Healthcare for the Poor
The True Story of Not Having Health Insurance and Needing Medicine
Healthcare has been a hot button topic in this country for some time. What no one talks about, however, is what options are available for uninsured women who are trying to get adequate treatment for a common health issue.
First, let's take a moment to put it out there: most people have HPV (human papillomavirus). Vaccinating for it wasn't common when I was of prime age to get vaccinated. Anyone that has had sex has put themselves at risk, even if they used a condom, because it can effect areas of the skin not covered by a condom. So, real talk, HPV is way more widespread than anyone wants to admit. Since there is currently no way to test men for HPV, women disproportionately carry the burden of the stigma of having HPV. Men can have it and never know, which means they get to spread it around guilt-free. Women that get their pap smears regularly will know if they have HPV. What's even more fun is that it can hide in your body for years before making its presence known! That means it's 100 percent impossible to know who gave it to you, especially since mothers can pass it to their children through childbirth. So, treating women for HPV is something gynecologists have to deal with pretty regularly. But what are they treating women for? Genital warts. Plain and simple. Genital warts are caused by HPV. You can have HPV and never get warts, and you can have HPV for years before getting warts. Warts usually pop up when your immune system takes a hit, which is usually a result of stress and a poor diet. There, now that's been said.
Now let's tackle insurance coverage. Not all people qualify for the Marketplace insurance plans or Medicare. Sometimes an employer can offer insurance that is not affordable. If an employer offers coverage, that disqualifies you from the Marketplace options (This is all anecdotal evidence for how it works in my state). If you're a woman, you only qualify for Medicare if you are pregnant. This leaves a large portion of the population that makes too much for aid, but can't afford coverage without it. This portion of population must rely on low-income health services where you constantly have to prove you're poor and get no choice in your doctor and can spend hours waiting to be processed and then seen by a doctor. It's not ideal, but it is better than nothing, though not by much.
How does this effect women's health? In disturbing ways.
This is largely my own story and it isn't pretty. It's really hard to type this, but it's a disturbing story that I know isn't unique to me. Women everywhere are getting inadequate care because of money, and it isn't fair.
Today, I went to the low-income gynecologist to get a pap smear and to discuss treating my HPV (yes, warts popped up when I was super stressed during the semester). It took me an hour and a half to be handed a paper gown, but I finally got to meet my doctor. She came in, asked the routine questions, scraped my cervix for a pap smear, and looked at the infected area. She said she could prescribe a cream. I thought, Great, easy treatment. Then, she asked me if I had insurance, which I don't. That's when my treatment options took a surprising turn. She told me that I couldn't afford a prescription because it'll cost over $100. So, instead, she told me to treat my warts WITH CORNSTARCH. That it would absorb the moisture and stop them from spreading. It wouldn't make them go away.
I almost burst into tears when the conversation went in that direction. I'm a human being and I deserve to have a real option for effective treatment of a common and treatable issue. Instead of medicine, I was being offered motherfucking cornstarch. So, based on my availability of insurance coverage, I went from having a viable and effective treatment to being told to go into my kitchen and grab the same ingredient I use to thicken gravy. Are you kidding me? This is a doctor! She was supposed to be on my side! Cornstarch is not going to treat warts, but because I couldn't afford the $1,000/month for couples' coverage through my husband's work, I was being offered cornstarch in place of real medicine.
What would you do if you went in with a real problem that was easily treatable but instead of being offered that easy treatment, you were offered something from your own pantry? What would you do? You would probably go to a different doctor that day, right? But women like me don't have that option. I didn't choose her as my doctor. I ended up with her. And I have few options to get a different doctor because this was at my local clinic. Who am I supposed to call and complain to? What are they going to actually do?
So, how did this turn out for me? I insisted on getting a legitimate prescription. Want to know how much it cost? $36.40. That's a far cry from $100. I do understand that for someone who doesn't have it, it might as well be $100, but where are the options for people in real need? Medications are important. While I'm not going to die from my condition, there's people out there that are dying from lack of treatment. What many people don't know is that pharmacies have discount programs for uninsured customers because people need their medications. Yes, I am fortunate enough to have had an extra $40 to buy my prescription with, but not everyone does. It is unreasonable that my only other option, had I not had the money, was cornstarch. I mean, does brand make a difference there? Do I need to spend the full $3 for Argo brand or will dollar store quality be sufficient? This is unreasonable.
Healthcare is a right.
Medication is a right because it is part of that healthcare.
Poor people need real solutions, not old wives tales. This is 2018, not 1518.
The US needs universal healthcare.
Cornstarch is not a replacement for real medicine.