In Response to the House

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Yesterday the House of Representatives voted 217-213 in favor of H.R. 1628, otherwise known as the American Health Care Act. Here’s a bullet list of what NPR is reporting will be changing from current coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

  • The tax penalty for not being insured is being done away with. This will be a benefit to some people; however, since our income was deemed too low to assess the penalty, we will see no change in this from the ACA.
  • The bill encourages people to maintain their coverage by prohibiting insurance companies to charge premiums for pre-existing conditions if they stay insured. A lapse of more than 63 days, however, would allow the new insurance company to charge a 30% penalty over their premium over the first year of the policy. This means that if either of us has a lapse in insurance for a little over two months, due to a period of unemployment, perhaps, insurance will be significantly higher once reacquired, perhaps prohibitively so in our case.
  • “Both (the) Kaiser (Family Foundation) and the Congressional Budget Office found that, on average, older people with lower incomes would be worse off under the Republican plan than under the Affordable Care Act.” I’ll be 48 later this month. Kaiser’s interactive map shows that my premiums would increase by a little less than $1,000. That’s money that we can’t spare in our budget. In practice, I believe that the premium would increase more than that, since the map would only allow for 27-year-olds, 40-year-olds, and 60-year-olds, and I went with the lower 40-year-old threshold since it was closer to my actual age.
  • The AHCA maintains protections for people with pre-existing conditions, with some important exceptions, the most notable of these being the state waiver. The AHCA allows for a full repeal of the ACA on a state-by-state basis, meaning that “States could apply for waivers that would allow insurance companies in their states to do three things: 1. Charge older people more than five times what they charge young people for the same policy; 2. Eliminate required coverage, called essential health benefits, including maternity care, mental health and prescription drugs, that were required under the Affordable Care Act; and 3. Charge more for or deny coverage to people who have pre-existing health conditions, such as cancer, diabetes or arthritis.” I live in Texas. I am almost certain that Texas will be one of the very first states to apply for this waiver should this bill become law. I am older and would be gouged for that. My necessary mental health and prescription drugs coverage would be eliminated. And my (at least) ten pre-existing conditions (according to one of the multitude of lists being passed around social media) would likely cause me to be denied for coverage outright.

Now to the part of this that I wrote on Facebook earlier today, the part that really matters, in my eyes. If you’ve already read that post, you can stop here, but I really hope you’ll continue reading in order to see my words in the context of what is happening.

“I am on disability and Medicare. My disability states that a condition of me remaining on disability is that I maintain a working relationship with healthcare providers for my particular disability. If the AHCA passes, with all its pre-existing conditions, my Medicare premium will price itself out of the realm of me being able to afford it, which means that I’ll eventually disqualify myself for disability before I’m ready to return to the workforce, which means that the very little bit that I bring in financially will go away, which means that we won’t be able to make rent, which means we will eventually become homeless.

“All because it’s important for the insurance companies to make better profits.

“The people that voted for this legislation don’t care about stories like mine. But I’m not alone. There are thousands and thousands of people just like me, with the same concerns about keeping a roof over their head, because of the AHCA.

“And what if I do return to the workforce before I lose my eligibility? I’m working hard towards that goal, but it’ll be a year or more before I’m trained. What happens if the AHCA passes and I’m looking for work? One of the things that I’ll need to look at in a job is whether they offer healthcare coverage, because I’m on medications that if I don’t take them, I can very easily end up in the hospital, and medication isn’t affordable even now without insurance.

“Except I have no less than ten pre-existing conditions that I could find on what I’m sure is not a comprehensive list of all pre-existing conditions the AHCA includes. That means that my insurance would be far too costly for me to afford – which puts me right back into the situation of not taking the medications I need to keep me out of the hospital.

“Any way I look at this, if the AHCA passes intact, I’m not entirely certain I’ll live much longer.

“This is literally a life-and-death issue for me and so many others. And I’m angry that this is the situation that our elected officials have chosen for us to be in.

“I have the words to describe what this means to me, but I cannot adequately put into words just how I feel about this bill. Or how scared I am for the future because of it.”

The Senate says they’re going to introduce their own version of this bill. I can only hope that the Senate has more compassion than the House of Representatives’ version. The House’s version of this bill expects people to die earlier in order to reduce expenses for the insurance companies. That shows an exceptionally callous, uncaring attitude towards their constituents – one Congressman from Virginia went so far as to say that the people that he saw protesting this bill probably didn’t vote for him, and he saw nothing wrong with discounting what they had to say.

A friend of mine said it best. When did we start becoming voters and stop being constituents?

Then again, we are in an election cycle. Trump has already kicked off his re-election campaign, within days of being inaugurated. That makes us voters again, doesn’t it?

It’s one thing to feel that the party in power doesn’t have my best interest in mind. But with the passing of the House bill, I feel like they’d prefer I just died and decreased the surplus population.

