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Why It Feels Like (For Now) the Health Insurance System Has Failed Me

When I quit my job a few months back I lost my health insurance. Even though I qualified for a subsidized insurance, I opted to pay for my own since I felt I needed “good” insurance. It is $300 a month. So far I’ve paid $1200 of my small savings towards my health insurance. It is money well paid not to feel alone.

Last month I was feeling physically terrible. Several days of nausea, fatigue, odd heart palpitations and pressure in my chest. When I called my general physician asking to schedule a checkup, I was told I needed to go to an ER. I repeated that I have a history of anxiety and all my symptoms reflected this — I just wanted to get checked out. They said if I was having chest pain I needed tests done that could only be done at an ER. They mentioned blood clots. I got scared. I went to the ER. There I talked about writing, Andre Dubus, and poetry with the medical assistant and I told him I had anxiety. I told him the tests felt excessive.

Three years ago I was planning to move back to California. My father requested I get approved for California health insurance before moving back down. I applied. I was denied. They cited my BMI, which was a fraction of a percentage underweight. They cited my pre-existing condition(s). I’d listed anxiety. In turn, I stuck around in Washington. Sometimes at night, the wind nudging the large tree outside my Seattle window and my partner quietly breathing beside me, I wonder what my life would now look like if they hadn’t denied me for coverage. How would my heart feel.

When I left my job, lost my insurance, and switched to my own new coverage, my therapist told me she accepted the new insurance company. I’d started seeing her earlier in the year and she’d walked with me through my career highs and lows. She’d helped me with my relationship and had been the only therapist I felt safe around. Now, come to find out, she only accepts one kind of plan from my insurance. I have the other. A bill for $360 is waiting for me. It’s for three sessions. Three hours where I probably discussed my financial stress.

After my visit to the ER I waited. I waited for the bill. The doctor had come at the end, read off his paperwork, and told me they’d ruled out their concerns. My symptoms were probably anxiety related. I should call my general physician. I could take anti-anxiety medication if I had it. I drove myself home and waited, the clock on the wall syncing with my heart rate.

In the end, once the bills came, I owe approximately $1200 for my one ER visit. Almost exactly what I’ve already paid simply for my health insurance. I am lucky I have health insurance, otherwise it would have been over twice that much. I am lucky.

I sit here on my blog and tell people to not be afraid to ask for help. I believe (and know) there are good people out there who want to help. There are people who go into health care because their heart beats to a rhythm of serving, of aiding, of understanding. There is so much compassion wanting to reach out and take your hand. I believe this.

This isn’t a rant about “the system” or “the man.” The dialogue about our country’s healthcare system is a well-walked path. It makes me tired. This is just one girl trying to wrap her head around what’s going on with her own experience. And it’s so overwhelming to think about the experiences of people struggling with more challenging mental health issues than myself. How are you? Are you okay?

When I quit my job a few months back I lost my health insurance. I quit my job to dedicate myself to my writing. I wanted to try and shape my life to look more familiar to my soul, the small ball of clay pulsing in my palm. I’ve seen people blink, thirty years into a career, wondering how they got there. I know what I want to do. I want to try and do that. When I can feel my heart rate increase, my anxiety talking loudly in a dark room, I sometimes try not to listen. I imagine I’m in a desert, alone, writing in the sand and watching my words slowly form. I remind myself that I paid to be in this place.

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