I haven't cried reading the Asbury Park Press in years. Not since that dark day 22 years ago when I opened the front page to see that Bruce Springsteen had married that totally-wrong-for-him girl from Oregon (before he came to his senses and married the girl next door).
I cried this morning.
NJ is extending children's health benefits to all children, regardless of family income, on January 1.
I have been uninsured since July. I diaried about whether or not to let go of my coverage: it didn't cover what I needed covered, and it was horrendously expensive. It was either buy the useless insurance or get medical care. I am a single parent. I have a good job, I earn a decent living, but my firm doesn't provide health insurance. They give me a few hundred bucks a month to pay for insurance, roughly 1/4 of what I would need to buy crappy HMO coverage. And even then it wouldn't cover the mental health care one of my kids needs.
Since July 1, I have gone around in fear of needing an ER or a doctor. Nobody knows I am uninsured, least of all the kids. Every month I take my insurance money and I spend it on actual health care instead of junk insurance: I pay the therapist, I buy the overpriced medications, I watch my kid struggle on the second rate, old psychotropics because I can't afford to buy the flashy new ones that work better. I've been lucky: I've had none of those trips to the ER that every parent can count on, no broken bones, no sinus infections, nothing. I have not let myself dwell too much on not having had a pap smear in a year, or whether my daughter's cramps are just cramps or something that needs attention. I still don't sleep well.
But come January 1, New Jersey is going to have health insurance for all children:
I will be able to buy my kids into NJ Familycare, which is the S-Chip program, for which I have always been just overincome. The premium, $137 per child, I can do. I will be able to get some kind of basic coverage for myself on the side.
I don't delude myself that this will cover all our expenses. I'll still be out of pocket on mental health care. But at least I won't have to hope that any other medical care we need comes about from a car accident, for which I am covered. At least if someone breaks an arm doing some idiotic kid stunt, I can take them to the ER.
Nor do I think universal coverage for just kids is the best way to go about what we all know we need, universal care - not coverage, care - for everbody. I have never been able to see the justification for covering everybody under 18 and everybody over 65 and leaving everybody in between hanging out to dry. But I'll take it. I believe in single payer, I will push for it until it happens. Until then I'll take what I can get.
And maybe now sleep at night too.