Thursday, January 3, 2013

2013: Living and breathing

Shortly after the divorce, I lost my health insurance.

After over a decade of being fully insured through the state, I was suddenly faced with having to decide whether I wanted to go forward with picking up the newspaper's usually demonized insurance or going without. I was still limping through the first year of paying a mortgage on my own and a car payment I hadn't expected. I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to continue feeding myself. Taking on insurance seemed like a burden I just couldn't handle --not yet.

Instead, I opted for a health club membership, figuring preventative care was probably better in the long run. A little swimming, some running and lots of free weights matched with (mostly) healthy eating seemed like a more economical approach to a safety net --plus it seemed like a more positive step.

But I still wanted the insurance.

The last time I was without insurance for an extended period of time, all kinds of bad shit happened. I had a really bad cold that turned into walking pneumonia, but the worst of it was a bout of strep throat, which cost me a couple of hundred bucks and went away right after I took my second prescribed antibiotic pill.

A few years ago, I was really amazed at how easy it was to fix things when you had insurance. I had a issue with my blood pressure, brought on by a bad diet, too much weight, a smoking habit I was sure I could kick whenever I wanted, and a lot of stress. I was doing a piece on a plasma center for Graffiti and the nurse told me my blood pressure was way off. I was sick. The doctor I went to confirmed it, put me on some blood pressure medicine and advised me to quit smoking, lose weight and learn to relax.

A few months later, I'd more or less done two of the three and my pressure was normal. I didn't need the medicine, but the whole experience taught me to pay attention a lot better. I check my blood pressure periodically and can tell when it's creeping up. It goes up with my weight and I start having more headaches.

The thing is, without the assurance of insurance, I probably wouldn't have gone to the doctor. I'd have self-diagnosed, treated myself as I saw fit and hoped for the best. That might have worked out fine, but maybe it wouldn't have. Either way, I certainly wouldn't have had access to blood pressure reducing medicine, which I'm sure made it easier to take care of the rest.

That old issue with my blood pressure became more meaningful after a friend's father had a stroke a few months ago, right after my mother had hers. Mom, who is struggling to regain her mobility, recovered her mind. I don't know if she'll ever be able to walk again, but regardless, things have turned out much better for her than they did for him.

After lingering for a couple of weeks, my friend's father died. He was only a year older than me and like me, had a certain built in reluctance to going to the doctor when he wasn't feeling well.   

Anyway, it's looking like I'll have one less reason to not get a checkup. Apparently, I might just be able to swing health insurance after all.

It's like the best news.

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