Melissa Carter

Melissa Carter: Sticker shock and healthcare woes

We all have suffered through quite a few years of both successful and unsuccessful healthcare reform debate, but have you ever been without insurance and felt the real effects? I didn’t until a recent sales slip at my pharmacy sent me into quite a shock.

I received a kidney transplant in the fall of 2002. At the time, I was on The Bert Show and was fortunate enough to have good insurance that was slated to cover my surgery. But, a few weeks before surgery, Piedmont Hospital and my insurance company announced they were cutting ties with one another, and the date their current agreement would end landed on the day before my surgery.

The news was devastating. It was like a happy ending had been ripped from me after spending years in many doctors’ offices and undergoing testing, diagnosis and a year of dialysis. I voiced my frustration through tears on the air only to be contacted at home later that evening by an executive with the insurance company. She reassured me that previously scheduled procedures, like my transplant, would now be covered.

The anxiety of the whole experience left a bad taste in my mouth with insurance companies, but I was grateful the conflict ended in my favor.
Dealing with medical costs doesn’t end with the surgery. After a transplant, recipients must take several medications every day in order to keep the transplanted organ from being rejected by the body. Without them, we could very easily and quickly lose our lives. I knew those medications could be expensive, but didn’t realize the exact amount until the other day at the pharmacy.

After leaving Cox Media Group, I signed up for COBRA insurance to cover my healthcare until I get another full-time position. For some reason, however, there has been a stall in communication between Cox and my insurance provider to extend coverage, and my insurance card was deactivated. Having run out of medications, I was forced to purchase my pills out of pocket to the tune of over $2,000. And this is for only one month’s supply.

As I sit here filing my claim to get that expense reimbursed, I can’t help but wish those making decisions about how we secure Americans’ health went through similar experiences first. My story is mild compared to scores of people who have lost their jobs, credit, relationships and self-esteem from either recovery time or financial stress, or both. Anxiety does nothing to keep the body healthy, and should never be part of the process of healthcare. But it’s as if everyone involved, from insurance companies to hospitals to supply manufacturers, knows we patients are dependent on their services and thus can be easily taken advantage of. Somehow the term “care” doesn’t seem to fit in healthcare anymore.

Maybe we should deactivate lawmakers’ insurance cards unexpectedly to get the point across, since the healthcare debate is not one for the healthy alone.