Monday, March 22, 2010

A new day

I've never understood health insurance, and I'm going to warn you that I don't fully understand the bill that passed last night. My personal jury is still out on whether or not this is a 'good thing,' because I tend to have a very skeptical relationship with most things that come from any institution, regardless of if it's government or private. That is what my college education and deep held love of reading every damn thing I find interesting (on the internet) has given me.

I know that I've never viewed health insurance as a part of my life the way some people might - we had it, in some form or another, for most of my life. We were the 'lucky' ones, the ones who could go to the hospital for an ear ache or sinus infection.

But my yearly physicals were more bi-annual, when they happened at all. I think our co-pay hovered in the $15-20 range per visit, per kid, which might sound like nothing to you but was a LOT to us. We were pretty healthy kids. I usually got hit with a sinus infection or bronchitis every 12-18 months, ending with a trip to the not-quite-emergency room (people in Athens know the name, but I can't remember it right this minute). My mother put off going to the doctor for some (still not fully resolved) issues because of the cost and the knowledge that they wouldn't be able to diagnose quickly and prescribe an easy fix, and I feel like there was also an acknowledgment that whatever it was could be a 'pre-existing condition.' If it wasn't one today, it could be later, when my dad switched jobs again.

So she went to the doctor, they did some stuff, it didn't fix much, and as they were still trying to figure it out, my dad was fired. (Not lost his job, as that implies that the job disappeared to some distant town or country. No, he was fired and it still disgusts me and made me skeptical and resentful of the concept of 'at will' employment.)

We didn't go to the doctor growing up because of the cost. When I was 9, my pediatrician noticed that my collarbones were uneven. My parents didn't shield us from much, or so I thought, but now that I'm older, I realize they did that year. It was the year my youngest brother was born, which is a whole 'nother story, but now I've realized that they kept me from fully understanding the costs of my pediatrician noticing that. I had an x-ray that day, then an MRI (which I fell asleep in) and a CAT scan (which I did not fall asleep in, and was actually quite terrified of). I have no idea how much of that was covered by our insurance. I know that we had some sort of supplemental insurance via the government.

I'm realizing how much I don't understand insurance or health care.

When I started at OU, I signed up for their insurance, which covers all prescriptions (though I'm fuzzy on things like vaccines). Because of the past two years and all the various things I've had to go to the doctor, I've been afraid of getting hit with the 'pre-existing condition.' I've been relieved to spend so little on my doctors visits - $40 paid to the university for the well-being plan has saved me several thousand dollars, as has the nearly $400 I pay per quarter for the insurance. But I've looked toward graduation with a wary eye, afraid that I will get a job and be punished for things beyond my control.

So, there is a sense of relief at the rules for 2014. But also a fear, for my family.

Things are improving for us, economically, but how are they supposed to afford insurance they are now required to buy? (Yes, they've been covered by the state, but it's a fluctuating thing that, again, I don't fully understand.) How does THAT work?

I'm for health care/insurance for all. I don't think kids should have to grow up without getting to see the doctor or the dentist or the optometrist. I don't think adults should have to stay in crappy jobs just because they have insurance they don't get to use, but they need it because they get the flu once a year, or their kids tend to get ear infections.

But I'm skeptical. I have a history of disappointments and insurance not equalling health care.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Are you kidding?

Today, I got an e-mail from OU's dean of students, Ryan Lombardi. We have had something like SEVEN cases of meningitis on campus in the past two years, which is a LOT when you think about it. Because of collaboration with the CDC, it's been determined that all of the students who have contracted the illness had the same DNA profile, which makes these cases an outbreak.

Because of this, the university has decided that it will be requiring that all students get the meningitis vaccine starting in fall 2010. All current students will be required to have it and all freshman will be required to have gotten it, if I am understanding the e-mail correctly. This isn't that surprising, though requiring vaccinations always seems to result in a bit of a controversy and I can't wait to see the 'but it's my body and why should I get a shot?!' letters in The Post.

My complaint lies in what this e-mail COMPLETELY LACKED, which was information of where you could get the vaccine in Athens. So, I googled, googled a bit more, and finally tried the university health center's website. I knew that they provided vaccines, but assumed that they didn't provide the meningitis vaccine, since they didn't include a link in the e-mail.

So, I went to:, which I am providing for context. On the left hand side is a menu. I clicked 'health promotion,' which did NOT, in fact, include any information about vaccines that I could find. So I went back to the main page and clicked 'student health services,' scrolled down the un-alphabetized list on the left and chose 'services provided.' A page with a list pops up, un-alphabetized again, and I clicked immunizations (which, okay, guys, pick a word. Are the immunizations or vaccines?). Finally, a list of what vaccines Hudson provides and when you could get them.

That link should have been included in the e-mail, or should be accessible on the front page of Hudson's site. Also, the page should include prices and information on whether or not the university's insurance will pay for any of what they offer. I suspect that is not common knowledge, so it isn't that much of a stretch to feel that our Dean should have provided this information instead of just informing us of what he and the university have determined about these cases.