I shouldn’t have to be lucky. However, I am lucky.
I am a person with more than “adequate” health care. I am a person who can pick up their medication at a pharmacy and not worry about the cost. I promise you, reader, this isn’t one of those “humble brags” the millennials are so fond of these days. I’m writing about how lucky I am with the hope my story will reach someone who can use my help.
You see, I wasn’t always the lucky one. Far from it. I spent the first 30 years of my life misdiagnosed, mistreated, and under-insured. There were years I had no health insurance at all because it wasn’t accessible. Those were the years my body deteriorated with its undiagnosed autoimmune disease while I worked every retail job imaginable until I simply couldn’t work another minute. When my body finally said, “no more, friend, we’re done,” my heart said much the same.
Living without health insurance that does what it’s supposed to do doesn’t only revoke access to care for your body physically, it also revokes the ability to care for yourself mentally. I struggled, again undiagnosed, for years with mental illness that took its toll on my psyche. Living with physical pain I didn’t have the means to treat left me isolated and alone. I couldn’t go out. I lost most of my friends. I couldn’t, and still can’t work among my peers, and I fell behind in every other aspect of my life.
Lack of diagnosis left me to make choices I should’ve never had to make.
If I had been diagnosed earlier, I wouldn’t have needed a hysterectomy at 28. If I’d been granted that sacred, coveted access to medication, I could’ve dealt with the crippling side effects of major depression. But I didn’t have access. I didn’t have that sacred, coveted little insurance card in my hand. The key to everything.
Before gaining that access, I lived in Florida. A state that uses arbitrary decision making to deny patients — even those with some form of insurance — treatment they need to survive.
I was denied migraine medication six times because the state of Florida said it wasn’t “medically necessary.” How could that be? I finally obtained that key to everything and behind the door was merely... nothing. No medication, no help, no hope for me to ever feel human again.
Something is wrong here. And it’s not just Florida. It’s all over the country. Those who need care are being told their pain doesn’t make their needs medically necessary.
I moved 1,800 miles for access to care. No one should be forced to spend their last dime and move across the country to a state with health insurance willing to pay for even the most basic of pain control.
But that’s what I did. That’s what I had to do.
Illinois generously filled my script for Sumatriptan injections 48 hours after I got off the plane. The state of Illinois generously allowed me to have a CT scan that I desperately needed to pinpoint the location of my active ulcerative colitis.
I should not have had to move 1,800 miles to fulfill these necessities. But I did. And I am lucky now.
Health care just shouldn’t be so hard.