Last Friday, just before we sat down to dinner, we learned that we had missed the window for enrolling Owen in our health insurance and would be unable to do so until open enrollment and unable to cover him until 2009. This was entirely our fault. As I sat there, trying to force myself to eat, trying not to panic or cry, I just kept looking down at Owen asleep in my lap and thinking how he was barely a month old and I had already failed him in such a spectacular manner. I was terrified - what if something horrible happened? What if he got sick or hurt and we ended up bankrupting ourselves with medical bills because we hadn't gotten off our asses to fill in a form on time? What if he was just a little sick and I decided not to take him to the doctor because I didn't want to have to pay for it and it turned out he was more than a little sick and I made him worse because I was worried about the money? What if he was turned away from a hospital or refused something he needed because he didn't have insurance?
Because it had never been an issue for me, it took me a while to realize that you can just buy health insurance. So I got online. I figured we would just get a policy to cover anything catastrophic and pay everything else ourselves. But most of those policies only cover 80%. And when I pulled our claims for Mia I found that some of her well baby visits run close to $300, and the very minor medications she has taken have at times hit $150 a month. So we decided we would buy a comprehensive policy to the tune of $300 a month.
It turned out that we were able to get Owen added to our current coverage, and I assure you we were hugely relieved. And while I would have been unhappy to pay $300 a month to cover Owen on top of the substantial amount we already pay to cover the rest of us, we would have been able to pay it. We would have been able to pay it and still pay the mortgage and buy groceries and gas and Mia would still have had ballet lessons and gone to preschool and we even would probably still have ordered the occasional pizza and gone on the occasional date. That ability is partly due to hard work, but not entirely. Lots of people work hard and can't afford health insurance for themselves or their children. It also has a lot to do with luck, and privilege.
I'm not entirely sure what my point is here, except that it was a new and unpleasant experience for me and I intend to remember that feeling of fear and helplessness very clearly so that I may stop taking my privilege for granted.