I have some things to admit up front. I was a vocal critic of Obamacare. For me, holding a low-income job at the time of passage, Obamacare was the worst "remedy" to the health care crisis imaginable. Even if I qualified for subsidies, I would be required to buy insurance that I could never use. Having insurance but not being able to afford deductibles or copays would be akin to having to buy car insurance even though I can no longer drive. I supported Obama over Clinton primarily because he opposed the individual mandate, and I felt betrayed. Not so much anymore. For that I guess I have to thank my Republican governor and legislature.
Between passage and implementation of Obamacare, my health steadily declined. Fifteen years of not being able to afford diabetes treatment, and not being eligible for insurance because I had diabetes, was taking its toll. I can no longer work or drive. For a long while, I could do gardening and projects around the house. My brother suggested I was a malingerer for not working but still being able to lay a paver patio for my sister. I asked him to help me look for a job where I could work for a couple hours a day, no more than one hour at a time, and take three weeks to finish a two-day project. But that's a digression - maybe a bitter digression.
Anyway, with the implementation of Obamacare this year, I went on the website to see where I stood. One of the questions was whether I had a disability which prevented me from working. Note it did not ask if I had been diagnosed with a disability which prevented me from working, or if I was receiving disability. I answered yes, but was leery about whether my own acknowledgement of the effects of my illness would be sufficient. I still am leery, but less so with the turn of events since January.
The national exchange website told me to contact my state Medicaid office. I live in a blood red state, but our officials accepted Medicaid expansion. The Supreme Court said they did not have to, and extremists urged them not to.
I have often wondered what response I would have gotten if I lived 70 miles south or west of where I do. Maybe the website would have suggested, instead of contacting my state Medicaid office, contact every state Republican official and ask them why they are such morons. But, again, I digress.
Because North Dakota accepted Medicaid expansion, I was eligible and began being treated for diabetes in January. Medicaid pays, or at least my records show they are billed, over $800 per month for insulin. I was paying $6 per month, but last month the pharmacist said for some reason I owed nothing at all. Maybe the program now pays 100 percent - we'll soon find out.
I also have been treated for eye problems. Seeing an ophthamologist costs $2 per visit. My ophthamologist is Yale-educated and from Romania. I prefer foreign-born doctors; I feel they have guts and determination and courage to leave home, friends and family to better themselves. That is why I cannot for the life of me understand the right-wingers' stance on the refugee children on our border, but, again, I digress.
In July I had a regularly-scheduled check-up with my diabetes doctor. In a happy coincidence, he is also from Romania. I am learning simple Romanian phrases to show appreciation, and am surprised at how similar Romanian is to Latin. My guess is that the name Romania somehow has an historic connection to Rome. I know, I know - digressing again.
At the July check-up, the doctor said my blood pressure was really low, and asked if I had ever experienced low blood pressure before. I had not. He told me to check it frequently at home. I bought a home meter and discovered it was consistently in the area of 70/55. The diastolic dropped as low as 67 and the systolic 47. I called his office after a week. They immediately scheduled an appointment with a cardiologist. Again, $2.
I went to the cardiologist (from India) and explained my symptoms, which included fatigue, loss of balance, falling, light-headedness. He performed an EKG and other tests. He said the tests showed a high likelihood that I had suffered a heart attack without knowing it. He scheduled an echocardiogram and a stress test for the next week. I took the 100 -mile trip again the next week for the tests. Before I got home, I had a message saying we had to do an angiogram.
Here I lie, a week later and another 100-mile-each-way trip. Because I fell on the stairs earlier this week and hurt my wrist, I have a catheter in my groin. Nurses come by to check my groin frequently. Frankly, I've never had so much interest in my groin for such an extended length of time. But I digress, what's new?
During the angiogram, it was decided that I needed two shunts. (Shunts? Stents? Not sure of the proper term.) That meant an overnight stay in the hospital. And here I am.
Yes, the primary appreciation goes to Obama and Pelosi and Reid, not to mention the members of congress. And also to the millions of people like you who helped get them elected. But I also owe a debt of thanks to a group of people I will never support. Being a broken clock and getting something right every once in a while cannot excuse or override all the harm they have done and still want to do to North Dakota.
Still, it would have been easy or expedient to join the chorus of Republicans suffering from Obama derangement syndrome. How they escaped that dementia, I may never know. But I am grateful they did, and grieve for the people like me in the 24 states that don't have my fortune.
I don't know why I felt compelled to share, except maybe that I am bored and MSNBC has gone to prison porn and there are only so many games of Words with Friends to play. I certainly did not share in an effort to seek compassion or prayers (especially not prayers because, to be blunt, fairy tales annoy me, sorry). I am not looking for comments saying, "Get well" or anything like that. I'll make a deal - if your refrain from those kind of comments, I'll extend everyone the courtesy of assuming you're thinking it.
My point (and here I feel like Bill Clinton when he gave that keynote speech in 1980(?) and finally said "in conclusion. . .") is that Obamacare is - it must be - only a first step. Too many red state residents are left out. Perhaps more forgotten and overlooked are those who, like me in 2010, have subsidized insurance but cannot afford to use it. If my annual deductible had been even $250, I would not have insulin, I would never have seen a podiatrist (Japanese/Canadian, btw), a cardiologist or an ophthamologist. I most likely would not have gone to a doctor at all.