I’m a military brat. Which means I was lucky enough to grow up with health insurance, though it had fairly steep co-pays for civilian doctors. Having to wait til payday/wait for overtime pay before going to the doctor was pretty common. But I could still go, so until I was nineteen, access to healthcare was never a question.
When I turned nineteen, I lost my health insurance. To get it back and get my military ID renewed, I had to go to the ID office on base and show proof of full-time enrollment. Easy enough, and it meant I’d have healthcare until I was twenty-four or no longer a full-time student.
Unfortunately, I was no longer a full-time student two years later. I was for about half a semester, and was able to access routine health care, including tentatively starting a chronic pain management regimen. I was able to access psychiatric care, including regular therapy and meds. But halfway through the semester, and starting to recover from a nervous breakdown, I was faced with a choice: drop a few classes, work my ass off in the rest, pass the semester, and not get kicked out of school OR fail half my classes, pass the other half, but not get a high enough GPA and get kicked out. The obvious thing to do was to drop half my classes, right?
The next two weeks went really well. I got caught up in my remaining classes and it looked like I would pass both. Then I went to the student health centre for my last therapy appointment of the semester, but when I attempted to check in, I got a bit of a shock.
‘I’m sorry, it looks like you’re not eligible for our services. You didn’t pay the health centre fee.’
But I did! I tried to tell the receptionist. I was a full-time student until two weeks ago and paid full-time tuition and fees, and got no refund, which means they still had it!
It didn’t matter. I was half-time now, which meant I would’ve had to pay the fee again, assuming I had the money (spoiler: I didn’t). I figured fine, cancelled my appointment, and figured I’d go back the following semester.
Then I got an e-mail from my school saying I had unpaid fees and would be dropped from my classes unless I paid them. Which was pretty confusing, as I was paid up for the semester, and the next semester’s tuition wasn’t due yet, so how could I have fees? I checked my account online, and saw.
It was all health centre fees. Things that were covered by insurance a few weeks ago, things that had been paid for. My numerous therapy sessions and psychiatrist appointments. The checkup. The visit when I had the flu. The visits to discuss pain management. The various medications. All together, nearly two thousand dollars of health centre fees.
You probably know where this is going. I had to withdraw because I couldn’t afford the fees. They’re still sitting on my student account, assuming they haven’t been charged off and sent to a credit collection agency, like all my student loans except my federal ones, because I couldn’t make payments to all of them when I was living payday to payday and they wouldn’t work with me. So I sit with about a semester and a half of credits, a load of charged-off debt, collectors calling me constantly, a hefty bill for an ambulance ride and week in a psych ward following a suicide attempt, unemployed, and back with my parents.
And no health insurance. So the things that drove me to try and kill myself? Not getting better. The illnesses that drove my breakdown that semester? Not getting better. (If anything, these are getting steadily worse.) The chronic pain that I was getting help with, I’m no longer getting help with. The chronic chest pains I’ve had for about four months, not getting help for. Can’t afford it and don’t qualify for medicaid.
And you know what? I’m left out of health care reform. See, military folk have Tricare for insurance, administered by the Department of Justice. The Affordable Care Act doesn’t include Tricare. Tricare doesn’t have to extend coverage to me under the ACA. And Tricare doesn’t want to—hell, Tricare doesn’t want to pay for medical care for veterans, much less their grown children.
There’s a lot of military brats like me, aging out of our parents’ insurance, unable to get our own. Where’s the health care reform for us?