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Adventures on Medicaid

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For my four years of college, I was enrolled on NYS Medicaid. I had no other insurance options, and found that I was eligible to go onto Medicaid while at a booth that they had set up in the lobby of my school, CUNY City College. At first, it seemed great – free healthcare by the state. I had been on Child Health Plus while I was in middle school and high school, eligible because my mother was permanently disabled. To my knowledge at the time, that program worked out well while I was on it. It wasn’t until later that I found out that she paid for most of my doctors and dentists out of pocket, because the doctors and dentists that accepted my insurance seemed as though they graduated last in their class.

Why am I writing this blog entry now? Under Obamacare, 16 million Americans are going to get forced onto their state’s Medicaid rolls, straining the already broken systems to their limits. My experience on Medicaid convinced me early on that socialized medicine is one of the worst things you can do to a society. I don’t want to make this a long entry, so I’ll give bullet points of my experiences on Medicaid.

  • When I first applied to Medicaid I had to prove my income was low enough to make me eligible for the program. I had an off the books job, and told them that. I was told to write a letter stating how much I made, and that was taken as proof that I was eligible; my word alone. There was no investigation of how I paid my rent, how I paid for school, how I paid to live.
  • When my family moved, I had to change my address. I took the subway down to the worst neighborhood in Brooklyn and waited for three hours. This is the bureaucratic tangle that people on Medicaid encounter anytime they want to do anything. In the waiting room I sat and read a book while children ran around screaming, women plopped their babies on my lap so that they could take smoke breaks, and people played rap music on their phones. When my number was finally called, I showed the woman at the counter my change of address form and a letter addressed to me at the new apartment. I asked the woman why it took so long (I had seen her filing her nails for an hour), and she responded “Why should I move faster? Do you see anyone watching me?” And she was right, there’s no accountability in the public sector, no reason to do one’s job better.
  • At a Medicaid dentist I was told that I had 14 cavities, a year after I had gotten a clean bill of health from another dentist. When the dentist left the room I asked his assistant how it was possible that 14 cavities developed in one year without my having experienced any pain. His assistant’s response was: “This place is a factory, and you have Medicaid. That’s a dollar sign on the top of your forehead.” This assistant had looked at my x-rays and done my cleaning minutes before, and assured his nervous patient that she didn’t appear to have a single cavity.
  • Stupidly, I returned to this dentist. It was the only one I could get an appointment with the next year when I was having tooth pain. Doctors and dentists that take Medicaid insurance have scheduling waiting lists sometimes for months, and it is next to impossible to get appointments even for emergencies.  The dentist filled the cavity, and I had to return twice to have the filling filed down, because chewing was giving me a migraine. A year later, I paid out of pocket for another dentist. I was told that this was the worst filling she had ever seen, and had actually made my cavity worse. I was a month or two away from having to get a root canal, and paid for the new filling out of pocket. It was the best $300 I have ever spent.
  • My junior year of college (2007) I worked 50 hours in four days. I’m not sure if that has anything to do with the case of vertigo I came down with at the end of one of my last waitressing shifts of that year. The emergency room was located in New Jersey, where I was attending Rutgers. The bill came to well over $1000 for a four hour stay with no tests and two IVs, one of which was just filled with saline to counteract dehydration. Three years later, I’m still fighting with Medicaid to pay the bill. While out of state emergency room visits are covered, everytime the hospital faxes the bill over to the Medicaid offices, it gets lost. I’ve spoken with half a dozen people over at the Medicaid offices, and one told me that the hospital would probably just give up sending bills after a while. They haven’t, nor should they. The Medicaid offices have so much paperwork coming in, and such incompetent employees that the hospital I went to isn’t getting reimbursed. It’s no wonder so few doctors and dentists accept this insurance.

My experiences on Medicaid have convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt that government has no business running healthcare decisions for any American, let alone most of them. Horror stories from people at Veterans hospitals, from people on Medicaid and Medicare are rampant, and my story is far from unique. I was horrified to see the health care law signed into law, and I support any House or Senate candidate willing to openly state their #1 priority is repeal, and nothing less. Most of America agrees with me, and I hope Washington is listening. If not, November is going to be quite the wakeup call.

Written by bethanyshondark

July 9, 2010 at 5:02 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

5 Responses

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  1. Interestingly, I actually enjoyed this blog post. I may not necessarily agree with you haha, but nice job!


