Thursday, July 23, 2009

Christa: Health Care on Under $20k/Year

Hi all,

Ordinarily I'd stay out of this conversation, but as one of the younger generation some of you seem to be so worried about, I thought I should say something.

In the 10 years since I graduated from college I’ve worked really hard. I've worked as a Sales Associate, as an Exhibition and PR Coordinator for a nonprofit organization, and now as an Adjunct Assistant Professor at two colleges, all in addition to my fairly busy career as an artist. Never once has health insurance been offered or discounted through any of these jobs. I pay for those skyrocketing premiums myself, though I still make less than $20k a year. I'm extremely grateful to have amazing parents (ahem) who've helped me when I was really struggling to cover some of those bills.

I am an anomaly among my peers, who also work hard as part time professors, arts administrators, child care workers, and sales people. The vast majority of them don't have health insurance of any kind, and live in fear of getting sick or getting in an accident. I get to go to the doctor whenever something's wrong, though since my plan with Blue Cross Blue Shield doesn't cover medications, I don't always have the luxury of filling the prescription ($200 for six pills of migraine medication? That's almost a week's pay for me!)

I have no doubt that it's frightening for many people to see the health care system on the verge of such a big change when things seem have worked just fine for such a long time. But when things are running smoothly in your own community it's easy to take for granted that it's actually been really awful for 46 million or so Americans who haven't had the same privileges.

The fact is, health insurance in this country is a mess. Even for those of us who DO have it, it's often:

A. impossible to get an appointment with the doctor you want less than three months in advance (isn't that what everyone fears about socialized medicine? 'cause it happens to me here all the dang time).

B. a huge stressful tangle of calling and waiting and worrying when the bill comes and says that for some reason the $1,000 test you had to have will not be covered by your insurance after all.

C. only really helpful once you've already paid the $2,000 deductible per year, depending on your plan, which for some of us is 10% of our annual income.

Whether the government is involved or not -- as a person in the world, in fact I do think that your health care is my responsibility, and the responsibility of your community... and vice versa. It already is whether you like it or not. Dad, you've seen the impact that not having insurance had on the man who helped renovate your house, and you guys helped him out in any small way you could. I hope he'd do the same for you if you were the one who needed support instead.

In a country that happens to have such an incredible imbalance of wealth and power, it seems ridiculous to also have a system where one person can get the best health care there is to offer but in exchange 10 others have to suffer from infections and perhaps die because they make less money and can't afford the treatment. Why is that a good idea? I'm sure some of you will have answers to this.

Look. We're all at different stages in our lives, and I can see that some of you don't trust the younger generation to do right by you. But the fact is that most people do care about older generations a lot. We want our parents and grandparents to have good care, whether they've been able to save up lots of money or not. Some of us want for other Americans to have decent health care too, that's all.


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