 

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Thoughts from a Worried Mind

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As promised yesterday, I’m going to be a little more political, because I feel strongly about a lot of issues that are relevant to today’s world.

Now, keep in mind that because of my mental illnesses and my low threshold for stress these days, I’m not as up on the issues as I should be. I know they exist, and I know my position on them. I can’t engage in meaningful debate about the nuances of the different sides, I can only tell you in plain English why I believe what I believe.

Right now I have two main concerns. The first is healthcare. I’m currently on Medicare because of my disability, which means that if anything happens to Medicare I’m SOL. If pre-existing conditions become a disqualifying state, I’m SOL, my wife is SOL, and a LOT of my friends are SOL as well. I can’t tell you how important it is that healthcare remain affordable and accessible to me, without a lapse in coverage. (I’m on six blood pressure medications. If I’m out of even one of them my blood pressure becomes worryingly elevated. Being unable to afford my medications would be an immediately life-threatening situation for me, thanks to my high blood pressure and diabetes, not to mention the effect that it would have on me being mentally ill and unmedicated.)

The second concern is Social Security. As I mentioned before, I’m currently on disability because of my PTSD and bipolar disorder. We are completely dependent on my Social Security payment, and because I’ve been out of work for nearly five years, if that payment goes away, getting quickly hired on anywhere doing anything would be a significant challenge. We’d last perhaps four to six weeks before both of us were homeless.

These are the pressing concerns that I have for myself, but I have a lot of other concerns too. I worry about people being treated unequally because of their gender, sexual orientation or gender identity, race, religion, nationality, income level, education, age, or any other category that can be used for discrimination, and I have little tolerance for those who feel that any of these reasons are acceptable to discriminate against anyone. I think that critical thinking is a vital quality to have and I don’t understand people that deny scientific evidence or other known factual information. I also don’t believe that critical thinking is something that should be limited to those with higher education; I have a GED and I thrive on learning, especially if what I knew before was incorrect.

And lastly, I think that we are in very deep trouble given our current political climate. I think that policies are going to be enacted that will literally cost people their lives. Our government should be protecting us, not trying to kill us off. For the first time in my life, I can genuinely say that I don’t trust the government. I’ve been able to say that I don’t trust things the government has been telling me before, but this is the first time that I can say I don’t trust the government, full stop. I don’t like that feeling. It’s alien and uncomfortable and chilling, and I see things happening every day in our government right now that I seriously question. I’m not convinced I’m going to survive this administration, and that’s a devastating thought to have.

So there’s part details, part nutshell what I believe. I want to be more active in resisting the changes in our government, but I’m unsure where to start. I want to be the change that I want to see in the world, and I’m finally to the point that I feel like it’s imperative that I act on that rather than just dwelling on the idea of it.

June 6, 2015: Three Good Things

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1. I might be returning to a normal slate of healthcare professionals soon. I have an appointment with a new psychiatrist on Thursday.

2. My mother’s replacement phone came today. It’s charged and ready to be sent over to her.

3. I finished a book today, cutting my reading list down to five concurrent books I’m currently reading.

June 1, 2015: Three Good Things

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1. Got appointments with both a psychiatric medication manager and a primary care physician that are timed so that I won’t be running out of medications.

2. Found out that the deposit with our electric company was refunded back to our account. That means that we don’t owe anything to them until July, and even then most of the bill is already paid.

3. Spent the evening trading mental_floss quizzes back and forth with the wife. Turns out I remember all but six of the presidents in a ten minute span and I know all 50 of the most used words by Hodor, despite having never watched Game of Thrones. (Hint: Hodor.)

Life Like a Yo-Yo

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Last night I posted a blog entry entitled “Back to Square One” in which I detailed the difficulty that I was having with securing and dealing with my healthcare providers. My situation was getting convoluted and I wanted to both vent and record the situation should I need to recall it again.

This afternoon, things seem to be turning around. I have an intake appointment in two days to begin telepsychiatry with a local clinic. And next week, I have an appointment to see my new primary care physician for the first time.

There were several people that had commented on my Facebook page about eliminating two providers. The local clinic that my telepsychiatry will be through is CommUnity Care, the provider that I had initially had the intake appointment with and was subsequently referred out. I’ve checked with every provider that Blue Cross lists within 25 miles and either I live in the wrong county to qualify for services or they aren’t accepting new patients at this time. CommUnity Care is the only option that I have.

I’m not crazy about that, but we’ll see how things go. If push comes to shove, then I can always switch my Medicare provider to one that will get more psychiatric coverage. (You’d think that someone that’s on disability for psychiatric reasons wouldn’t have so much difficulty finding a provider. You’d be dead wrong, apparently.)

I’ll keep the blog updated as events warrant, but for those of you that have been supporting me: thank you. It means the world to me and some days it’s all that keeps me putting one foot in front of the other.