In 1986, I was sitting at my desk at work when the phone rang. I picked it up and on the other end was someone from my health insurance company, health benefits I had through my employer. It was Friday and on Monday I was scheduled to go into the hospital for a pacemaker.
Right about now you’re expecting me to say they wanted to make sure I was all set for the procedure. Nope: they wanted to make sure I knew it wasn’t covered by health insurance because it was a preexisting condition. Apparently, in a previous lifetime I’d had heart block.
I was shocked. And it’s a shock that continues to reverberate in 2013 in every cell in my body. So when for example I get a notice in the mail telling me my health benefits will be terminated at the end of the year and I’ll have to buy my insurance from the new health exchange — I panic. I hyperventilate. Tears come to my eyes. It happens every time I feel my health insurance is in jeopardy because I know what can happen. Even if for only five minutes I am without health benefits the next time I need a pacemaker “they” can say: Oh well, too bad for you. That has been my experience. That and the experience of being “DENIED” when I first graduated from college and tried to buy health benefits on the open market.
I saw the same panic I experience on the face of then senator Barack Obama when he spoke briefly about his mother’s cancer diagnosis and the panic he saw in her eyes when a change in jobs threatened her treatment. I knew I had a compadre in the future President of the United States. I also knew he would fight to the death on this one. To this day, if you look closely you can see the pain and fear — and anger — in his face when he talks about health insurance reform because he is experiencing similar panic, albeit posthumously.
So now as a result of an employer moving to the mid-west, I run a independent Internet Marketing business called Guaranteed Press and I buy my own health benefits. I was lucky because I live in New York State and the preexisting condition caveat has been unlawful for a while, even before the Affordable Care Act. So when my employer moved I could briefly buy health benefits that I have been able to hold on to at a reasonable cost even as I progressed as an independent communications professional with Guaranteed Press.
Now, I’m back to wondering what happens in October when the plans are supposed to be available for viewing on the Health Benefit Exchange website. I will need to purchase a plan so they better not try to pull anything on me. I know what they’re capable of and I live in fear of it to this day. This is not say I have not been treated very well by my current insure, which I pay for through Healthy New York. The question is how much will it cost, will it be affordable care, and what happens the next time I need a pacemaker?
Sheila Carmody received her pacemaker (her cardiologist twisted the arm of the health insurance company) and has received four more since 1986, one recently at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany, NY. St. Peter’s has some very skilled and caring people working there. Thanks Marion, Bob, Becky, Shy, (the two nurses between 10a.m. and 7 a.m. whose names I can’t remember cause of anesthesia), Reuben, the young tech, the secretary Jackie and Nurse Sarah, who got me out of there by noon. Oh, and Sosa-Suarez, MD.