It would not be accurate or fair of me to say that my experience with public assistance programs has been all bread and roses. So, I begin my story by sharing possible outcomes of situations in which one has no options for health care, due to self-employment, non-employment, indigence and/or preexisting conditions.
My small family has lost two beautiful people, each of them my life partner at different times, who were also fathers to my only child. My daughter’s natural father suicided when she was only 8 years old, after a long-term, severe bout of depression and ongoing financial losses led him to a state of no-employment and no health insurance. After seeking help through a faith-based organization, which was the only organization he knew of to turn to in his time of need, he was prescribed a new, barely tested anti-depressant. After a single dose from a doctor who took 15 minutes to hear his story, he took his own life. He was 45 years old.
Five years later, my daughter lost her step-father, who was also my partner of seven years. He had a chronic illness, but was never awarded Medical or Medicaid status, because he could not prove that he was incapable of working for a year straight. You see, he was a lively spirit, and couldn’t convince anyone of the true depth of his disease, which left him physically and psychologically wrecked when it struck. And it struck more and more often as he grew older. His attempts at signing on to public health care programs usually ended up in a bed in San Francisco General Hospital, where they had no choice but to take him in, and where he finally died of a drug-resistant MRSA infection that he contracted while being treated for his ongoing illness. He was 50 years old when he died, and we finally received notice of his MediCal award the day he died. A bit too late, I’m afraid.
To this day, I am convinced that the outcomes would have been different had they each had a regular physician that knew their case histories, and they didn’t have to begin anew each time they were in need of critical care. Perhaps they would still be living today had they had proper, regular medical care through a trusted health care program.
Things changed for us a few years later, when I turned 40. At the time, I was self-employed, and both my daughter and I had preexisting conditions, which kept us from affording any sort of private health insurance. A free breast exam program, begun by the State of California, allowed me the opportunity for my first and second mammograms at no cost to me. It was after my second free mammogram that I learned I needed to have a biopsy, and when the doctors learned of lack of insurance, I was promptly encouraged to apply for MediCal coverage for myself and my family. We were also promptly accepted! Lucky for me, the surgery resulted in a quick removal of the bad tissue, and no malignancy was found. A few months later, I broke both of my arms in a bicycle accident, and received wonderful care under this same coverage. Then, my daughter had her enormous tonsils removed, resulting in a cessation of years of sinusitis and heavy snoring. Needless to say, these emergency procedures would have set us back many thousands of dollars that we did not have to spend in a single year.
I like to end with appreciations, and so I publicly thank the Federal and state government health care systems for the safety net they now provide to so many. While it is a far cry from what I wish it to be, which is a single-payer health care system that allows for strong preventative care as well as treatment for ongoing health problems, it has recently saved my daughter and I from financial collapse, by giving us coverage when no one else would. Without MediCal, we would be in a real bind, and I hope to see much-needed improvements to this program that tries to meet one our most basic human needs.
Thank you, MediCal! May we all learn from our successes, as well as from our mistakes.