Two years ago I wrote about a few uninsured folks for Creative Loafing. The story included my own: when I was 19 and out of college for a semester (unable to pay tuition), I was dropped from my dad's health insurance policy. Then tore my achilles tendon. Less than a year later I was back in school and insured again, but because of the pre-existing condition, I was allotted only one month of physical therapy to "fix" the scarred-over injury.
After college, instead of pursuing my drive to create media full-time in Seattle (notoriously low paying entry level work, even then), I got a job with a corporate bank processing loans. I cried everyday, trapped in that office for a year and a half. It was the excellent health insurance that kept me there - they paid for eight months of physical therapy despite the pre-existing status. (They also paid for the mental health counseling it took for me to face that office for so long).
I'm not complaining about hard work. I can and have always worked hard. I am creative, intelligent and good at so many things, although processing loans sure wasn't one of them. (The worst part of the job for me was not understanding why the management allowed loans to go to people who barely made more than their mortgage payment...we all see where that got us.)
At 25, I declared bankruptcy to free myself from the debt I acquired from being young, reckless and injured (those co-pays added up). This allowed me to finally quit the job, move to Tampa in with mom, and find work I loved. That first year I was an AmeriCorps volunteer, and a couple years later I found my way into the editorial assistant seat at CL. Life was good at last!
Sadly though, it didn't last long. As a part time employee at the paper, I made around $1000 a month, several hundred more depending on the number of stories I had published. I had been uninsured for a year, and when I started having stomach probs, I bought my own health insurance through United. $140 a month, with a $2500 deductible. The week after my Sicko story came out, I sprained my the ankle of my "good" leg and was on crutches for a couple of months. Naturally I spent almost all of the $2500 that year, on top of the monthly premium. I picked up other p/t work wherever I could, working as a teacher in a special needs public school and then as an on-air instructor at HCC's student radio station. Working over 60 hours a week to pay my medical bills burnt out that energetic 29-year-old. I fled to a friend's in DE, found a great paying corporate job in D.C. - that I left after six weeks because I couldn't let myself get stuck in that corporate rut again. (The job was as soul-less for a journalist as my former bank job: building a database of journalists as the country's newspapers consolidated/died. Aye yi yi.)
My choices weren't always the best ones, but the system is set up to encourage failure. No one in American should have to endure pain every day. I personally have spent too much yet received so little. I still carry the pain of that first injury 10 years ago. We shouldn't have to cling to corporations for our well being, because they will never care about us. As office cynical workers everywhere are fond of saying, "It's not my job."
Rep. Kathy Castor is holding a town hall meeting to hear your health care story.
Where: Children’s Board in Tampa
1002 East Palm Avenue (near Nebraska and 7th Ave)
When: Thursday, August 6th from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Folks are encouraged to get there early and be prepared to learn more about the proposed healthcare plan and to speak up for their rights.