Apologies to those who saw a related post about this on another blog, or an older one on my blog; I just feel strongly enough about this to reiterate. I’m going to pause the examination of fantasy and writing and whatnot to talk for a moment about health care reform.
It’s directly relevant to the lives of working writers, if you’re wondering how this is on topic. Fulltime writers in America, or even those who work part-time or freelance, struggle as much as any artists to find affordable health insurance (something I’ve alluded to here before). There are any number of writers’ grants and loan programs, including the Science Fiction Writers of America’s Emergency Medical Fund, that are designed specifically to help ailing writers pay for unexpected medical bills. Why do you think such funds exist? Because so many American writers, even bestselling ones, are uninsured or underinsured.
Let me tell you a story. I’m in my thirties, generally very healthy, responsible. I’ve got health insurance, for which I’ve been paying about $300-$350/month through the Freelancers’ Union. Expensive, but bearable. Better than nothing. It’s provided by Blue Cross and Blue Shield. Anyway, I’ve got a family history of fibroids (Mom had a hysterectomy at about my age, though that was back in the Dark Ages), and some warning signs have appeared, so my doctor has recommended that I check annually to see if I’ve got them too. This usually means a sonogram (ultrasound), which I’ve now had for the past three years. No biggie. Last year I didn’t have any fibroids, and this year I’ve got small ones. Again, no biggie — nothing I need to do anything about, really. But if I do decide to do something about them, they’re easy to take care of with hormone therapy or something non-invasive, since I’ve caught them early.
This year, however, there was a big biggie — the insurance company refused to pay for the sonogram. Claimed the fibroids were a preexisting condition, despite me not having any on my last (less than a year ago) sonogram. Obviously it wasn’t a preexisting condition, but here was the problem: many health insurance companies routinely consider any significant health condition reported during the first 12-18 months of a new policy to be a preexisting condition. “Significant” means anything worse than a head cold, basically. So because I switched to new insurance when I quit my job to write books, and even though I’ve paid my premiums for almost a year, I’m not really covered. So now I have to pay $3000 for the ultrasound meant to keep me from enduring major surgery and years of possible followup complications. Meant to keep me healthy, really.
Which plunks me solidly amid the 25 million Americans who are underinsured — i.e., people who are paying through the nose for insurance, but are still up a creek if they get sick. If my fibroids become a problem — or hell, if anything goes wrong with my body in the next few months, until I’m out of this preexisting period — I’ll probably be on my own for treatment, which will land me in another statistical category: 80% of bankruptcies due to medical bills are filed by people who have insurance.
I’m fighting this, of course, so hopefully I can make them see reason. (Insert cynical laugh here.) But more importantly, I’m doing whatever I can to fight for decent health care in this country. In my opinion that means single-payer — but I’d be willing to put up with a public option too, so long as it’s not so watered-down as to be useless.
I don’t know you guys’ politics, and don’t really care. I can’t speak for the other Magic District dwellers; this is just me saying this. But I’m urging all of you who do care about health insurance reform to take action. Please, consider writing to your congressional representative in the House or Senate. Do this especially if you live in one of the states/districts whose Democratic politicians are opposed to health care reform, because politicians listen to their own constitutents more than they do people from elsewhere, and these guys are the main obstacle to fixing the system. Send the letter via snail mail for extra impact. And consider joining an organization that’s fighting for reform, like these guys.
Because — as many of you know firsthand — it’s awfully hard to dream up entertaining imaginary worlds when you’re worried about physical and financial survival right here in the real one.