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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 1/4/11

I Am Uninsured and Scared

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On November 1, 2010 I officially joined the ranks of millions Americans who do not have health insurance. It never occurred to me a few short months ago that I was treading a slippery slope on the verge of losing my coverage. Having just turned sixty, it is disconcerting at this stage of life to suddenly lose one of the primary mechanisms of security and assurance that I need and have grown accustomed to.

How did this happen? I must say up front that my current precarious and vulnerable situation is partly due to my own misjudgment. I opted out of the coverage I had through my wife's job because they were suddenly and dramatically going up on everyone's premiums and deductible. I would have had to spend $9200 annually before I would see any real coverage. Being a typical American consumer, I was confident I could find a better deal by shopping around. Wrong!

My hurried research led me to the Tennessee Farm Bureau which offered a great policy and very affordable premiums. I confidently applied for this coverage before my other insurance expired. Being blessed with above average health for someone my age, I figured I was a good candidate for this policy. Wrong again! They reviewed my application and denied me coverage because I was treated for a small skin cancer in 2009, a benign polyp and moderate diverticulosis in my colon in 2008, and a kidney stone in 2010. They wouldn't even write a policy excluding those issues.

Many of the people I know are dealing with chronic health issues that require daily medications and ongoing treatments. I seem to be the exception. My cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugars are fine without any medications. My digestive system operates good since I increased the fiber in my diet. My cardiovascular and respiratory systems are great. I don't smoke and my wife and I have joined a gym to get in even better shape. I eat healthy and weigh approximately 140 pounds. I have no pain issues requiring prescribed drugs and I don't remember the last time I even needed any ibuprofen or Tylenol. I seldom ever catch a cold and I am not the kind of person who runs to the doctor every time I feel a little bad. I primarily want health insurance so I can have an annual physical and access to affordable healthcare if I absolutely need it.

Here's my current situation...we don't make enough money for me to afford a private policy if I can find one, we make too much for me to qualify for the VA and I am not old enough to qualify for Medicare. Yes, I dropped the expensive insurance I had, but I am never the less bewildered and outraged by the unaffordable, barely accessible and confusing landscape of healthcare in our nation. What happened to the promised public option in healthcare reform and why do I have to wait until 2014 before "no denials due to pre-existing conditions" kicks in? How exorbitant will premiums be by then?   Will opponents of healthcare reform overturn the few gains that have been made?   Will I have a health crisis develop before I regain insurance? How many more Americans are out there like me who are falling through the cracks?

It makes me sick, living in the most prosperous and powerful nation on earth, to find myself scrambling to regain access to an essential social benefit that is obtained cheap or free in almost every other country in the world. I should be considered a good candidate for health insurance because of my healthy lifestyle, current state of health and minimal medical history. I have to confess that I am anxious about how I will pay for a sudden health calamity if one were to arise. Isn't that what health insurance is supposed to be for? I am uninsured and scared.

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Gary Vance is an evangelical pastor/writer living in rural Tennessee. He is the author of "Wasn't Jesus a Liberal?" and other published essays.
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