This is Day 12 of a 21-day effort to see the good in what might, at first, look like an irredeemable drag. Its name comes from a classic bit of dialogue uttered by actor Kevin Bacon in a classic film of my generation, Animal House.
I have already alluded to the sorry state of my teeth, gums, cancer resistance and internal chemical management systems. May I now bring up the fact that in another seven and a half months, barring some sort of miracle from on high, I will join the ranks of those unable to pay for the regular maintenance and catastrophic repair of same?
I never thought it would come to this. Really. Had I known, I would have bought private insurance years ago, and not depended on what I now see are the vagaries of the employer-paid group insurance system.
The thing is, when I started out, in my 20s, all pluck and vinegar and walking ball of parentally-induced obligation complexes, I was 100% sure I'd be working for The Man the rest of my life, and that he'd pay for all the digestive disorders and other stress-induced diseases he was responsible for. That and a 401K? More than a fair trade, as far as I was concerned.
When I left my full-time ad gig in 1992, reality struck in the form of COBRA: expensive and time-limited, I quickly realized that the most important thing about being on COBRA was using the time to figure out how to get off COBRA. Fortunately, the ex-husband was healthy as a horse and whatever weird lady-surgeries I'd had were distant enough to be paying just an arm, not an arm and a leg. We scored some insurance with a deductible my younger, pre-preexisting conditioned self found outrageous. You know, the kind I'd crawl through hepatitis-infected glass to have today.
Still, it was enough of a drain on the household finances that I finally begged my dad to help me find some menial job with one of his beneficent corporate pals so that the Chief Atheist and I would qualify for coverage. I wanted to act, which required me to actually be available for auditions when asked (however seldom). But the cost was a wash, cheaper to work for slightly above minimum wage than to pull down $500/day and buy private.
All that came to a glorious halt with the SAG years. Sweet baby Jesus, the SAG years: coverage the likes of which I'd not seen ever, even in the fatcat, go-go, Madison Avenue years. For eight years, I never thought twice about going to the doctor. Not that it was anything I, you know, looked forward to; it was just that I wouldn't worry about how I was going to pay for something that happened out of the blue.
No more. Today I'm on COBRA again, and clinging for dear life. I've already informed all my providers that I'll most likely be entering the High Risk Pool next July, which means that I'll pay roughly $600/month for coverage that doesn't kick in for thousands and thousands of dollars I hope I never need to ask for. All of which means that anything needing to be probed, sampled or excised must happen now, or possibly never.
There is not much good in this. I am not thankful for the way our country treats its citizens when it comes to medical care. I am not thankful that I will join the ranks of the barely cared for, and pay an enormous price for doing so.
But I am also considering what a great gift it is to finally find out how most people live. For one reason or another, my whole life I've been sheltered from what I once saw as a petty concern, though it shames me to say it. I'm also thinking about creative solutions to the problem: of opting out, perhaps. Of taking the almost-$600 monthly and sticking it in some sort of investment account. Of letting my poor, old body crap out when its time. Of not fixing it, but, and really, heaven forfend, should the occasion rise, using myself as an example. Liveblogging my demise. Morbid? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Maybe a bunch of us have to throw ourselves under a bus to get Congress to get our legislative and executive branches of government to take notice.
Or maybe I'll join the ranks of the Starbucks unrevolution, work for The Man pulling espressos for my coverage. Maybe it's time for a little wax-on, wax-off. I'm not averse to a job-job if it doesn't mean selling my soul.
Whatever winds up happening seven months from now, I'm thankful that, for whatever reason, I'm not worried about it anymore. Me with my bad teeth and diseased gut and cancer-prone tissue. Maybe it would not be such a shame for my voice to get loud one last time over the indignities too many have had to suffer getting to this state of crisis.
I'll be truthful: I'd rather stay. But if it comes to it, it might be the noblest way to go.
And I am truly, truly thankful that I no longer consider living out this one particular life in some particular way to be a must-do. There are bigger things in life than this old bag of cells. I am glad that, at some point before I must go, and again, I hope it's a long, long time from now, that I finally realized it.