I gulped as I recalled shaving three pounds off my aging frame’s girth when the stranger on the phone asked for the last four digits of my Social Security number, my height and weight.
Paul and I had been the lucky ones, covered by health insurance through a group IBM policy, but earlier in the fall, change came in the form of a company letter. No more supplemental policy. Instead, a small savings account, split between retirees and their spouses, to help pay for health care costs over the coming year.
IBM had also enlisted an agency to walk us through a web of health care insurance offerings, to help us choose prescription drug policies.
Paul, an IBM retiree, spent hours comparing policies, poring over premium costs, reading the fine print on deductibles and vision coverage. He chose a health insurance group and waited for our telephone appointment with an agency representative.
Turned out the agency handling IBM retirees’ needs did not offer health care coverage from the company Paul preferred. We were back to square one.
Three hours later, the pounds I had shaved off my weight were making their way home. The phone conference lasted so long, I made return visits to the kitchen, cutting slices of chocolate chip pumpkin bread to eat while I listened to health care policy options.
Later in the week, I had a call from the prescription benefits company, offering me a hearing impaired phone line if I needed it and a start date, Jan. 1, 2014, with their group, along with the name of an in-network pharmacy.
It made me long for the days of Dr. Culpepper, the pharmacist at the one drug store in my small home town. “Dr. C”, as he was called, had the patience of Job and his own mortar and pestle.
When my mother let me tag along for prescription fillings, (few and far between), “Dr. C.” sweetened my medicine dread with the promise of a chocolate soda.
I’ve been taken down a notch or two as health care insurance orphans tell their stories on nightly news programs. Though their former policies have been canceled and new ones are more expensive, they end their tales of disappointment by voicing support for better health care coverage for all Americans.
I’m working on altruism, but right now, I want our dental coverage back and the vision plan, too!
Yet, more than one-third of decent, God-fearing people in this country did not have the option of doctor visits, prescriptions filled or illnesses treated last year because of health care costs.
The United States has lagged behind most of the world’s industrialized nations in universal health care coverage, and only Canada has a worse reputation for length of time patients wait to see a doctor or nurse.
A recent study found less than half of America’s patients could wrangle a same day or next day appointment with a doctor.
What Paul and I have cobbled together as health care insurance is not the comprehensive policy we had before the new IBM dictates.
So, from now on, we will be flossing with fervor, slathering on sunscreen, hoping a few longevity genes balance the wear and tear time has visited on us.
The Affordable Care Act has had a rocky debut, but its basic tenets protect those with pre-existing conditions, set limits on patients’ costs and ride herd on policies, fudging on coverage, due those insured.
The uninsured number in the millions. Once, I watched a man walk away from a pharmacy counter because he could not afford to pay for medicine, prescribed by his doctor. I remind myself of the limits of his life when I’m cranky and tempted to whine over our health insurance changes.
Judy Elliott is an award-winning columnist from Marietta.