When healthcare reform becomes personal to you

...you start forgetting that for a lot of people, it's not personal. Or, at least I do. I catch glimpses of the Republican primary candidates campaigning on repealing health care reform and I wonder "Why do they hate sick people so much?" I see the occasional facebook post bashing "Obamacare" and screaming about being penalized by "having to pay for someone else's life choices" or all the rhetoric about "personal responsibility."

And then there's the conversations about drug companies- the "we want to encourage innovation" business.

It's become really hard not to be hurt by it. I've started wondering why this country hates sick people so much. Or, really, why it hates sick poor people. And why, since the US hates sick poor people so much, why it doesn't make it easier for poor people to have a medical home and access preventive services so they'll be less likely to get sick.

I suppose just by making these comments I'm asking for criticism- clearly, I'm biased as someone who has a chronic disorder and inadequate insurance, and why on earth should I demand that other people pay for my poor life choices and bad luck?

Maybe it's self-righteous, but I don't think my life choices were all that bad. I don't smoke, rarely drink, ate out once a month maybe (before this semester's craziness, anyway), walk almost a mile a day, ate whole grains and lots of fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables (do I get extra points for growing my own kale and basil?). I went to graduate school because I wanted to make the world a better place through health education and disease prevention - which apparently was my major crime here. My graduate student stipend simply won't stretch to cover a decent health insurance policy, so I have the school policy. Since I went to graduate school in a poor state that only has a handful of major universities, our student insurance is basically just adequate for healthy people. And then, while in school, I had the audacity to develop a chronic autoimmune disorder (oh, and by the way, the medical community is still very unsure of what the causes of Crohn's disease are).

So I'm sitting here, getting ready to refill a prescription, which is going to have a couple hundred dollar copay. This refill will exhaust my prescription coverage for the year. So, thanks to my "lousy" life choices, and the fact that liberty is prized above all else, I'm sitting here debating my options. I can continue taking my prescribed dose of medication, in hopes that healthcare reform will roll out as promised and internal plan limits on coverage will go away in January, despite resistance from health insurance companies, US taxpayers, and the entire Republican party. I can disregard my doctor's instructions and reduce my dosage in hopes of making my medicine stretch out longer. More drastically, I could just quit taking my medicine altogether and see what happens. Obviously, my doctor would not be a fan of the last two options, and I could get very ill. "Very ill" is an understatement - the husband of one of my friends has a different variety of Crohn's. He quit taking some of his medications because insurance wouldn't cover them, and wound up having emergency surgery to have several feet of his small intestine removed.

Is this what "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" is all about? Do I have to accept that following doctor's orders and being healthy are luxuries only available to those who can afford it? Is it just supposed to be okay that many people in this country (including my friends and family members) would rather see me physically and financially devastated by a treatable disease than contribute to my healthcare costs through their taxes?

I don't think so. But what would I know? After all, I'm just a sick, poor, bleeding heart public health doctoral student. Asking my opinion would send America straight to hell - or Socialism, which is apparently worse.


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