Have you called your senator today?

June 29, 2017

HELP!

In the chronic illness community, there seem to be two groups of people:

  • People in the U.S. who are terrified of losing their healthcare or of it becoming completely unaffordable.
  • People outside the U.S. who are wondering what the hell is wrong with us.

These are some scary times.

If you don’t know what’s going on, here’s the basic summary. Our political system has become incredibly divisive. It’s been divisive for a long time, but there are no longer congresspeople working with folks from the other party. Politicians go out of their way to hurt the other part just for the sake of hurting them. Even if politicians from different parties agree with each other in private, they won’t do it in public.

When Obama became president, the Republicans vowed to do whatever it took to prevent him from being reelected. But he was reelected. Still, they could destroy everything he had accomplished. For 7 years they talked about repealed the healthcare plan he put into place. They talked big. And then the day came when they had to actually do what they’d said.

So now here we are with a Republican-majority congress and a Republican president. They have no excuse for not repealing Obama’s healthcare plan. The thing is, they suddenly realized that wasn’t so easy to do. People like it! They use it and rely on it! They need it.

But after talking big, the Republicans can’t just say, “Oops, turns out we can’t come up with something better that will make our richest supporters happy, so we’ll just keep what we’ve got.” No, they have to get rid of it. And the plans they have been coming up with instead are cruel.

Yes, cruel. That’s no exaggeration. The House’s plan would cause 23 million people to lose health insurance. The Senate’s plan would cause 22 million people to lose health insurance. Preexisting conditions could cause your rates to skyrocket. A “preexisting condition” could be anything from cancer to lupus to migraines to pregnancy.

The Senate’s plan would remove access to free birth control, abortions, and maternity coverage. That’s right. So you won’t have any monetary help avoiding pregnancy, ending a pregnancy, or getting medical treatment during a pregnancy, never mind actually giving birth to a baby. Cruel.

Both plans cut billions – yes, BILLIONS – of dollars from Medicaid. Medicaid is the government-run healthcare program for the poor and disabled. You know, the folks who most need the help.

As for “regular” folks with jobs and steady incomes, they’re safe, right? Not really. Predictions are that their premiums, deductibles, and co-pays will go up, even while the covered services (like contraception, abortion, and maternity care) are reduced.

So who benefits? The rich will get huge tax breaks. Insurance companies will also save money.

Um…. Yeah, I’m usually speechless at this point. For about a minute. Then I start yelling again.

Remember, these bills are hugely unpopular. But they can still pass. Because the Republicans would rather do something unpopular than nothing at all.

As for me, I currently have two different health insurances. My primary insurance covers 80% of each bill and the secondary insurance – Medicaid – covers the other 20%. If any of these bills pass, I will likely be able to keep the primary insurance, but there will be limits placed on it, so it won’t cover as much as it does right now. There aren’t any details yet. I don’t know if it will still cover the CPAP-type machine that I need for my sleep apnea, the many doctors’ visits, the blood tests, or the MRIs.  I would lose the secondary insurance. I might or might have access to other secondary insurances that I could pay for myself. Right now, those cost about $250 per month – money I don’t have available. But that’s right now, and those prices will go up under these new Republican plans. How would I pay for it?

Shit.

This is bad. Horrible. Catastrophic.

Cruel.

So what can you do? I’m so glad you asked! Here’s what you can do:

  • If you are in the U.S., call your Senators! Tell them to vote against these bills! Tell them you want to keep the Affordable Care Act just the way it is. If you can’t call, send an email. Their contact information is right here: https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/
  • If you are in the U.S., call other Senators! There are many who are on the fence, and we need them with us on this!
  • No matter where you are, ask your friends in the U.S. to call their Senators!
  • Post about this on social media. We need awareness! Too many people don’t realize what’s happening or how it might affect them. And that’s a problem. On the other hand, if the 22 MILLION – that’s 22,000,000 people! – all called their Senators, and each got a friend and/or family member to call also, there’s no way the Senators would vote for this. They wouldn’t want to risk losing the next election, after all.
  • [Edited to add on 7/5/17:] Attend any town halls that you can and make your voice heard! These town halls have a HUGE impact, not only in the media, but on the senators themselves. If they get a lot of feedback at these town halls, they might very well switch their votes to be against this heinous bill.

I’m sure my Facebook friends would be sick of my myriad posts on this subject if so many of them weren’t also concerned. Many are in much worse situations than me. Some are just as disabled, but will lose ALL of their health insurance coverage if this passes, and they don’t have any savings to manage without it.

