I don’t want to talk about politics because this issue isn’t political to me. It doesn’t have anything to do with Democrats, Republicans or Independents. It doesn’t have anything to do with left or right sides. It has to do with my life.
I was an extremely healthy kid. I had normal kid ailments, a few broken bones, ear infections and allergies, but nothing that wasn’t easily fixable with antibiotics. In fact, my health was entirely unremarkable until I was around 22.
The fall of 2005, I began having oppressive headaches. They were always in the back of my head, always made worse by coughing, laughing or sneezing. They didn’t respond to any of the migraine medications I was prescribed and so I struggled through them, largely unmedicated. Then I began to have vision issues. My eyes would dart from side to side for long periods of time. I couldn’t read or write when they did their little jumping dance and the longer I waited to see a doctor, the more often it happened.
In early 2006, I went to see an ophthalmologist in hopes of getting some answers. He was extremely troubled by what he saw and ordered an MRI. An MRI that changed my life. On Valentines Day, 2006, I was diagnosed with a condition known as Chiari Malformation. We don’t know when or how, possibly even as early as birth, a part of my brain herniated into my spinal cord. The result of which was a back up of fluid as well as compression of my cerebellum.
I was sent to a neurologist and then a neurosurgeon and though I could’ve opted for surgery on the spot, we decided to watch and wait. Every 6 months we did MRIs and assessed my symptoms. As time passed, things gradually got worse. The headaches were endless, I struggled with dizziness, clumsiness and by the fall of 2007, my left hand had almost stopped working altogether. A new MRI showed a spongy mass in my spinal cord caused by the back up of fluid.
In other words, it was surgery time.
I was fortunate in that I was employed at the time. I was working as a private school teacher and our school allowed us to buy into their insurance plan. The insurance cost me several hundred dollars a month in premiums and had $45 copays and a $5,000+ deductible. The total cost to me of the brain and spinal surgery I had in November 2007 was well over $10,000 and I am still paying it off today.
And this is why health care reform is so important to me.
I am 29 years old and I am uninsurable.
I have a stable pre-existing condition that disqualifies me from purchasing health insurance. The only way I can acquire insurance right now is if I am employed somewhere that provides it, or my husband’s work offers it. Trust me, I’ve tried. And even worse, because the condition can be genetic, there’s a possibility that my son will have it as well and that he too may be denied insurance.
And so you can see why the Affordable Health Care Act was such a beacon of hope for me. This bill meant that I could get the same insurance that everyone else had access to. It meant that people like me, people who need insurance, could actually acquire it. It meant that we didn’t have to worry about whether we would be taken care of, whether we would be bankrupted by our health.
As the Supreme Court considers whether the act is constitutional, I see Facebook posts and hear people talking about how evil this bill is. How terrible it was and how it never should’ve been passed. I hear them say that it should be thrown out and I want to scream and shout because if that law is tossed, my health and the health of millions of other Americans could be jeopardized.
I understand that a great number of people dislike our president. I understand that a great number of people hate that this bill was passed along party lines. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad bill. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t help a huge volume of people. People like me. People who need access to medical care. People who need insurance to keep them from going bankrupt for trying to live the same life that all of you have.
Next time you get ready to bad mouth this bill or say it should be repealed, please consider the lives that are at stake. Please consider people like me, who desperately need this bill, whose futures could literally depend upon it. This bill isn’t political. It’s personal.
It’s life or death.
Katie is a 28 year old Southern Californian, married to a doctor, racking up as much student debt as possible as a full-time graduate student in a health science. Her hobbies include abusing parentheses, baking complicated desserts that almost universally involve frosting and loving her two cats more than is socially acceptable. She’s currently balancing her first child and graduating from graduate school. So planning and timing are also things she excels at. You can read more from Katie on her blog, Overflowing Brain.
Image from MorgueFile