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Student couple caught in health insurance crisis

December 18th, 2009 Posted in Arts and Life

By Blaze Bullock

LOGAN–Living in a small, one-bedroom apartment, 24-year old Utah State University student Daniel Ryan suffers from bipolar disorder and a shoulder that can dislocate at any time. Bipolar is a very broad mental illness. It can be very minor or very severe. Daniel’s bipolar disorder is more in the middle. Without medication, his mood fluctuates greatly. He struggles to feel happy, gets upset over the smallest of things and at times feels suicidal. However, by taking the medication he needs, his moods and thoughts are the same as any other human being’s moods and thoughts.

When Daniel got married last May, he was dropped from his parents’ insurance because he was no longer a dependant. He and his wife, Elisabeth, searched for health insurance to no avail. Ten different health insurance companies have rejected him because of his pre-existing conditions, Daniel said. He and his wife also can’t get Medicare because they’re too young or Medicaid because Elisabeth makes too much money to qualify, but she doesn’t make enough to pay for all of Daniel’s medical expenses and her employer doesn’t provide medical benefits of any kind.

“Because his medical records show a diagnosis of bipolar, it was like they (the insurance companies) wouldn’t even talk to you,” Elisabeth said.

Daniel qualifies for student health insurance through USU. However, the university’s insurance is so bad that it wouldn’t cover most, if any of the things, he needs, Elisabeth said.

“I don’t know if you’ve looked at school insurance,” Elisabeth said. “It sucks, bad! It wouldn’t even cover his prescriptions, wouldn’t cover his shoulder for two years.” Daniel has separated his shoulder many times and had surgery to repair it last January. Despite the surgery, he has continued to have shoulder problems, separating it three times, including once in August while wakeboarding and another time just getting out of bed.

Initially, after he reinjured his shoulder, Daniel and Elisabeth thought he needed another surgery to fix his shoulder. The estimated cost to surgically repair his shoulder was around $15,000—a sum they’d have to pay with their own money, because no insurance company will insure him. They’re currently paying $100 a month for his bipolar medication–a price substantially larger than the $8 a month he paid to refill his subscription when he had health insurance.

There are about 41 million Americans without health insurance, according to World Socialist Web Site (wsws.org). With unemployment numbers rising, more people are losing their health insurance through their work while also losing the ability to pay for it because they don’t have a job anymore.

According to recent NBC/WSJ polling, about 48 percent of Americans are in favor of some kind of public option run by the government while 42 percent of Americans are not in favor of it. Congress has been working on passing some health care reform to provide health care for the millions of Americans that don’t have it. For months, Congress has vacillated on its ideas and proposals on health care reform. On Nov. 6, the House of Representatives passed a health care reform bill. The bill needed 218 votes to pass and got 220 while 215 voted against it. The bill is supposed to provide an alternate source of health care for Americans. If citizens like the health insurance they already have, they can choose to keep it. People will be able to use a government-run health insurance if they don’t have private insurance. If they are already insured, they can choose to stay with their current insurance or to be insured by the government.
The health care bill is now in the Senate being revised. If the bill passes the senate, then Americans will have a new alternative to private health insurance.

The Ryans said they are not in favor of a health care system run entirely by the government but they think there should be some kind of government insurance to cover people so they can get the health care they need.

“I guess ideally, let’s say you’re in a high-risk pool, then the government has something else set up for you or they’re willing to back you,” Elisabeth said.

Daniel also said he believes that a system with government insurance and private insurance would increase competition. He said the insurance companies would have to fight to hold onto clients with better plans and fewer stipulations. He went on to say that if a company charged $300 a month for insurance and the government only charged $150, the insurance companies would have to create better plans for everyone.

“I don’t think that private insurance should go away because I also think the government needs competition,” Elisabeth said.

President Barack Obama said the government health care will increase competition and do just what Daniel and Elisabeth think it should do, which is to make private insurance companies develop better plans for people.

While living in Canada, Daniel went to the hospital four times. He said he wasn’t a fan of the universal health care system there. In describing Canada’s medical system, he said it’s “terrible.” He paused for a second with a look of disgust on his face and said “Terrible, terrible, terrible.” When Daniel dislocated his finger but thought he’d broken it because it was pointing sideways at the knuckle, he went to a hospital in Canada. The doctor sat him down on a table and gave him no pain medication of any kind. The doctor realized it wasn’t broken but had just been dislocated. So the doctor popped it back into place and tied what Daniel said was “basically a stick” to his finger and sent him home. Daniel also referred to a time when he was throwing up for an extended period of time into a bucket, that he would go dump on the lawn in front of the Canadian hospital, while waiting to see a doctor. He said that he’d been puking for so long that he was repeatedly dry-heaving.

“I would just say there was just an overall lack of care,” Daniel said. “The woman at the counter… (nurse) could’ve cared less how I was doing. It was almost like I was annoying her with my illnesses and my broken finger and such. They were still getting paid regardless of whether or not they saw me or whether or not they treated me.”

Whether the Ryans will get health insurance or not remains a mystery. They, along with millions of other Americans, continue to keep a close eye on the developments of a government-run health care plan. In the mean time, they’ll keep searching and hoping for a way to get Daniel the medical assistance he needs for his injured shoulder and bipolar disorder medication.


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  1. 7 Responses to “Student couple caught in health insurance crisis”

  2. By Jroh on Dec 27, 2009

    Good article. This is just one story out of millions where people can’t afford or can’t get coverage. I don’t understand those who are against coverage for all. Not everyone works for an employer that provides coverage, some people, as in this article, have pre-existing conditions so don’t qualify. Let’s face it…corporations don’t exist for the good of their employees, they exist for shareholder profits. And one of their biggest expenses besides payroll is medical coverage for employees. With pressure from a global economy, companies would love nothing more than to dump medical coverage and pass that on to the government. I suspect they’ll find a way to one day circumvent whatever labor laws require them to cover their employees anyway.

    We already pay for health coverage for the uninsured in a way, anyway. When someone without coverage walks into a hospital, the hospital has to take them. The hospital has to pass that cost on somehow, which means higher costs to the rest of us.

  3. By Patricia on Dec 27, 2009

    I can identify with this story to a degree. My son has type 1 diabetes and he needs insulin (which is very expensive) to stay alive. We have him covered under our state’s Medicaid program, but when he turns 18, he will no longer be covered. No other insurance company will accept so I don’t know what we’ll do.

  4. By Shawn Becklar on Jan 4, 2010

    It’s hard to believe that we live in a society that think it caters for everyone then we see unbelievable stories like this. Thanks for the story

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