I'm not going to sugar coat this. I'm livid. Like, there are no words to explain what I am feeling. When I'm at work, I'm in a bubble, I don't generally have time to check emails or look at the news or anything. But I happened to have just a couple of minutes before my 6pm client came so I decided to quickly flip through my emails to clear out any junk so that I could get straight to the important stuff once my appointments were done. And then I saw a subject line that made my heart sink, my entire body went numb, and I felt like I might cry or have a panic attack or both.
I see this email from the American Psychological Association government relations chapter, and the title read, "American Health Care Act Passed in the House of Representatives." And then I notice the dozen other emails from other legislative and activism groups I stay abreast of, and I honestly felt in shock. When I was young, of course I had no concept of the ins and outs of health insurance. Even into my early 20's, it never dawned on me the importance of it or how it worked. I always had health insurance from my parents. I could go to my college's counseling center or health center if I needed anything. When I was licensed and went into private practice, there was no "benefits package" that included health care. I was young, I was healthy, I didn't need to worry about that stuff. In my late 20's, I finally contacted an insurance broker just because I figured it was the "adult" thing to do. I was denied for some (minor!) preexisting conditions from a few insurances and then finally got some crap coverage, but I figured it wouldn't matter cause I'd never use it. And then less than a year later, I was diagnosed with cancer.
The world becomes a different place when you suddenly NEED your health insurance or face the possibility of dying. I remember one month my debit card that I used for my premiums had expired and I didn't realize it cause I thought it came out directly from my bank account. It had to have been no more than 3 days after my premium was due, I noticed it hadn't hit my account, so I called the company to find out, and they told me my policy was cancelled for non-payment. I'll never forget the sheer terror I felt in that moment, begging them to reinstate it. They argued with me, saying I could go through the underwriting process again, which I knew meant an automatic denial since I had cancer. Due to some divine intervention/stroke of luck, I got them to reinstate, but I remember sitting and bawling on my living room floor, exhausted by the end of it.
Even with the insurance, I accrued massive medical debt because I had a crappy plan. I would even go to doctor's appointments, and the front desk staff would be looking at the computer with a puzzled look on their face, and then say, "Ok let me check your insurance again cause this can't be right." They were referring to my coverage, and I had to reassure them every time that no, it was (sadly) correct. But I couldn't get new insurance because I knew I'd be denied, and I couldn't chance having my policy reevaluated for better coverage because it would go through the underwriting process again, which meant denial. I ended up filing for bankruptcy a few years later, largely from my medical debt.
That was all pre-Obamacare. When I heard President Obama's platform, focusing on healthcare, I was sold immediately. As I said, you never know what it's like to need health insurance and be terrified of losing it until you go through something like that. Because of the Affordable Care Act, I was able to change insurances and get better coverage. I no longer feared going to the doctor solely because of the medical bills. I didn't have to worry about being denied for things that were beyond my control. Remember how I said when I first applied for insurance and was denied several times? It was because of two things, the first being depression, even though it was completely controlled by medication and I wasn't experiencing any symptoms. But because I had once been diagnosed with depression (which was partially genetic), I was automatically denied. The second reason was because I had HPV, which I contracted from a rape. I won't even go into all the ramifications of that because that would be a whole blog post on its own, but I was being judged and denied because of something that was forced onto me against my will. That denial felt like rape all over again.
I was scared when the AHCA was first proposed, although I heard enough chatter to feel somewhat confidant that it wouldn't be approved, and I was immensely relieved when they pulled it from a vote due to a lack of support. I naively thought that would be the end of that for at least awhile, maybe a year or more. When I saw that email, it felt like my world was turned upside down. Did you know part of the revisions they added to it was reinstating denials for preexisting conditions? And guess what makes the list of "preexisting conditions"...having been raped, domestic abuse, PTSD, depression. They also have made it so mental health coverage is no longer mandatory. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
I'm so deeply disturbed on so many levels. Personally, I'm terrified for my own health, losing health coverage and going into medical bankruptcy again. Professionally, I'm angry knowing that millions of Americans may no longer have access to therapy when they desperately need it, and I'm honestly scared of what impact it would have on my business. Morally, I'm outraged by the audacity of white, male privilege that dictated the conditions of MY medical and mental health treatment.
Saying I'm angry doesn't cover it. I feel scared and helpless, but I'm trying to remember that I'm not helpless, that I have some power here. It still has to go to the Senate for approval, so that means we have time to fight back. Please, if my story struck a nerve, if it moved you, if you have a story of your own...fight back. Contact your senators, you can find out how by going to https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials and looking up your state. Call 844-USA-0234to be connected to members of Congress. Text "RESIST" to 50409 for an automated text service that will generate letters to your Senators and US Representatives detailing your specific opinions. And if you think your one phone call or one email or one letter doesn't matter, political officials actually multiple every form of contact by 10, meaning that every time you leave one message for them, they assume 10 constituents hold that same opinion. So it's not just one voice, it's ten voices. And believe me, that adds up.
Please. Do something. Make a difference. Fight back. I hope none of you ever have to go through what I have, and fighting this bill can mean you may never have to. Your children may never have to. We shouldn't have to choose our medical and mental health based on money.