On today’s timely episode, we talk to a Black RN. We talked back in March where he walks us through his new nursing assignment to an ICU Covid floor. I’m happy to report that since recording and posting this episode, him and his entire family remain Covid Free. Thanks to our special guest, for joining us and giving us a first-person account of what’s it’s like to be an essential, healthcare worker during a pandemic. Stay Safe and remember Masks Work!
I go through these phases where I feel SUPER in control of myself, my emotions, my reactions, my surroundings etc and then phases when I feel completely powerless. The best way to describe it is like I’m trying scream or run in a dream–like where you’re screaming and running as fast as you can but you’re actually silent and standing still. As a woman I think it’s probably standard of us to feel like maybe our opinions, work, thoughts, etc. aren’t as important as our male counterparts. As a woman of color I think this is even more so the case–especially lately. It’s like we’re used to be brushed off, and not having our ideas validated until a dude repeats them as their own.
The latest political thing that gave me that familiar powerless feeling is this healthcare bill. Now if you’ve been watching the news and keeping up with the media, you’ve probably seen that there was this crazy photo going around that is basically a group of white dudes deciding whether or not prenatal healthcare (and other women’s healthcare issues) should have been covered in the first Health Care Bill to repeal and replace the ACA. It’s like you would never see a group of women deciding on a bill for men’s healthcare. Why? I don’t know probably because a group of women would want to consult men for issues that are of central importance to men and also we’re not animals. I think logic just tells you that you should maybe consult at least one woman when you’re making major decisions about women’s healthcare, right? That first one didn’t pass but it still freaked me out pretty good, mostly because I’m a human and also because I’m a human who can bare children and would like to someday. Even more so because I don’t think I should be punished for being biologically different which requires different/more healthcare than my male counter-parts. I heard the argument, “I don’t know about you but I’ve never needed prenatal care, why should we have to pay for it,” by a man, who was in Congress. I was pretty shocked considering he’s a human, a father, a husband and a representative of constituents in what is supposed to be the Greatest Country on Earth. Also I was concerned. Didn’t he have the same type of scientific education as me? He knows babies can only be made by us ladies, right? Without us there would be no babies, yes even boy babies. So maybe if you value life, which I think that’s why most Republicans don’t support abortion, you would want to support prenatal care and women’s healthcare in general? I don’t know, I guess that could be far-fetched, reasonable, logical, whatever…
A few weeks have passed since then and it seemed like they were going to leave the ACA alone and our vaginas and breasts (among other things) would be safe but throughout this last week they started talking about a new bill again. This one wouldn’t be so bad, it wouldn’t say pre-existing conditions aren’t covered, it would give states the option to have them covered (or not) AND it would allocate funding for the states to create high-risk pools, you know just in case they decided to exclude pre-existing conditions from insurance market place requirements. JUST IN CASE GUYS!
So yeah I read this and the normal shit starts to happen I start to have trouble sleeping, staying asleep, falling asleep once I’m woken up, I’m getting anxiety reading the news, watching the news, I have a sudden urgency to see my doctor to double check I am in fact healthy, debate getting an IUD, etc. Why am I so shook? Well here’s my pre-existing condition story. When I was 19 I had an abnomal pap smear, I had cells in my cervix which my gynecologist said weren’t cancer–yet; but, she wanted to get rid of them if they didn’t go away in 6 months. Fast forward 6 months, the cells are still there and I have to have those cells removed. It was a pretty simple procedure, my mom came with me for moral support and I was in and out in less than 45 minutes and about 30 days later I got hit with a bill for like 25k. I had insurance for the first time during this period–my entire life I was uninsured–but, because I was in college and my school required you to have health insurance so I got the cheapest plan they offered. I had never used insurance before and I was paying out of pocket. My insurance denied my claim for this procedure because they said it wasn’t medically necessary since I didn’t actually have cancer it was an elective, preventive procedure. I think they paid like $300 for the exam part and denied the rest. After a 6 month battle with my doctor’s office and me vs. my insurance company my doctor told me that she wrote off my bill because she was so pissed off at my insurer and the fact I as a 19 year old college kid that couldn’t afford to pay the bill. Shout out to doctor’s who give a fuck about their patients and take these sacrifices! Currently, I’m not on the regular check up plan as most people with vaginas because I have this pre-existing condition of abnormal cervical cells and the first time I got a full time job that offered healthcare I immediately called my insurer to make sure that my extra visits that are required by my doctor for this issue were covered. At that time pap smears were covered once every two years instead of once a year, presently it’s once every three I think. I have to get one every year and if it’s even the slightest bit off I have to get them every 3 months for 1 year until they’re normal for 1 year. It’s a lot of vaginas and a lot of speculums. I honestly cannot say with 100% certainty that if my insurance would have said “no those extra visits won’t be covered” that I would have followed through with my doctors course of care. I was barely making enough money to pay rent and eat at the same time, I would have probably rolled the dice. But, I didn’t have to. Thanks to the ACA that had passed a few years before it guaranteed that my new insurer would have to cover me even if this was pre-existing and even if I had to have 4 pap smears in a year. My insurer did in fact cover me because my doctor verified that it was medically necessary for me. After today’s vote, I am seriously concerned again. Will I find another insurer to take me? Will I be able to afford coverage? Will it be better to save a crazy amount of money just in case I get cervical cancer and have to undergo treatment because I’m going to be capped anyway? Should I just roll the dice? It’s like standing in the center of a million diverging roads all filled with varying degrees of quick sand traps, land mines, alligators, shark infested waters and ground covered in lava and if you make it past all of those obstacles your prize is that you live. You might be broke, jobless and uninsurable, but you live. Why is that a decision that I am forced to make about my healthcare? Healthcare and treatment, that let me remind you, is only an issue because biologically I am built differently. I feel powerless, I feel like instead of taking the risk and choosing a road my safest bet is to stand still right at the center because I’m too afraid to move.
