Thursday, August 27, 2009

Walk a mile: Part 1

"Walk a mile in my shoes" is often tossed out to warrant off quick blasts of judgment; "been there done that" has become the snide way to remind others of an experience.

Maybe the most effective way of causing anyone to stop a moment and consider something, is to tell of a personal experience. Don't we all use these examples in daily life? We tell of the friend, the neighbor, the family member that has experienced Topic A, thereby validating our knowledge on Topic A. Personal experience speaks volumes.

Today I have a personal experience to share. For lack of a local Town Hall Meeting, it's blog fodder.

For 21 of my 33 years, I did not have health insurance. I grew up in a rural eastern NC county, for which the statistics of poverty are out-ranked only by the Mississippi Delta region and Appalachia. I would venture to guess that most of the people I grew up with and around did not get regular medical treatment unless they were a.) teachers with state coverage, b.) old enough to qualify for Medicare. This is not a referendum on parenting provision (love you Mom!), only a tale of life and some faces behind the statistics of the uninsured.

There were no well-child visits in my youth and no yearly physicals, no preventive care or screenings. I remember only one trip to the doctor, when I was 8 years old. I had a high fever for long enough, my mom finally took me in for a check-up. I remember my older brother suddenly began wearing glasses as a teenager. I recently wondered if his "vision screening" occurred at the DMV when he went to get his license. Either way, unlike today, there were no regular vision, hearing, or autism screenings in infancy or toddlerhood. We received tetanus shots and other major vaccines at the county health department, and that was our childhood medical care.

Fortunately, we were mostly healthy. We certainly got medical care when it was necessary, but the sliding line of necessity was significantly higher than today. Let's just say there were no "frivolous" visits for allergy shots, weird fevers, strange rashes or falls lower than 5 feet. A far cry from my own children's experience, and the comfort of the monthly or yearly visits, with the screenings to assure us that there are no significant underlying conditions.

When Rick and I married, and I started my first job, I finally became one of the proud insured. I got all my check-ups and marveled at the accessibility of medical care. A few years later, when Rick lost his job, we both had to choose the risk of being uninsured, due to the unaffordable cost of COBRA, and the uncertainty of how long we would need it. There was children's care available for Cole at the time, through the state of Georgia, and we could countenance our own risk but not his. When we moved back to NC briefly, the only state plan available for children was Medicaid. I promptly enrolled him. This foray into the world of the uninsured caused changes in the direction of our life, stress, and changes in the course of our family.

The biggest consideration at the time was the lack of maternity coverage. Yes, today our spacing of almost 4 years between children seems planned and perfect. At the time, we had no choice but to wait. For me, it was a life on hold. Everything I wanted, as far as growing our family, had to wait because we couldn't afford to buy coverage, and we couldn't get coverage until a job became available. We moved forward and eventually back into the world of insurance coverage, thankfully free of pre-existing conditions.

I am telling you this for a few different reasons. The first is to say that if you know me, you have indeed seen firsthand one of those "millions uninsured" that the media tells us are out there. The second reason is a cry from my heart. If you are currently insured and pleased with your coverage, this is not for you. This fight is not yours. This cause is for those people who don't necessarily have a national voice, the many that are uninsured, underinsured or uninsurable. You see, I've seen a lot of angry people, thanks to the media coverage. And I wonder, can they not try on another's shoes for a moment, and consider a life without healthcare options? We are the wealthiest nation in the world, and yet members of my immediate family still go without insurance coverage. It is not out of choice, it is out of necessity. The immediate needs of food and lodging will always outweigh the somewhat "ethereal" idea of future medical care.

You may not support a government option, but the necessity of healthcare reform is one that is blinding us. The reform will be for the faceless, nameless millions who have less care and deserve more. I sat on that side of the fence, and I can tell you, it is scary and it is restrictive and my heart goes out to individuals and families who have no option but to wait and hope another shoe doesn't drop.


  1. Love it Bethany!
    Andy and I were just saying this very thing this morning!
    Exactly this--but not as eloquently. ;).

  2. Well said! Things are SO different here. I pay $20 for an expensive private Dr's visit and that it the total cost. Our insurance covers 100% of our medical costs overseas because it is SO much cheaper to get private medical care here. Even going to Spain to have Landon and insurance covering our stay and the birth costs... it was STILL cheaper. Can you imagine?

  3. Well said, Bethany! Thanks for sharing your experience and putting a face on such a serious topic.


Put it right here, babe!