Remember, 22 million people will lose health insurance if these bills pass. But how many of those 22 million will survive? Because people will die. That is a fact. And while I have no doubt that history will prove me right on this matter, I don’t want to be right. I want to be alive. How about you?

What are you waiting for? If you feel up to it, take 5 minutes RIGHT NOW to call your Senators, call other Senators, ask your family and friends to call Senators, and post on social media. Because unless we take action, millions of people will lose access to healthcare.

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How bureaucracy continues to screw with me for being disabled

May 31, 2017

Remember this post from a year and a half ago when I was told I was nearing the top of the waiting list for Section 8? Well, a year and a half later I found out they were just screwing with me.

The other day I was thinking about what I would do if I suddenly got Section 8. At this point, it would make a huge difference. I could stop trying to work, and stop feeling overwhelmed all the time. I could actually cover almost all of my expenses. I could focus more on my health. Good things, right?

The last time I asked about my Section 8 status I was given vague non-answers. A year and a half ago they said I was near the top of the list and I spent hours filling out paperwork, some of which they lost, and I had to redo. A few months later they had me do more paperwork with my financials for the latest year. And then I heard nothing.

I checked in a few times, but they didn’t tell me anything.

After thinking about how helpful it would be, I decided to try again. I recently moved, so I called the housing office in my new town. I learned a few important things:

  1. When I signed up the waiting list was 4-5 years long. Now they’re saying it’s 10 years long.
  2. Because I moved, I’m no longer going to get a voucher from my old town. I mean, it’s allowed, but it won’t happen. Every town gives priority to people who live and work in that town. So my new town will give me priority over others, but of course, a lot of people are ahead of me on that list.
  3. I have another 2-3 years to go. Maybe more.

The woman I spoke to was confused as to why I was brought in to fill out paperwork. She said I was far too low on the list for that. And that was yesterday. I was obviously much lower on the list a year and a half ago!

This means a few things to me:

  1. Filling out that paperwork was a waste of my time.
  2. Filling out that paperwork was a waste of the housing office staff’s time and therefore money. Certain politicians say that people like me are wasting taxpayer money. Nope, not me. Believe me, I’d have rather not done all that work for nothing! The office wasted the money.
  3. I have no chance of getting Section 8 any time soon so I have to continue to try and earn money myself.

This sucks. A lot. At a friend’s urging, I will contact my state rep, and maybe my U.S. rep, to see if they can find out what’s going on. The thing is, they might find out, but I doubt it will help me.

I was jerked around. I was given false hope. And there is no discernible reason for this other than incompetence.

I am so sick and tired of poor and/or disabled people being screwed with and disrespected. This has to STOP!


One thing we can do to save healthcare

May 19, 2017

I’m keeping this short, because today is a recovery day. It’s a recovery day for many reasons, and one of those is because I spent a lot of energy talking to a senator’s aide yesterday about the state of healthcare in our country and where it’s headed.

Obviously, this is a hard topic to discuss. It’s complicated and scary and very personal. He said a lot of things that I found unhelpful and uninteresting. But then he said some other things that could make a difference. One of those is this: senators’ staffs track all phone calls. Even from out-of-staters.

Some record them and list them all out. Others don’t. But even the ones who don’t know how many calls they’re getting and which way people are leaning.

This aide said they’re getting thousands of calls about healthcare, and not all from people in our state. Hmm.

So we should all call. State our case. We don’t have to say where we’re from up front. Say it at the end, so they listen to our content before they judge. It can be as simple as, “Hi, my name is ____ and I’m calling to ask you to vote against the AHCA. The Affordable Care Act allows me to keep my insurance (or whatever other benefit it provides to you) which keeps me alive (or any other benefit you receive.) Please vote to keep and improve the ACA. Do not repeal or replace it. I am from _____. Thank you.”

Or instead of talking about your personal experience, you can simply say that it will cost millions of people their healthcare, and that you don’t believe that is in the best interests of our country.

Easy. Simple. Fast.

Not sure who to call? There are 100 senators – 2 from every state. Start with the 2 in your state. Even if they are voting the way you want them to, they could use your support! You never know when a flood of calls from the other side might alter things, so please call and voice your support. Then work your way through the list. If you have friends or family in a state where the senator is on the fence or voting the other way, ask them to call, too.

You can find contact information for all of the senators here: https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/

Here are some senators in particular to call and encourage to vote against the AHCA.