I am not the worst effected though, I am probably OK. I have a good job that offers good insurance and that coverage likely won’t change. But I COULD be and there are millions of women and men (and any variation thereof) that WILL BE effected if this is passed. I could bury my head in the sand and say this isn’t my problem–because it probably won’t be–but I am so much better than that. I care about the fire, even when it’s not burning me. See I don’t just think of myself when I feel powerless. I think of my mom, who is over 50 and has to get mammograms. I think of my aunt who had her arm practically taken off in a freak, work accident and is now worried that this bill will make it so no insurer will have to take her because she has a pre-existing injury. I think of my dad who is “pre-diabetic” and has to check his sugar everyday and see a doctor every 6 months to make sure everything is normal. I think of the moms I know who were brave enough to address their postpartum depression and now their care and services will be limited if this bill passes the Senate. I think of the injured clients I represented who were in accidents, to no fault of their own, and who now have permanent injuries for which they will be labeled “too risky to insure.” I think of my significant other who lives with a chronic illness like the bad ass he is and now has to worry about his treatment not being covered or becoming too expensive. The most ridiculous part of all of this is that there is one thing in common here, these conditions aren’t through any fault of our own. I didn’t do anything to make myself have abnormal cells in my cervix. My mom didn’t decide to have mammary glands which increase her risk for breast cancer warranting mammograms. My SO didn’t ask to develop a chronic illness that no doctor can tell you who or why it picks who it picks.
But we are lucky. We have good health insurance, for now. We have good jobs, we don’t have to live pay check to pay check and if something happened we would probably be OK. But, there are so many people who won’t be who simply cannot be. They will be forced to make a decision between paying a bill or paying for their healthcare. There will be people who aren’t covered because through no fault of their own they are now a part of a pool where the cost-benefit analysis just doesn’t make sense to buy into coverage.
I guess the pre-existing issue is something most people have come to enjoy as a luxury since the ACA passed, but I’d just like to remind everyone that having healthcare isn’t a luxury and having healthcare that is affordable, accessible, quality and covers pre-existing conditions, isn’t a luxury–it’s a necessity because we are humans who get sick. It’s that simple. It’s the same reason we have to have car insurance, because we drive cars on streets and inevitably get into accidents. I mean it’s just logic…
I know, I’m liberal. I’m VERY liberal. I know people who are conservatives and VERY conservative. But one commonality we mostly share is that we still think humans are humans and they deserve to be treated with respect. This bill, is an embarrassment to its citizens and point blank disrespectful. I don’t know anyone who thinks that profits are worth this much more than people and think this bill is OK. I know that they exist though, I mean 217 of them voted for this bill after all.
I really don’t have anything positive to end this one and I know I haven’t even touched on all the pre-existing conditions that are potentially nixed. Women, men, transpeople, straight, gay, bisexual and those suffering from mental illness are all effected–I think anyone reading this falls into one of these groups. But I guess I can say this one thing. I have seen social media blow up with people talking about their disagreement and disgust regarding this bill. I have seen people post “I don’t normally talk about politics but…” instructions on how to call senators and representatives, and messages of unity. So that made me feel good. I saw some assholes too but I won’t spend too much time talking about them because they’re just that. It’s going to be a tough 4 years; so everyone, stay motivated, stay educated and keep resisting.