I just took a job in Boston, MA that comes with health insurance. Before this moment I have been one of millions of Americans uninsured – a state I lived in for three years and three months. When I first became uninsured I didn’t think much about it. I was healthy, always had been. I don’t like doctors, an annual checkup was worse than pulling teeth.
But as the weeks stretched to months without insurance and then months turned into a year, that nonchalant attitude turned into a bit of a panic. I picked up full-time freelancing in that time and loved the work, the hours, the lifestyle. But the non-insurance part gnawed at me. What if something happened? I worked hard to ignore that internal voice.
At one point I did look into buying health insurance on my own. But the price was astronomical for what I could afford with my freelance salary; taking into account student loans, my phone bills and just general living expenses. I filed the information away in a drawer vowing to look at it when there was more ‘extra’ money.
Three years went by in that manner. I was vaguely aware of the danger I had put myself in, but it was only after getting health insurance that I felt an undefined weight lift. I was freed. The little concern that would crop up when I felt my throat begin to hurt or when I got the sniffles, was really a big concern that I ignored. I held back doing certain things, not giving my all, with the concern that it would lead to an impossible visit to the doctor, hospital, pharmacist. For example, I now know I run harder than I did before. Training for a marathon when you are uninsured cause you to hold back a little, to give in more to the aches and pains in order to maintain perfect health.
To be honest, I got sick once in the three years. I caught something akin to Swine Flu and laid in bed for a week sleeping and ignoring the ringing in my ear. It wasn’t until I tried to get out of bed and realized I couldn’t that panic really set-in. What in the world was I going to do? I was lucky. The father of a close friend is a doctor. He came to check on me, found me dehydrated with a high fever and an ear infection. An hour later I had an IV stuck into my arm, the bag tied to my curtain rod.
My situation is not uncommon here in the US. I have friends who went without insurance for a year, five years. The simplest things make them nervous; a cough, an itch, a scratchy throat they all become a mental jail. Even with our new health plan, which will insure more people get insurance and will punish those who don’t purchase it, there will still be millions (many of which are the poorest of the poor) who will be without insurance. The stress of that is enough to warrant a doctor’s visit.