The View From Your Sickbed

by Patrick Appel

A reader writes:

I have asthma -- I have since I was 7. Along with it, I have allergies and a host of other problems from taking steroids for so long when I was younger. I work in an industry that doesn't provide health insurance; you more or less have to work as a freelancer. If you've worked long enough, you can sometimes get into unions or guilds that help provide health care, but these also cost money to get into. I cannot find insurance that covers my pre-existing conditions, meaning that I spend almost half of my monthly income of $1600 on medical bills and insurance coverage.

And this is without anything catastrophic happening. I can't afford to take the medications that would really prevent my asthma from being a problem -- the daily inhaled medication that helps me most, Advair, would cost me nearly $300 out of pocket per month. So, instead of being able to spend that, I end up getting really sick a couple times a year and, if I can get the doctor to bill it as bronchitis, I can afford a nebulizer treatment every now and again.

I work full time, I'm not frivolous with my money, I can't afford to be. Surviving in LA on $1600 a month is a hell of a feat for people who don't have to pay medical bills, but it's enough that I don't qualify for any government assistance. If I didn't have to pay my medical bills, I'd be able to save or invest or look into starting my own business, but I have to work paycheck to paycheck because of a completely treatable disease that could be prevented from affecting my life if I could afford to do so.

It's pretty tough to be only 25 and face the fact that unless I am extraordinarily lucky, I can't afford to do anything but just get by. How will I be able to save up to retire? How will I be able to afford children? To travel? To take risks in my career? Yes, I have a chronic condition, but I'm not sick, I'm extremely smart and capable, why should my life be defined by something that is so minor?

I think people lose sight of the fact that good health is something that benefits everyone. If more people are healthy, more quality work can get done. If I could afford preventative care then I wouldn't lose the days I do when I get really sick. And it's like this for so many people with chronic conditions, asthma, diabetes, depression, the list goes on. People could be much more productive members of society if they could afford to treat themselves.