I’m 38 years old, and for the majority of my adult life I’ve been uninsured.
That’s not because I was the risk-taking 20 something we hear so much about. I never, not once, considered myself invincible. And year after year, I paid my taxes.
I started work as a fashion model at 17 and that was my primary source of income through the age of 24. In that line of work the IRS considers you an Independent Contractor. For those who don’t know, as I didn’t as a 17 year old, that means nothing is taken out of your pay check. So you better be putting some money away or you’re going to get hit with a big bill come tax time. The whole thing was a financial disaster. I never made more than about 30 some thousand a year; not enough to pay for private insurance after you take out housing and other basic necessities in New York. That was too much income to qualify for Medicaid.
Each and every one of those years I needed medical care for my depression. Obviously that involves regular office visits plus the cost of medication. I found the cheapest care I could. Many medications were off the table for me because they were name brand (not generic) and would have cost hundreds of dollars. For like 30 pills.
I suffered terribly. My heart would beat fast every time I was in line at a pharmacy because I wasn’t sure if I could cover the cost of my prescriptions.
At 24 I retired from modeling and started my college degree. To make money, I worked as a nanny. Being a nanny had its perks but insurance wasn’t one of them. I applied for Medicaid but when my employer was called to verify my income, the $250 a week I was making disqualified me.
When I started working less hours as a babysitter, I did get Medicaid. I don’t remember how long I was covered, but it was a gigantic relief. I couldn’t believe I was getting my medication for $5. It was bliss.
Then I started an internship that paid me enough to place me out of the eligibility bracket again. I had a small nest egg at that point and a friend of the family covering my psychiatric visits. Even so, there was an anti-depressant my doctor thought would be a good choice for me that I couldn’t try because it wasn’t yet generic. Thanks, Pfizer!
I got my first full-time office job at around the age of 30. I had insurance. I started going to doctors like crazy and it was awesome. When I left that job about 18 months later, I was offered Cobra. Anyone know how much Cobra costs? At that time it was about $700 a month. How is an unemployed person in a position to take on that kind of expenditure? It’s a cruel joke. I’ve had two more office jobs since then and not for a single moment did I forget how fortunate I was to be covered. Literally every time I filled a prescription or went to the doctor, I got a little thrill.
Now I’m in my late 30s and working for myself. I pay for private insurance out of pocket. It’s a big expense and if our family has a financial blow, I’ll be unable to afford it.
So this isn’t hyperbole: I would get out there on the street and put my life on the line if that would get us single payer. I wouldn’t have to think twice. I’d do it to honor all the people who have lost their lives because of insurance companies’ greed. Of all the causes that need a full throttle fight right now, this is mine.