I’m a disabled woman, worked all my life until I got into a severe car accident several years ago, that destroyed my ability to work. It took 3 years for me to become independent (ie able to walk, manage most tasks of daily living). So I got the chance to get into some of these “safety net” programs. Let me assure you, they are not what most people envision or at least not what Republican’s would have u believe. I’m not ungrateful, but I do have a story to tell.
Living on a disability, you are allowed to work your way back to independence, a process I’m in now. But don’t be mistaken, even though I paid into the system and get SSDI, not SSI which is a program for people never able to work, everything is not paid for me. I still devote the majority of my income to the doctors, medicines and attendant care I require on a daily basis. Many meds are not covered & none are covered 100%. A new pair of shoes, or outfit is something I haven’t even thought of in many years, super glue and patches keep me clothed fine. So when something like dental which is there is NO COVERAGE FOR IN MEDICARE OR MEDICAID FOR ADULTS (& I don’t even qualify for medicaid), it is devastating.
Over the weekend, out of no where, I got searing pain in my tooth that had me in tears! It was a tooth, I’d been to the ER a few times before & I knew all they would do was give me antibiotics and refer me to a dentist, so I didn’t both incurring another $800 bill. Since I am still unable to drive, or go long distances unattended, luckily a friend brought me tons of Ambesol. It helped slightly, the pain was so intense I couldn’t sleep, eat or drink anything but lukewarm water.
I called around to local dentists. The lowest price I found was $90 exam with 1 extraction ranging from $200 – $400 minimum and from the pain I knew was more than 1 tooth. So the lowest estimate $490 would have left me penniless for the month, since I’d already paid the essentials (rent, utilities, etc), & I still needed to pay for meds, doc appts, etc.
So I was going to stick it out! I couldn’t keep hurting forever right? A freelance job would come to save me? WRONG! I was on the verge of jumping off a bridge, the pain was so intense! The cancer screening I had been so shook up about, food nothing mattered,but this unceasing searing pain. My social workers came for their weekly visit (story for another day, but you haven’t heard about wasteful programs) & they couldn’t understand why I couldn’t do our routine talk & planning (they couldn’t accommodate getting me to a dentist).
The intensity of the pain rendered me unable to use this time & even though I tried to explain that to them, they sat there like they never had pain before continuing to pepper me with questions until I had to ask them to leave and not contact me until I could take care of this situation. When they called the next day, with more useless drivel I wasn’t so nice. I told them I understood why a few weeks back someone had killed another social worker, who denied them some essential benefits, because severe pain can drive a person nuts, please leave me be I begged.
Of course, the outcome of that was a visit from the local police to make sure that was an indirect threat. Through a mouth of cotton soaked Ambesol, I explained again, NO but please stop bothering me before I do lose my mind.
Finally I found out from a friend, not the social workers paid to “assist me to live in the community alone”, the Local but out of county dental school does emergent care for about $150. Like heaven had opened up itself, I was ready to go 5am the next morning, by hack taxi. I arrived & by time they opened the doors (6:30 am)the 60 people there were told only 15 could be seen. More than half were turned away.
I was number 17. But since I didn’t have a way home, I asked the guard if I could use his phone to call a cab. He told me no but I could wait until 9am & ask the clinic staff when they got in. With the amount of pain I had, I knew I wasn’t just going home, but I waited another 2 hours so I could make the phone call to try to find someone, not at work to bring me back to my city.
When the Dental Clinic finally opened, the Receptionist came out to the waiting “15” & told them, if they were in pain unless they had the $116 consultation fee, they would not be seen. I knew from several of the distressed faces, some were leaving. Lucky for me, 3 folks left & I was able to get in.
Despite it taking all day to be seen, it was a wonderful experience, the students were kind and very good at what they did, and even though I almost got turned away again because they were having trouble getting medical clearance from the other 10 or so doctors I see, they finally got 2 teeth out which they told me were so bad they didn’t know how I had waited so long. They also told me I had 2 more teeth on the verge of being in the same shape & advised me to become a patient so I could get in before they were emergencies. I was thrilled I had found an affordable place, until I was handed a bill for 130 dollars at the end, which I was told had to be paid in full before I could make another appointment. I didn’t have it, but I pray I will be able to pay on it by next month & that the teeth will hold out that long.
But what if I had not had it and those people who didn’t have it and were turned away? I understand self-responsibility, some folks will think, “Well if you had brushed your teeth and not eaten junk food”, etc, but mine didn’t happen that way. On impact of the accident I had, my thyroid was destroyed and I got Graves Disease which softened my teeth causing most of them to break, despite a good dental routine. I had 2 kids, 2 ailing grandparents to take care of when all this happened and only medical insurance no dental.
Does the Congress and US citizens really think people in intense physical pain are just going to suffer & not try by any means necessary to get help? I wonder how many of those turned away for not having $116 went out & attempted to rob someone, or did drugs, or beat their children or whatever that pain drove them too? I wonder people with more sever illnesses with no health courage do when pain or watching their love ones’ in intense pain do when they can no longer bear it. Real pain and suffering is not a game ladies & gentleman.
What HealthCare Reform or Obamacare which ever you call it aspires to do, is make routine & emergent medical care affordable for all citizens. If I had access to routine dental care before my teeth got this bad, I probably would never had to go thru what I did for 5 miserable days or what I’m anticipating coming up. I can bet 10thousand Mitt dollars some of those patients turned away did something destructive either to themselves or someone else in the pursuit of the money to get a tooth yanked.
Is this really the direction we want our country going in? A place where even hard-working poor people can’t any relief from true physical pain? Do we really think we can afford using ER’s (my only other option had the dental school not worked out ) @ triple the rate of a routine visit and lower our deficit? Do you really feel safe knowing there are folks walking around with pain so intense they could lose it and hurt some innocent person, when we could just invest in universal healthcare coverage, which would actually lower the medical costs we expend now?
Let me know what you think?