Some time back, I went from being employed with medical insurance to self-employed. In my innocence, I began shopping for health insurance. It didn’t take long to find out that I am uninsurable due to a pre-existing condition. So, I took COBRA from my former employer. That’s good for 18 months. I’m on my way to being one of the “have-nots” of what people tell me is the “best health care system in the world.”

Part time, I work in a psychiatric hospital (no health care benefits). I assess patients to decide if they need to be hospitalized. Seventy to 80 percent of the people who walk through the door are on Medicaid. Let me tell you about one who wasn’t. I’ll call her Betty.

Betty was a 30-something woman who came to the hospital because she was depressed and could not shake it off. She was also “unfunded” (uninsured) as we say in the hospital business. If Betty had needed immediate hospitalization, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act would have required us to admit her or transfer her to a free, state-run facility. She didn’t. She needed to be evaluated for medication and possibly an intensive outpatient program. If Betty had Medicaid, she would have been entitled to both, and your tax dollars would pay the bill. I tried to find an intensive outpatient program that would take her and ended up giving her some lame words about going to a free clinic for a medication evaluation. She thanked me.

Here is the part that makes me angry. Betty was employed, but with no benefits. She pays taxes. Her taxes help to fund Medicaid and Medicare so that other people can get the health care she is not entitled to. Does anyone else think that’s just wrong?

People who are insured through inexpensive group plans – those who are over 65 (Medicare) and those who are low-income (Medicaid) – have access to the “best health care system in the world.” People who oppose health care reform are saying, “I’m covered. Too bad for Betty.”

Charles Hughes
Oak Park

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