Reading the news about the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which also includes defunding Planned Parenthood, is on my mind in a big way today.
When I was fresh out of college and working with elementary school students as an AmeriCorps volunteer nearly 10 years ago, I was pretty broke, but loving the work I was doing. There were few big downsides, though. The first was that since I’d never worked with kids before, I picked up ALL the kiddo germs (pink eye, so many terrible colds, multiple rounds of strep throat, the flu, etc.). Another downside: my health insurance wasn’t great and had a crazy high deductible.
No one ever wants to get sick, but it happens to all of us. What happens, though, when you get sick and don’t have enough money in your bank account to see a doctor? That’s stressful and demoralizing. As an AmeriCorps member, I made just enough money to live and pay expenses (and splurge on a weekly cinnamon bun at West End Bakery with my girlfriends). One time, upon leaving an urgent care with a really bad case of strep throat, I was told I needed to pay $214 — this was the cost of being seen by a grumpy physician’s assistant and getting a strep test to tell me what I already knew: I had strep and needed antibiotics. Well, I burst into tears. I did not have the money to pay. I know the folks working behind the desk were just doing their jobs, but they acted like I was a nuisance, when I was clearly sick and very upset. $214 was SO much money to me. Finally, I was told I could be put on a payment plan. And so I paid off my bill in $25 increments, which took around 8 months. Thankfully, I eventually learned of a low cost health clinic that made seeing a healthcare professional a lot less stressful for the most part; however, it was only open certain days of the week, so if you needed to see a doctor on a Wednesday, well, too bad.
But the point is… shouldn’t there be a better way? We all need health care. We all deserve access to health care so that we can get the help we need when we’re sick, as well as learn of preventative measures we can take to stay healthy. While not perfect, that is what the ACA is all about. It’s a start.
I also want to say that there was one thing that was never stressful for me during that time: routine gynecology visits and wellness checks. That’s because I went to Planned Parenthood where I was always, always, always treated with dignity, respect, and kindness. Going to Planned Parenthood was never stressful, and it never made me cry. I received great care and never had to worry about walking out with an empty bank account.
I don’t have much, but I can (and have) donated to Planned Parenthood.
And I have a voice to share my story. It’s one of many.