As a senior in college, there are a few things that have the ability to instantly put me on edge:
The first is when anyone asks me that burning question, “What do you plan on doing after you graduate?” This one typically earns the inquisitor a blank stare and some made-up, adult-friendly response so that I won’t have to justify my actual plan to take a year off to enjoy my youth, and enroll in Law School in the fall of 2015.
The second is when I’m faced with anything that has to do with health and related health care costs.
For the sake of current event relevancy, and the close of enrollment for Obamacare, this blog post is going to focus on the latter of the two. So here’s my story:
I come from a midwest, middle-class, single-mother household and I’ve been working since I could legally hold a job– but it wasn’t until my sophomore year in college when my mother retired and I started working more that things became difficult with my health care coverage. Long story short, I got the boot.
According to my mother’s health care representative, when I became eligible for part-time benefits at my then employer, I became ineligible for coverage under my mother’s plan– the care that I’d depended on my entire life! But what my mother’s health care provider did not understand was that I had NO intention of enrolling in coverage under my current employer for the following reasons:
I worked at a grocery store and it was just a college job. My focus was on school and I knew that if the two ever came into conflict, work would have to take the back burner.
I wasn’t planning on staying there long term.
My grocery store job didn’t allow me to be fully self sufficient.
Coverage under my current employer was on the pricey side
My mom’s coverage was much better and cheaper. Switching providers would have been…impractical to say the least.
For a student who was only making $11.40 an hour as a cashier, I soon found myself at a crossroads between personal expenses and health care. Ultimately and ironically, I took the road most traveled by; that of personal expenses which included important everyday things like food, books, incidentals, toiletries, transportation, etc…
I didn’t have health care but I figured: “I’m young, I’m healthy, I heal fast and I’ll just avoid getting hurt.” And while I was privileged enough to have minimal coverage under my University’s student health service, every “doctor” visit required me to wait for hours upon hours in the unorganized, overcrowded student health center only for me to be prescribed a $10 round of antibiotics or return a few weeks later with another health problem. I did not have a primary care physician, I couldn’t get my teeth professionally cleaned, I couldn’t get vision check-ups, I couldn’t visit my University’s actual hospital, and most of all, I wasn’t receiving quality medical attention.
Luckily me and my mother discovered a flaw in the system. My mother’s health care provider had no hesitation removing me from her coverage, but they had not made her aware that despite her retirement and my increased work hours, my full-time student status maintained my eligibility to remain under her coverage. After a long year, my health care was reinstated, and while I to this day lack vision and dental insurance, I am grateful to have at least some of my bearings back.
People like my father, haven’t been so fortunate. He has been uninsured for the past 15 years and admits to not being seen by a doctor in 5 or 6 years. As a freelance carpenter needless to say, he is at constant risk. I remember growing up and quizzing him on why he would never go to the hospital for his work related injuries (once he drilled a hole through his thumb) only to hear him quickly change the subject and tell me that he was “fine.” Another time, he passed out at work due to high blood pressure but became infuriated with his colleague for calling an ambulance because my dad had to foot an $800 bill. It took me some time to realize, he wasn’t pretending to be tough, he had to be. He wasn’t “fine,” he just didn’t have the means to seek medical attention.
While I only experienced the inconvenience of not having health-care for a year, I got a feel for what it was like to be uninsured. I compare it to walking on ice, while I’m wearing shoes that have no traction– I could make some strategic steps to avoid slipping but a certain degree of my environment was out of my control; similar to how someone can take precautionary measures to protect his/her/zes health, but some elements and risks will always remain out of grasp.
Yes, our universities and colleges typically cover some health expenses, but said coverage is limited and only lasts while we are enrolled in classes. Many students in college have parents who are retired or nearing retirement, and will be faced with the fear and challenge of losing support after graduation. Many young people are uninsured or have uninsured family members.
As a working college student, and daughter of an uninsured father, my experiences with the US health care system have been none other than interesting. While it is relatively simple, this is my family’s story. This is my perspective. I challenge you to tell your own. Make your voice heard. Inquire about what legislators are and are not doing when it comes to your health care. Try to become as well versed as possible on your medical coverage rights because honestly (to quote the academy award winning rap group Three 6 Mafia), “It’s hard out here for a pimp.”