    July 14, 2010 at 6:25 pm

  2. Bethany, would you be interested in speaking at a Town Hall in NJ on October 8, 2010 being held by a candidate for Congress who has pledged to repeal the Health Care Law. Roland Straten is in a tough race against a 14-year incumbent who claims to have written parts of the law. Worse yet, when asked by a senior citizen to explain the statements in the Medicare Actuaries report, arrogantly tells the man “That’s why I’m here and you’re there.” (its on u-tube). It is a Friday and would involve travel after sundown.

    Bobbi Joan Bennett

    October 4, 2010 at 4:09 am

  3. Ma’am, they can’t run the Government who in God’s name could possibly think they could run Healthcare?


    October 10, 2010 at 10:28 pm

  4. […] “conversion” involved directly encountering liberal policies. A previous post discussed my experience on Medicaid, and explains how it evolved into my opposition to state-run […]

  5. I lived in the UK for four years, 2001-2005, and used their National Health Care service as a resident alien, first as a student, and then on a parternship visa. Here in the US, I have always had BlueCross BlueShield coverage, first through my father (who was an employee of the State of Texas), then through my jobs (I worked at the state capitol during college and have been employed by a state university since returning to Texas in 2006). So I have the “Cadillac plan” that it’s now fashionable for conservatives to rail against. I suppose that, even though I have a master’s degree and work upwards of 50 hours a week for a comparatively low salary, I’m one of those lazy and entitled state employees.

    But, yes–I am lucky. I have $30 co-pays for doctor visits, can choose from a wide array of physicians who accept the state’s BCBS insurance, do not need a referral to see a specialist, get affordable prescriptions medications ($20 for three months’ of contraception through Medco by mail, for instance), and pay no monthly premium.

    And I would trade my current health insurance in a HEARTBEAT for the NHS.

    While living in the UK as a resident alien, I received FREE:

    -annual well woman screenings
    -routine visits for colds, infections, viruses, and other typical medical issues
    -monthly allergy medications
    -contraceptives (including condoms and the Pill)
    -biopsies (for abnormal pap smear results)
    -and an X-ray (I have a bad knee)

    I never had to wait more than two days for a non-urgent appointment, and most of the time I could get in within 24 hours. My NHS clinic was a two block walk from my house. I also made use of the free NHS hotline, which connects you to a nurse who can give advice on non-emergency medical issues. There were no bills. There was no hassle.

    I also saw my ex’s grandmother cared for in a public hospital in South Yorkshire until her death (she was 80 and died of natural causes some time after a catastrophic fall and multiple fractures), and the level of care was excellent.

    Throughout, I was paying 24% income tax, just like I am here (I am lucky, again, in Texas–we have no state income tax). Through my employer, I could’ve signed up for American-style, private health insurance to supplement or replace my NHS coverage, and I chose not to do so, because I was happy with the NHS. However, having a public, universal system does not prevent individuals from buying their own private insurance. In the UK, private hospitals ARE nicer and more private; but I knew very few people who felt the standard of care provided by private insurance was sufficiently better to necessitate buying any.

    The NHS certainly isn’t perfect (largely due to attempts by both the triangulating New Labour party and now the Tories to squeeze it dry to meet the costs of their American-backed wars and American-style Ponzi scheme, debt-based economy); but it’s still better than the very best private insurance here in the USA. Can you imagine living in a country where you never have to worry about being bankrupted by medical expenses? Where all children receive state-of-the-art care from birth? Where your medical decisions are really between you and your doctor, rather than you and a rapacious insurance company, or you and a politician, or you and a loan shark?

    Did you ever stop to think that perhaps the reason Medicare is so inefficient is because it’s underfunded and not a priority? Or that perhaps rightwingers purposefully underfund it so that they can point to it as a failure of “socialism”? Or that perhaps they have done the same thing to the public schools? All in service of their agenda to privatize everything, including people’s health–life and death? The health care “industry” is just that: a profit-making machine for its owners. It’s barbaric (as anyone from a civilized country with a working health care system can tell you), and it’s immoral.

    The problem with Obamacare is that it mandates that all Americans further buy into this corrupt system, further lining the pockets of the insurance companies and pharmaceutical industry. There’s a reason universal single-payer was never part of the discussion, and there’s a reason the insurance industry is largely happy with Obamacare. While getting rid of “pre-existing conditions” and lowering some costs will provide real, tangible relief to millions of sick, struggling Americans, It doesn’t go far enough. We need universal health care. Now.

    So there’s my anecdotal argument to counter yours. You wouldn’t have the hassle of fighting with Medicare or insurers if healthcare was a right that everyone enjoyed. That’s the real answer, not making it a luxury for the wealthy few.


    April 10, 2012 at 9:39 am

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