You Lost Your Job—How Does Universal Healthcare Sound Now?

I’m going to say something radical; healthcare should not be tied to employment. 30% of the American population is about to learn why. The number of people filing initial unemployment claims rose by nearly 10 million in the last two weeks. Experts predict before this pandemic crisis is over 30% of the population will be unemployed.

The loss of work for these millions of people will not only leave them worrying about food and shelter but because this is America, the unemployed will worry that they’ll have to forfeit their health insurance too.

Three thoughts that will make your head pound:

  • Price gouging pharmaceutical companies hold your life in their hands.
  • If not for President Obama, few of us would be able to find insurance that would cover our preexisting conditions.
  • If you’re infected with the coronavirus but don’t have insurance because of the job you lost due to the coronavirus – you may not get the treatment you need.

For over 25 years I worked for a large corporation- one that used bankruptcy laws as a business strategy to avoid paying debts, tear up union contracts, cut pay and benefits, and outsource jobs. The CEO departed via golden parachute, as did the one who replaced him and the one who replaced him. This is a company that cares about shareholders more than employees, a company that enjoyed the recent tax cut. I was lucky enough to have the seniority to keep my job when thousands were laid off. My luck ran out three years ago when I was injured at work. I haven’t worked since for reasons I’ll explain someday, but not today. Today I’m sharing my health insurance experience.

While I was undergoing surgeries and physical therapy and steroid injections – covered by workman’s compensation, my three children and I were still covered under my employee insurance plan. I had to scrounge up $500 a month to cover my portion of the premiums. We all know that even with great insurance your child’s tonsillectomy and extracted wisdom teeth will put you thousands of dollars in debt, and they did. I plodded along.

One day I received an unexpected letter that told me in 60 days I would no longer be covered by my employee subsidized insurance plan, but I could join Cobra- for $980 per month. I cried, then called my attorney who suggested I apply for Medicaid. I did. I was uninsured for a few months while that process played out.

Medicaid is not Medicare. No one is campaigning for Medicaid for all. The difference between Medicaid and Medicare is that most doctors won’t accept patients with Medicaid because the government doesn’t pay them much. Medicaid is for poor people and beggars, like me, can’t be choosers.

Medicare is for retirees and the disabled. Doctors can not legally refuse Medicare patients. There is a two year waiting period for a disabled person to move from Medicaid to Medicare. I hope to qualify for Medicare in November.

I’ll share my Medicaid experience. A few months ago, I was forsaken by the grace I’d accomplished after years of dance training. I tripped while walking and chewing gum- holding a porcelain dish. I broke my fall with my hand, breaking my hand in the process. The plate shattered and a big shard of broken porcelain bounced and hit my face leaving me with a relatively small laceration that bled a lot and inspired an emergency room visit.

The only quality time I spend with my son lately is when he is my ride to the hospital. We bond in emergency rooms enjoying hospital vending machine cuisine, examining fish tanks, and watching bad television. Someday he’ll look back on those visits and wonder why I was so clumsy.

Luckily the broken bone in my hand, met Medicaid’s criteria, so the ER visit was covered. If it had been only the facial laceration, it would not have been covered.

In August I had been attacked by a different dish that didn’t want to go back on the shelf. I ended up in urgent care with seven stitches between two fingers. That was covered because A- it wasn’t the ER and 2- the severity warranted treatment.

Back to my broken hand. I was told to follow up with a hand surgeon. I researched online through the Medicaid insurance website and called the doctor who had the best reviews. The receptionist said that for that doctor to accept my insurance he would have to have been the doctor who treated me in the emergency room. I continued calling doctors on the list and was told no, repeatedly. “I don’t know why we are on the list,” whatever.

I called the insurance company and a very kind woman made several calls for me while I waited. She found an orthopedic hand surgeon who condescended to see me and I made an appointment. It took all day.

My experience with said doctor was this- the nurse was very nice. (If you can’t say anything nice… screw that.) The doctor walked in and I greeted him with a big smile. He started to smile back, but caught himself and snarled at me instead. I’m not kidding. He told me I had three choices for casts- one of which wasn’t really a choice for me because Medicaid wouldn’t cover it. I stopped smiling and asked for a standard cast. (dick)

Four weeks later I went back for my follow up visit. I did not smile, my tail was between my legs. The nurse was nice and spoke to me as if I were human. She sawed off the cast and a kind x-ray technician did her job and left. The x-ray showed the bone was not completely healed. The doctor came in and manipulated my hand until I yelled (and almost slapped him.) He had the nurse put a neoprene hand splint on me, and I felt instant relief. He left the room, and I heard him talking on the other side of the door. The nurse came back in and said Medicaid would not cover that splint. I said I’d pay for it. She said it was very expensive and I should order it on Amazon. She took a picture of the packaging for me with my phone, then took off the splint, which was covered in hand dandruff- dead skin- because I had not had a chance to wash my hand in a month. She took it back looking as embarrassed as I felt.

The point of this story is that I am the same person I was before. When I had employer-subsidized insurance I would greet a doctor with a smile, and the doctor would return it. They would speak to me with a modicum of respect and make sure I had no questions before they left the room. With Medicaid, I am treated like the scourge of society. With universal healthcare everyone would get the same treatment.

If you become one of the unemployed, the projected 30%, and lose your health insurance along with your employment, I imagine you’ll agree that tying health insurance to jobs is wrong.

Our system of healthcare is based on capitalistic greed. We are the only country that ties insurance to employment, the only country where you can be turned away to die because you are uninsured.

Do you think I’m exaggerating?

A 17-year-old young man with no history of health problems was turned away from an Urgent Care facility in California, after having been denied treatment because he didn’t have health insurance. After he died he was tested for the coronavirus. He tested positive. There is a link to that story below.

This is the richest country in the free world. We have been conditioned to believe that only the gainfully employed and the rich deserve healthcare. If we accept that we are sheep. Politicians work for us. We elect them and our taxes pay their salaries. We put them in the positions that they abuse by accepting bribes to try to take our insurance. We can remove them.

Never fear, Jared Kushner is now in charge of the Coronavirus task force.

“The notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile. It’s not supposed to be states stockpiles that they then use.” ~Jared Kushner’s word salad on why hospitals lack basic medical supplies.

If you think it can’t happen to you, you’re wrong. Until we reform our healthcare we are all vulnerable.

7 thoughts on “You Lost Your Job—How Does Universal Healthcare Sound Now?

  1. Lydia–this is awful, and I am so sorry to read your story. Until I retired in February, I was a WC claims adjuster–for 25 years. Most of the people who were injured at work never even had health insurance. Those who did could never afford COBRA. Heck, I don’t know how they could afford rent and food for their families with the WC indemnity they received. If they received it. I knew it was bad, but by then the employee had an attorney and we could not talk…Our system is a mess. I hope things get better for you. These are human lives we are talking about and now hell just broke loose. Small consolation but Medicare covers all costs for Coronavirus. As for Jared Kushner’s word salad…WTF.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I had to go through a lot of this ring around with my grandmother. It is ludicrous. I fear things are going to get worse before they get better.
    COBRA is ridiculously expensive and people who are laid off now will be having to scrounge to pay it soon.
    Why has Kushner replaced Pence? Not that Pence seemed to be overly competent.
    I try not to follow US news from the government too closely because it gives me a preexisting condition.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I only ran into this post now while doing a search on my WordPress reader. This post has aged quite well. We haven’t seen 30% unemployment (yet), but we are seeing the problems with health care tied to employment.

    Liked by 1 person

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