Angel's Letter to the Governor

Tuesday, August 19 was a memorable day for me. I started by voting in the 2008 primary election for governor. I became a certified family nurse practitioner (FNP-c) after passing my certification exam (a mandatory step to becoming an advanced registered nurse practitioner (ARNP)). When I was in the process of cooking my celebratory dinner with my husband in the small unit that I own, things began to go awry.

Around 7 p.m., a knife that I was slicing vegetables with slipped from the counter and deeply wounded my foot. I knew almost immediately that I would need medical attention to approximate the wound. This realization was met with extreme hesitancy since I am one of the people who sit solidly in the middle class, but do not have health insurance.

I have not enjoyed being without health insurance, rather have fallen into this black hole for several reasons.

1) I am a student who is on summer break. I have opted out of annual health insurance coverage because the costs of coverage equal the amount I spend on school for a quarter of the year. If I paid for such insurance, I would not be able to finish my program in a timely manner and would incur more fees by prolonging my schooling.

2) My husband and I have taken out catastrophic insurance coverage, which costs $140/month, but offers minimal useful benefits. This plan stipulates that we pay 20% of all bills after we have incurred and payed, $2500 of our medical expenses annually. Obviously, for two healthy individuals, the only time we would use this is if we had some extreme emergency. My foot wound would not be covered.

3) I am employed per diem in a hospital. I attempted to maintain my part-time status working as a Registered Nurse to keep my benefits, and I was successful in doing so until approximately 7 months ago. It was then that I had to decrease my work hours because I was simultaneously working on two Master’s degrees. For the summer, I am back to working a full-time schedule in my nursing position, however, since I am going back to school in September and will be decreasing my work hours then, I am not eligible to be titled “full-time” or “part-time” and receive health care benefits at this time.

4) I have a husband who has a Master’s level education, who works two part-time jobs in two separate non-profit organizations, neither or which offer health insurance coverage.

So, last night when I cut my foot, I was prepared to pay out of pocket for the three or so stitches that I needed. Because I have performed this procedure myself on others, I knew what was required would be minimal—wound cleaning, local anesthetic, and three simple sutures. I called a local clinic which had no open appointments. They recommended me to another clinic which did not offer the procedure. They recommended that I go to the emergency room.

I was not prepared to spend more than $500 by going to the emergency room or an urgent care facility. I also did not want to wait hours in a waiting room for such a minor injury. Nonetheless, I called a local emergency room (the one at the hospital where I was employed) and asked how much it would cost for my treatment. As expected, they were not able to tell me. In the end, I cleaned my wound with soap and water, sent my husband to the drug store to buy some super-glue, then super-glued my wound closed (which is a treatment commonly used for wound approximation by health care providers in case you were wondering) and took some ibuprofen for the pain.

I am sorry to keep going on with this story, but it is one you must know! My husband and I are educated individuals who currently live on a tight budget. We are model citizens who vote, volunteer our time to community organizations, work for a living, pay our bills on time, and live simply. If we are in this situation, I can only imagine what it is like to have children, to be an immigrant with few rights, to be uneducated and have no hope of getting out of these current circumstances.

Do something about the current state of our health insurance system.

  • Start by mandating health insurance coverage for all individuals in Washington State.
  • Standardize state-wide costs for services so that individuals can easily know what cost will be incurred when seeking health care.
  • Mandate improved health insurance coverage for 18-30 year olds that more suitably meets there needs—contraceptive care, health maintenance, minor injury protection.
  • Stop health insurance companies from providing health insurance that does not provide any useful services.


Sally said…
Well, firstly, congratulations on passing your exam. That's a great achievement, and I'm sorry your celebrations were marred not only by your injury but the inexcusable anguish that accompanies such a thing in your country. As ever, I'm impressed by your not taking it lying down. And, as ever, I miss you terribly.
Tim Mathis said…
I had to talk Angel out of stitching it up herself.
dave paisley said…
Sorry you had such a minor, yet painful mishap.

However, your solutions are all in effect elsewhere in the world and still provide horrible health care, for the most part.

I think the only way to force the medical industry (insurers, providers, etc.) to provide decent care is to disentangle health insurance from jobs. Period. It used to be a way for employers to induce people to work for them, but what has happened over time is that the insurers have large, easily managed pools of clients and individuals get left out because, for the insurers, they are just too much work for too little return.

If the insurers had to market plans to individuals only, it would force them to offer a variety of plans that people would be able to choose from. Competition and the power of the marketplace would work wonders.
Tim said…
Hi Dave,

Thanks for the comment. I hope all is well down South. I agree with you that you have to dis-entangle health care from jobs. On principle it's just insane that you should need to be working (or a child or elderly) to be covered for insurance. However, I really don't think there's purely a market fix (i.e. marketing to individuals rather than businesses). It might be part of the solution, but as long as healthcare is treated as a product, rather than a right, there will be some that are left out of the loop.

You've probably picked up on my (and Angel's) disagreement that horrible healthcare is the end result of her proposed policy/nationalized healthcare/a strongly regulated private health care industry. We experienced a better system living and working in New Zealand for two years, and all statistics suggest much better across the board/societal outcomes from the variety of options used by other developed nations (and some non-developed) than the market-driven model followed in the US. I don't think it makes sense to reinvent the wheel on this one, and there are good healthcare system models that we could put in place, at either a state or national level, that would produce better across the board results. Google Stephen Bezruchka, who's great on this.

Shayne Mathis said…
Back in 2006, when I still worked at Target, I was helping the manager build shelving units in the stock room and one of them collapsed and fell on me. Somehow I managed to escape serious injury but my finger got sliced open pretty wide and was bleeding like crazy. I also got drilled in the head by several large pieces of wood shelving. To top it off I passed out and hit my head against something when I was in the bathroom cleaning myself up.

At the time I had just graduated from Wright State and didn't have health no hospital visit for me either. I wish I had of known about that super glue trick, I just duck taped my finger up and tried not to fall asleep that night.

It didn't occur to me to write a letter to my senator but I did drive to Gov. Strickland's house and leave a jack-o-lantern with a knife in it on his front porch. There was also a note saying, "Give me health care or else!"

I really feel like it's that kind of grass-roots lobbying that will ultimately bring the issue of universal health care to the forefront of political discourse.

P.S. That sucks about Angel's foot. I hope she's doing better.
Chef Wes said…
Amateur. Wear some proper shoes in the kitchen. Sheesh.
sally said…
I was sure at the start of the story, that it would have concluded with her stitching the thing itself. Either way, the story could have been enhanced with visual imagery! Or perhaps I'm secretly pleased that this wasn't the case.
Katherine said…
Wandered in here from Kelvin ... Did the politician (or his secretary) respond? Is it healing ok?

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