Today I became a little worried. The last couple of days, I’ve been having a little trouble filling my lungs as deeply as I normally do. And my heartbeat seemed a little more intense than usual. Before I go on, let me reassure you that I’m pretty sure now that this is actually just my election anxiety coming out physically. These are totally classic symptoms of an anxiety attack. I didn’t pick up on it earlier mainly because I don’t have physical anxiety attacks that often.
So: I’m reasonably sure that everything’s fine. But earlier today, I was worried that there might be something seriously wrong with me.
I don’t have health insurance, and I almost certainly won’t until either my husband gets a permanent job, or Obamacare goes into full effect.
So I sat in my living room today performing the calculus of the uninsured.
Every uninsured person knows what this is like. Every uninsured person has done these calculations for themselves, except for those who are too poor even for this, who are too poor for any healthcare besides “hope it goes away.”
But for those of you who are lucky enough that you don’t know, this is what the calculus looks like:
There’s a 24 hour urgent care center near me that only costs $75 to get an appointment. I can afford $75. It’s a possibility. But they’ll need to do some kind of tests, xrays or something, right? How much is that going to add? So round it up to $100 for now. With a question mark.
So then there are three possibilities for what happens if I choose to go.
1) The best case scenario: There’s something wrong, but it’s quite easy and cheap to fix.
2) The medium case scenario: They can’t find anything wrong me and I just wasted $100 or more. I don’t have a job currently, and my husband’s is not entirely stable at present, so I really don’t want to throw away $100 if I don’t have to.
3) The worst case scenario: There is something very badly wrong which will be extremely expensive to treat. Now I need to come up with thousands of dollars for surgeries and, if for some reason the Affordable Care Act is repealed, I may never be able to get insurance again. Now, not only is something seriously wrong with me, but I know all about it and can’t do anything to stop it. What am I going to do, beg my friends on facebook for money to pay for my surgery? Let my parents go bankrupt trying to pay for it? Play the lottery?
In the balancing act of the the uninsured, actually going to the doctor almost never wins. And here’s the really shocking part! I am in a much better position than a lot of other uninsured people.
Because: I CAN afford the $75 fee at the urgent care. On those occasions that I do decide that it’s worth it, I can do it.
Because: I only have to perform these calculations for myself. I’ve never had to play these odds on behalf of a child in my care.
Because: I’m still relatively young and relatively healthy (as far as I know).
So I’m actually quite lucky, for an uninsured person. But gods, is it ever exhausting to go on making these calculations and thinking in this way. And it is so disheartening to know how many of my fellow citizens don’t know and don’t care about this process, and how hard it is, and how scary, and want me to go on doing this forever (or until I die of something preventable, anyway, some day when I get it wrong, which I know I will eventually).
I don’t understand this failure of empathy. I don’t really give a shit. And they can sneer about “entitlements” all they want; I say with pride that yes, I believe that I, and everyone, am entitled to food, to shelter, to healthcare, to the basic necessities of life (also a decent education). What the fuck is wrong with you that you don’t?