Your Smiles Make Me Smile

If you really want to get the most out of my blog, it's best to start with the first post written in July to the present since some blogs refer back to earlier posts; but any order is just fine... Thanks for visiting! Now scroll on down to the good news! ~Renae~

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


This is not to express favor or disfavor over Obama Care nor to have this be construed as a political statement.  I understand that for every pro, there is a con, and for every opinion, there is at least one equally valid contrary opinion.  This is only my experience.

While sitting in a political science class last year desperately trying not to yawn, the instructor began to talk about “Obama Care.”  I felt the heat rise quickly in the room.  The class of at least 100 students was after all, divided straight down the middle politically.  I don’t need to tell you that I am a professed tree-hugger, a save the world one person at a time type of girl.  This is not because I understand all the layers of politics, I don’t.  I simply wear rose colored glasses where in my perfect world, the hungry would be fed, the cold would be warmed, and those of us with lousy medical coverage or none at all would have options.

The instructor asked, “If I turned the heat up to 80, how many of you would be uncomfortable?” A few raised their hands.  “If I turned the heat up to 90, how many of you would be uncomfortable?”  More raised their hands.  “If I turned the heat up to 150, how many of you would beg me to turn it down?”  Everyone in the room raised their hands.  “Politics is about how our own lives are affected at any given time.  If you have great health coverage, you are comfortable.  If you have cancer and no health coverage, you are uncomfortable.  We assess our own needs and make determinations primarily on how comfortable or uncomfortable we or the people we love are at any given time. This is how politics works.

Thinking about my own life, I had to agree, I was not comfortable. Having been self-employed most of my life, I always paid for my own health insurance.  I had the best plan/PPO available.  I was young, the premiums were low.

And then I got old…or in the world of health care, I became a liability instead of an asset.  After my hysterectomy, my health care rose from $250 to $460 per month.  I looked elsewhere, but because of my earlier health problems, I became uninsurable.  Even Kaiser wouldn't touch me. In the world of cherry picking, I was no longer a cherry.

I looked at the situation logically, but saw none. They took out my uterus and cervix, removing the possibility of ever having cancer in either, and then considered me a “high” risk. I have never even had cancer.  My amazing insurance plan still billed me $6,000 in co-pays for that surgery alone; before they deemed me "high risk."   Lucky for me, I got out of the hospital in record speed because I knew for each day I would have to pay an additional $500.  “My Goodness, I have never seen a patient recuperate so quickly after a hysterectomy.  I’m letting you out a day early” my OBGYN stated in awe of my superwoman recovery.  Did I mention that I am a good little actress? By my standards, I got paid $500 for that performance.

Shortly thereafter I realized I had to change my health plan.  I could no longer afford the hysterectomy payments and the $460 premiums each month.  I eliminated every perk and reduced my plan to a $225 bare bones plan (i.e. no doctor visits, no mammogram, no anything unless you have something as serious as cancer and are hospitalized); which meant, I wouldn’t lose my house if I was staring at serious illness or facing death.

Then came time for my yearly mammogram.  I cannot even begin to count the friends and family members that have gone through the hell of breast cancer; some of whom have died, and many who have suffered single or double mastectomies, chemotherapy, radiation, and emotional and physical scars from this disease.

Under the circumstances, one would think that getting a mammogram would be as easy as a flu-shot; a no-brainer.  But no, it didn’t work that way; not for me anyway.  I found a lump.  I was scared. I called my OBGYN for a referral; the one that was paid a lot of money to take out my uterus.  She wouldn’t give me a referral without a doctor’s appointment, which would cost $125.00.  I didn’t have extra money laying around and thought the need for a referral was ridiculous.  Luckily, after hours of research and “sorry you’re too young for a free one, sorry you aren’t on welfare, sorry….” I found out that Alta Bates Medical Center gave free mammograms, so I made an appointment.  Once I got there, they said they were sorry, but they neglected to tell me I did in fact need a referral first.  I called my doctor's office from the waiting room.  “No" said the clerk, "You have to come in for a referral maaaam. ” There was no empathy in her voice. I called again, humiliated.  “I can’t afford to go in…Isn’t there any way…” she cut me off at the pass. “No. You have to come in!”  Wait a minute, this is my doctor.  The doctor who I have intimately trusted over the years with my vagina, and she was denying me something as basic as a mammogram referral? Maybe I was unreasonable, maybe I don’t understand the rules of medical ethics, but I was mad as hell. This is what people go through every single day for something so basic as preventative healthcare.  And so I pulled a Renae.  I yelled, I tried to intimidate, I pleaded, I threw out legal terminology with reckless abandon, that may or may not have been accurate, I even pulled out the big guns and threatened "If I die of breast cancer because I can't afford a mammogram, she will have to live with that!" I was shameless…to no avail.  "Sorry maam, I can't help you."

I sat in the lobby of the Alta Bates Medical Center with head in hands and sobbed like a two year old, snot and all. In my world of fairness, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, this was neither of the above.

I then did what I always do when I’m having a meltdown; I called my cousin Becky.  Becky can fix anything; she is like the miracle worker.  Once I got past the point of nonsensical babbling and could actually form comprehensible words, Becky responded with the usual…. “Oh! I can fix that!” And so she proceeded to call one of our very dear non-family but like family members who just happens to be a surgeon.  I won’t mention his name just in case there is some ethical “bad” thing about giving someone a referral for a mammogram without seeing them and taking their life savings, so I’ll just call him “John.”  Well this dear man “John” who we have adopted as part of our family couldn’t fax a referral fast enough.  Within ten minutes I was having my boobies smashed and flattened into the machine with a smile on my face.  I got my mammogram, wiped my tears, and was much relieved to receive positive results in the mail.

Another year has passed and it’s time for yet another mammogram.  There is one difference, however.  A few months back I called Anthem to change my plan.  “You can’t” they said, “You have the cheapest plan available to any living human or dog on the planet." And so I said “Well….what happened to the Obama Care plan?”  “Oh, you don’t want that plan” the salesman said adamantly.  “Well, my plan really isn’t doing me any good.” Not easily appeased I replied “Tell me the difference in plans.”

You know when commercials try to sell you something and then at the end the volume falls a few decibels lowers and they speak martian-like fast while disclosing the potential problems. ”Side effects may include nausea, vomiting, headaches, blindness, earaches, runny nose, jock itch, diarrhea, armpit body odor, toenail fungus, seizures, and even death.”  Well that’s basically what I got.

“The plan would cost you $25.00 less per month and offer fifty preventative care visits at no charge, including but not limited to colonoscopies, mammograms, and two doctor visits per year at a $40.00 co-pay…”  Did he just say “Mammograms? Doctor visits?  $25.00 less per month than the plan I have now? “Why wouldn’t I want that plan?  “Well maam, this is in the courts you know and could be technically repealed  Without further ado, I took the plan.  I bit the apple. I bought into Obama’s be damned health plan.

On Wednesday, I am going to Alta Bates for my yearly mammogram, no charge, no prescription needed.  And since I just turned 50, it is time for a colonoscopy; which is also covered.  All I needed was to have the heat turned down.

Now ladies, if you haven’t gotten your mammogram this year, for all of those who have died, lived, suffered, walked the miles, raised awareness and money for research…please let it not be in vain.  They paved the road for the rest of us, it's up to us to take the next step; that's the least we can do.  Make that appointment and get your mammogram.

If you can’t get a referral, just call my cousin Becky; she can work miracles.

Sweet Dreams and Always GOOD Dreams,

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