Wishing my health insurance covered the other things that help the pain

September 16, 2014

What my doctors say will help me (and I agree): massage, acupuncture, medical marijuana, physical therapy.

What my health insurance covers: opioids and other painkillers, physical therapy.

Does anyone else see a problem here?

I was thinking about this today during my massage. Technically, I can’t really afford it, but I’ve been trying to get at least two a year, using birthday and Chanukah money from my parents. I should put that money towards other things, like rent, but it just helps the pain so much!

My doctor wants me to get a massage at least once a month. My physical therapist wants me to get massages even more often than that. They each brought up the subject, not me. I never suggested it. But my insurance doesn’t cover it. So I pay $70 for an hour-long therapeutic massage, and I feel grateful that I can get that “cheap” rate. The massage therapist comes to my physical therapist’s office a few times a week and books up far in advance. She actually just added more hours to accommodate the growing demand. Yes, she plays the soft music and dims the lights. But she also keeps a detailed chart, applies the hard pressure I like, and manages to work out some of my always-present knots. She’s wonderful.

During today’s massage I thought about how frustrating it is that my insurance doesn’t pay for something that helps my pain so much. And then I dreamed about winning the lottery and hiring this woman to come to my home to give me a massage every week – oh, what heaven that would be! But back in the real world it just doesn’t work that way. And I know I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to get any massages at all. So many people can’t.

Still, how nice would it be if my so-called “health insurance” covered things that actually improved my health and my quality of life?!


When healthcare talk is traumatizing

August 24, 2014

I’ve been noticing a disturbing trend and I’m not sure what to do about it. It’s been brewing for a while, but a couple of conversations recently made me realize how problematic it’s become.

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First there was the conversation with a volunteer for one of the gubernatorial candidates. We were in a social situation, but when I asked about her volunteer work, the conversation turned to that. She started talking about his plan to make our state a single-payer healthcare system. I wanted to calmly explain why I didn’t think this would work. I remained mostly (but not entirely) calm on the outside, but on the inside I was boiling, thinking about the many injustices I have faced within the system and how the government certainly didn’t make it any better.

The second conversation was a few hours ago. A half dozen of us were hanging out after lunch, chatting. Then one woman asked us if we’d ever faced discrimination in healthcare due to our sexual orientation (we’re all bisexual.) This isn’t something I’ve experienced, so it was safe territory, right? But just hearing people talk about their experiences was very upsetting to me. It made me think about all of the similar experiences I’d faced that weren’t discriminatory, but were hurtful nonetheless. It made me want to share my own stories that were about healthcare, but that had nothing to do with biphobia. As they talked, I remembered incidents that I’d forgotten about. I thought about recent incidents that were still fresh.

And I got upset.

Again, I stayed mostly (but not entirely) calm on the outside, but inside I was simmering, ready to explode like a volcano. I wanted to yell, to cry, to ask for understanding, to plead for someone to help.

That’s not normal. It’s not healthy. I know it. But I don’t know what to do about it. I saw the warning signs of this many months ago and I starting looking for a therapist who had experience with chronic illness issues. But then I started having health insurance uncertainties, so I decided to hold off until they were settled. Well, they’re finally settled, but now I have a different problem. For personal reasons, I don’t want to see a therapist at one of the major hospitals. I would only see a private practice therapist. And private practice therapists generally don’t take medicare and medicaid for health insurance. And I can’t afford to pay out of pocket for someone.

The truth is, I probably should have been seeing a therapist before now anyway, but I’ve always managed to handle these things on my own. I tried therapy a few times and never got anything out of it. I’m pretty self aware, so I made do. But this is different. I don’t know how to handle the anger, frustration, fear, and desperation I feel whenever anyone talks about doctors, healthcare, or health insurance. Feeling these emotions about my own situation is bad enough, but I shouldn’t be feeling them whenever the topic is broached in a way that has nothing to do with me. I should be able to talk to a friend about their own medical condition without this kind of trigger response.

I just wish I knew how to make that happen.

What about you? Have you felt this way at all? Do you have trouble talking about other people’s medical issues? Do you know of any ways to get inexpensive mental health care in the U.S. or, even better, in Massachusetts? Please comment below and let me know about your experiences.


Sometimes health giveth, and sometimes health taketh away

July 26, 2014

My CPAP machine broke. It’s not the worst thing that has ever happened to me health-wise, not the worst by far, but it sucks.

For a long time, probably years, I had undiagnosed and untreated UARS. It’s a form of sleep apnea. And it sucks. Oh wait, did I say that already? Oops. Anyway, when I started using a CPAP machine several months ago, I noticed a difference very 2014-04-23 11.03.16quickly. Within a week I had more energy. Over time I found I was sleeping deeper and feeling better. I was even breathing better during the day!

That why I was so disappointed when my CPAP wasn’t working as well last month. I thought I needed a new mask (I probably did – they only last about 3 months.) Thanks to insurance issues, it took a while to get a new mask, but by then, the machine didn’t seem to be working well at all. The company that provides the CPAP said they’d reset the settings. Problem solved! Or so I thought. Basically, the damn thing seems to be broken.

The CPAP is under warranty, so I’ll get a new one on Monday. I have an appointment. But in the meantime, I’m a wreck. After the first few nights of poor sleep I was definitely more tired than usual, but I was still functioning fairly well. Then last night it hit me. I’m completely fatigued. It’s hard to breath. My throat hurts. Sitting up to read takes too much energy, and typing this is a Herculean effort. As soon as I hit publish, I’ll need to lay down. I feel like I’m coming down with the flu, but I know I’m not. I know I’m not because I used to feel this way when I slept especially badly in the pre-CPAP days.

Thankfully, I don’t have anything too big happening in the next few days. I had to cancel some plans today. Friends have graciously agreed to come to my apartment tonight so I don’t have to go out. I’d hate to miss out on tomorrow’s activities, but if I do, it’s not the worst thing. I just hope I’m well enough to drive to get the new machine on Monday!

And I’m thankful for my health insurance.

Let’s face it, health insurance in this country sucks. Today is a great reminder of how bad my health was before, and how bad it would be without the CPAP. Without insurance, I would never have been diagnosed with UARS, and I certainly wouldn’t be paying for the CPAP machine. Without insurance, my condition would just continue to deteriorate. I won’t even think about what would happen with all the rest of my health conditions. I’ve ranted about the politics around health insurance before (just check out the politics category if you’re interested) so I won’t do that right here, but for those of us fortunate enough to have at least some semblance of healthcare coverage, let’s remember how lucky we are. Let’s hope we remain so fortunate. And let’s pressure our politicians to make sure others can receive care as well. Because no one should feel so horrible when there’s a perfectly good treatment available.


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