When I was 22 years old, I was very, very sick.
My insurance company, the one my father had worked for for 20+ years, mind you, refused to cover my intensive inpatient treatment for anorexia nervosa b/c they felt, after I had eaten my breakfasts for 5 days in a row, that I was cured. Never mind that my heart rate was 43bpm, or that my mind was completely gone, or that anorexia happens to be the psychiatric disorder with the highest mortality rate: they felt that I could do just fine at a half-day program which consisted of two meals and no medical care, or with a stay at the state psych ward for a week or so, which, not to get all Wurtzel on you guys, is basically a motel for crazies, where people struggling with everything from bipolar disorder to schizophrenia to suicidal ideation are thrown together in a big room to sit around, watch television, take their medication, and not kill themselves.
My parents, afraid that I was going to, you know, DIE, put me in the state hospital for medical monitoring purposes, as my vitals were quite bad, and my mental state wasn’t much better. I had a phone interview with an inpatient facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma that specialized in eating disorder treatment—one of the best in the country, for the worst cases, and halfway through my interview, a psych tech hung up the phone, saying, “It’s quiet time now.” When I cried about it in my room, another psych tech came in and told me to “stop whining.” Really top-notch care for the mentally ill in the USA.
Tulsa had a bed ready for me the next day.
Trouble with Tulsa was, my insurance company refused to cover it, on two grounds:
1. It was out-of-state, and why would I need to go to a hospital that specialized in eating disorders, the illness that was KILLING ME, when I could stay at the Cuckoo’s Nest and get yelled at by techs with no training in ED treatment (or humanity) for a few weeks?
2. They did not consider anorexia to be a “real” illness. It was, in the eyes of the insurance companies (and in the eyes of many in this country who have not experienced/do not understand mental illness) a matter of willpower: I was just another girl who wouldn’t eat her damn dinner. All she has to do is eat! She’ll be fine. And all the schizophrenic has to do is stop seeing things! And all the bipolar person has to do is stop cycling! You know! Real easy shit.
But my parents, knowing better, sent me anyway. I don’t come from money. My parents don’t come from money. I don’t know how they got it. They refuse to talk about it, still. If there is one thing that motivates me to stay in recovery (almost six years!) it’s that I know they sacrificed A LOT to get me there. I talk about my parents a lot. It is because they are my best friends. They saved my life. I believe they were helped out by family members, old friends, etc. I guess my parents should move to Russia, or something, what with accepting help from neighbors and friends to pay the damn medical bills.
At the hospital I saw women have to leave early, saw them disconnect the tubes, saw them pack their bags, sick sick sick, and walk out the door, because the insurance companies stopped paying. So to the “Leave my Aetna alone!” crazies, I’d like to say: your insurance company doesn’t give a fucking shit about you. AT ALL. You are nothing but a number on a claim form, and if you ever get sick, or if your kids get sick, and I mean SICK SICK HOSPITAL SICK, you are fucked. Because they will only care so much before they decide you are on your own. And then, I suppose, you’ll start looking around, wondering who is going to help you.
And then, I suspect, you will show up to rallies with a very different message on your signs.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
On Health Care
Posted by Dori at 10:56