Health insurance is one of those things that you don't understand until you need it. And if you need it, it means you are in trouble. Read on to learn how I learned why health insurance is important.
By Anita Flores
Three years. I went 3 years without health insurance, and I was fine. I was in my early twenties, for Christ’s sake. Who HAS health problems at that age? People who happened to be lucky, like me, who didn’t have any health problems. I finally got insurance when I started my first full time job. During the time that I worked there, I didn’t go to a single doctor. Why would I? I was fine.
Then, I got another full time job, and then, I abruptly lost that job. Two weeks before that, I had gone to see a doctor because I could see something protruding out of my abdomen, a lump. The only reason I went to see the doctor was because I could see something was visibly wrong.
She told me to get an MRI, and I did. Flash forward to the week I lost my job, it was during this same week I saw my doctor again. She gave me her analysis of my MRI. It was a tumor in my uterus, a very big one that might still be growing, a possibly cancerous one, and I had to get it removed as soon as possible.
I told her I had just lost my job and she said, “I strongly urge you to try and keep your health insurance. You won’t be able to afford the surgery otherwise.” I asked her, “How much would it cost without insurance?” She replied, “$40,000.” It’s a strange thing, being ok, and then not being ok, so quickly. So, I used some of my savings to shell out about $800 for a month of COBRA coverage, plus the cost of whatever insurance wouldn’t cover.
The next few months were a whirlwind: major surgery followed by 10 weeks of recovery. In the grand scheme of things, everything turned out ok. I was lucky: lucky that the tumor turned out NOT to be cancerous. Lucky that I had enough savings to pay for COBRA. But many people are not that lucky.
Many people don’t have the luxury of affording COBRA. Many people wouldn’t have insurance at all if not for Obamacare. Without insurance, I would’ve had to ignore what was going wrong inside my body.
I learned from a friend in medical school that he had seen a female patient in the past with the same kind of tumor as mine, except hers was the size of a baby, because she had waited so long to see a doctor, because she couldn’t afford to. The tumor had grown so large, she had to have a hysterectomy.
I now realize that health insurance is absolutely essential. I worry about what will happen if I get sick again. I worry about my father who is getting older. He relies on Medicare. You may not realize the importance of health insurance because you or someone you love hasn’t been affected. But I promise you, that can change in the blink of an eye.
This article first appeared in Anita's blog: My thoughts exactly
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