The loss of healthcare is a difficult, scary, horrifying prospect. Let’s do all we can to make sure it doesn’t happen. Please take a moment to share this. You never know whose phone call might be the one to tip the scales.


The government is voting to kill us

March 15, 2017

On the one hand I don’t want this blog to get too political. On the other hand, how can I not discuss politics when the government is talking about taking healthcare away from millions of people!?

There is a lot I want to say, and I can’t say it all at this moment, but rest assured I will be back to discuss it another day!

For today I want to talk about this feeling that the government is trying to kill us, and how healthy, working people respond to that.

You see, I have said many times that the government is trying to kill us. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, look at that link above. Many healthy friends with jobs think it’s an exaggeration. Most of them will have health insurance through their employers. It might cost more, but they can make up the difference if they cut back in other areas. They hate it, but it won’t kill them.

And if they did lose their insurance, it would suck, but they could cough up the money for the occasional doctor visit or antibiotic. They would hate it, but it wouldn’t kill them.

Then there are people like me. I’m not nearly as well off as they are, but not as badly off as many of my other friends. Because most of my health conditions are pretty stable. If I miss a medication for a few months my health would decline, but I wouldn’t die immediately. I have savings and supportive parents who can afford to help me to a certain extent. We could find a way to cover my more basic health costs for many years. And maybe I would skip seeing the doctors who didn’t feel entirely necessary (though really, I try not to see doctors unless it’s necessary!) And hopefully, eventually, a new political party in office would fix things. We could cover the gap. Besides, I am likely to have some insurance coverage, even though it would be greatly reduced.

But then there are other friends of mine, not to mention the many strangers I have never met. These are people who do not have safety nets. They are more likely to lose their insurance altogether and they do not have the money to cover the costs. For these people, there will be no way to see a doctor or take a prescription. Even worse, many of them have illnesses that will quickly kill them.

These are limited examples, of course. I’m not getting into the many thousands who will become bankrupt and the many other thousands who will have to quit their jobs due to poor health.

These are horrible circumstances. Any reasonable person is upset by this. And then we remember…. our politicians are the ones who want to do this to us. A handful of people with high salaries and kick-ass health insurance (congresspeople have the best health insurance in the country) are deciding whether people like me will be able to see the doctors we need to see.

If you’ve been reading this blog from the beginning, then you know I was working when I started it. I hated to leave my job, but there was no way I could continue to work. I spent years fighting for the benefits I had paid for and deserved. It was a miserable road and I was horribly sick. Now, finally, my health is improving! It is not perfect by any means, but it’s so much better! I’m even looking for ways to start doing a little bit of paid work. This new health insurance situation could destroy that progress. It could stop me from earning any money at all. It could dash my dreams permanently, by making my health worse in a way I might not be able to recover from.

If that sounds dramatic, good! Because it IS dramatic! We are talking about taking away the ability for people to care for their health.

Healthcare should be a right, not a privilege reserved for the rich. But that is what the republicans in this country want. They want to give more money to the rich even if it means killing the poor.

They should be ashamed of themselves. They are voting to kill us.


When the government forces pain upon us

March 17, 2016

This week there was a difficult statement from the Centers for Disease Control. Well, difficult for people with chronic pain and their doctors.

There has been a lot of discussion around the use of opioids for treating chronic pain. It paints all users are addicts. It suggests that the deaths caused from addiction negate any benefit that might be gained from proper use of the meds. It suggests that there is no such thing as proper use. And so on.

For the record, I do not use opioids. I have tried them and have always found that they helped me very little and that their side effects were terrible. If they worked for me and didn’t have bad side effects then yes, I would use them every day if that meant living with less pain.

Also for the record, many close friends take opioids daily. They are not addicts. They take their medications responsibly. These medications allow them to do heroic tasks like shower, cook, and drive to medical appointments. Occasionally they can even do something fun, like have me over for a visit.

This week the CDC issued a guideline. This is non-binding, but it does usually have an effect on doctors’ practices. I won’t get into the details here, but they’re linked at the bottom of the article below. Suffice it to say, a bunch of people who don’t have chronic pain have decided that those with chronic pain don’t need opioids. Apparently Tylenol and Advil should be sufficient. In other words, they’re completely clueless.

I find this whole thing very upsetting. So on the one hand, I think it’s incredibly important to talk about it. On the other hand, I don’t feel qualified to properly and fully discuss it, and I find it upsetting to even try.

