Adventures on Medicaid
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.