than two weeks after I supposedly had coverage. When the doctor called this morning to say they couldn't find me in the Medicaid system, I spent an hour or so on the phone straightening things out. The folks from the local social services office were pleasant, helpful, and identified the problem quickly: a glitch on their end they promised would be fixed overnight. I couldn't complain. I know these caseworkers must be under an immense load and mistakes happen. Besides, I was just happy to have coverage.
The catch was that I'd have to be reimbursed for today's visit because I wouldn't show in the system until tomorrow. No big deal. But it was this that gave me a peak inside the profits Republicans are paid so well to protect.
With my doctor aware of the problem and its pending solution, my paperwork and appointment went smoothly. However, I spent nearly the entire ordeal wondering how this would have ended for someone less fortunate than myself. And how different it might have been for me and so many others a matter or months ago.
You see, I'm not in great shape financially but I make 10-15 bucks an hour catering for my company and working at a local gym (free membership!). Even with income equal to or greater than mine, what I found would be and undoubtedly has been horrifying for a great number of Americans.
Of course, payments these days must be made prior to service. The visibly concerned receptionist informed me my visit was $135. If we assume a $10 wage, what I make at the gym and the minimum wage proposal conservatives are throwing hissy fits over, that's 13.5 hours of work. I only spent about 20 minutes in the office but fair enough- doctors work hard and people's lives depend on them.
But, my doc also wanted me to get routine blood work done, something he said should be standard for everyone at some point before they turn 30. As he handed me the sheet to give to the lab, he raised his eyebrows and said: "Make 100% sure your Medicaid is worked out before going for this". Why? "Because", he then said, "It'd cost over $1000 out of pocket". So, had I gone anytime during the last 5 years, how many hours of work would that be at my wage? We'll take that nice round number and forget the "over" part. Easy math: $1000/$10 an hour = 100 hours.
But that wasn't it. It turned out I needed a script for one of the recurring issues I'd been forced to ignore. He handed me that after the lab paperwork and said "Same with this- You'd be looking at about $300 a month". I thanked him for the prescription and advice, as the wheels in my mind spun to do the math. $300 × 12 is $3600 a year. Or 360 hours of work at my wage.
Hang with me as I do the math here on paper. It isn't a small number.
13.5 hours of work for the visit + 100 hours for standard preventative lab work + 360 hours for one year of a generic medication = 473.5 hours of work.
At 40 hours a week, that's nearly 12 weeks of work. Or 3 full months. IF you can find full-time work. For one visit, normal lab work, and a necessary medication.
Let that sink in.
That doesn't include food, housing, transportation, or any other necessity. It doesn't include follow up appointments or the physical they insist on. It certainly doesn't include the financial flexibility to stimulate the economy through purchasing a home, shopping for retail goods, or starting a family.
But, it makes the insurers incredibly rich while any serious illness the last five years would have killed me financially, physically, or both. This is what they're fighting to protect. Republicans want to go back to a system where people like you, me and millions of others either die quickly or mortgage our financial futures for basic medical care.
They'd love to make us work 473 hours for a visit, some blood work, and a single medication. How many House ACA repeal votes now? And how many "replacement plans"? They'll fight with fervor to return us all to that standard, to enrich their owners and themselves while we die, until we fight back. Until we win.
That means fighting to protect and strengthen the law that allowed me to get there today. It may not be perfect but its a hell of a lot better than allowing a group of immoral insurers and politicians to kill us, at the bank and in our bodies, so they can live the high life.
And if those snakes running the insurance company cartels think the ACA was rough for them, they'd better wait to see what we do when we run the scum that work for them out of office. I'll be happy to show them catastrophic. I'll be happier to grin and pull the plug on an ugly industry when we finally achieve single payer. But for now, I'm happy to have coverage and relieved so many no longer have to work hundreds of hours to secure what should be a fundamental human right.
Let's get to work.