Here are just a few of my thoughts:

  • Lumping together all opioid deaths, including those from heroin use, is hurtful, hateful, and absurd.
  • How can they not be accounting for the increased suicide rate that will result from this? Do they not care, or do they not understand?
  • Do they really think people would take medications with terrible side effects if Tylenol and Advil (which aren’t harmless, by the way!) really worked?
  • Do they have any idea how many different things pain patients try? Do they know how many more things we would try if insurance covered them? I have such a list of things I would do if I only had the money and the energy!
  • Have they not considered that maybe, just maybe, limiting the use of legal drugs will lead to an increase in the use of illegal drugs?
  • If the concern is addition, why not work to prevent and treat addiction? Studies have made it clear that this won’t help.
  • Where is the compassion?

I want to say so much, but I don’t have the words. So here are some reactions I want to share. At the bottom of that article is a link to the CDC guidelines.

The chronic pain community put up a good fight and lost this round. But the fight isn’t over. I don’t know what will happen next, but I know that no one will be giving up!


How dare they!

March 8, 2016

Last year I got a surprising letter in the mail: I was coming up on the waiting list for Section 8! Section 8 is a housing program where the tenant pays up to 30% of their income in rent and the government pays the rest. This is huge!

Now, it’s not all great. Section 8 has strict rent limits that are very hard to meet. For example, in my town the rent would need to be no more than $1187 per month, including all utilities. I haven’t heard of a 1-bedroom apartment for so little in many years. Still, I figured it would be worth trying.

The waiting list for Section 8 can be 3-4 years. I’ve only been on the list for 2 years! Wow! So now it’s time to prepare, right? They need a lot of paperwork. Of course. I handed it all over.

Now, if you’ve ever applied for benefits in the U.S., you know how intrusive it can be. They want to know how much your income is. They want to know your spending on every little thing. They want your social security card, driver’s license, bank statements, copies of approval letters for all other benefits (because heaven forbid the agencies actually speak to each other!) and all sorts of other things. But I do it, because that’s how I’m sort of paying the bills right now.

I really hate handing over bank statements. There’s something about that which feels particularly intrusive and unnerving. But I did it. 12 months of bank statements. It took ages to print out all of the statements and white out the account numbers. Still, they showed which bank was mine, how much money I had, what I deposited, what I paid out, my name and address, etc.

And they lost them.

Yesterday I got a letter in the mail saying they needed my bank statements. I contacted the woman in charge of my case and she said she didn’t have them. I had her look again. She still didn’t have them.

What the fuck!?! They lost my bank statements for all of 2015!!

And now they want another copy. I know they want that copy before they’ll give me benefits, but is it worth it? Because honestly, I don’t know that it is. I’m not sure I’ll be able to use Section 8 anyway. And what if they lose them again? I was so unnerved that I didn’t even want to mail those statements, so I hand delivered them to the office. I really couldn’t have done more.

I’m not sure what I’ll do, but I know I’m pissed. And I’m going to let them know that. Because this is COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE!


Yes, I’m one of them

December 9, 2015

I was talking to some friends about some tough decisions I need to make about benefits. One of them said, more than once, that I might need them for a while, but those benefits aren’t meant for my “demographic.” They’re not for people like me. But the thing is, they really are.

I understand why she said it. We both grew up in middle class families in the same middle class neighborhood. We both went to college, then graduate school. We both got middle class jobs. We followed all the “rules” and now we’re supposed to have our happy middle class lifestyles. She is a stay at home mom. Her husband earns a very large salary. She has that middle class lifestyle.

I don’t.

There’s an idea that benefits are meant for other people. The people who aren’t middle class. The people who don’t have jobs. Well, as it turns out, that’s me.

Those benefits are for people with physical and mental illness. People who can’t work. Yup, me again.

People think they’re for people who are older. But they aren’t. They’re for people of all ages. Including people in their 30s like me.

My friend means well. She tries to understand. She is one of the only people in my life who knew me before I was sick, and she understands my health problems better than most. But she can’t accept that it’s permanent because she doesn’t want to. It hurts her to think of me in pain. I get that. I feel the same when someone close to me is in pain; I pretend it can’t be serious or permanent, even when it obviously is. That’s how she feels about me.

But it doesn’t change things.

So yes, I’m one of those people. The other ones. The ones who aren’t us. Except sometimes they are. Sometimes they’re one of us. Sometimes we’re one of them. It doesn’t matter if you grew up rich or poor or somewhere in between, whether you got advanced degrees or didn’t finish high school, you can be too sick to work. And when that happens, benefits like food stamps, Medicaid, and section 8 are helpful. Even when we don’t want them, we need them.

Like it or not, we’re one of them.


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