Its sods’ law when the only time one of your kids needs a trip to the emergency room is when their insurance has been summarily cut off. Healthy Families, the California state assisted health insurance is a fine program but the qualifying status is a finely honed mark on a family’s fiscal chart: if you happen to have a good year and earn a few more shekels than usual you will most likely find your offspring out in the cold without coverage. You’ll probably be there with them: statistically most children enrolled in state-funded health insurance programs are the only members of the family insured at all.
I knew that 2009 had been too lucrative for us to qualify for kid coverage this spring but I tried my best to keep the policy running. I tried a little strategy that Alan, a MediCal operative, the man I lovingly called ‘The Last Socialist in the System” taught me years ago. Alan, who’d managed to keep my whole family insured by the state for some of our broke-est years, recommended that if one was in any doubt about re-qualifying for benefits in April to file an extension on taxes and win an extra six months of coverage while your claim was in review. Subsequent months were likely to reveal the peaks and troughs of income which, when evened out, would show the family’s real situation. This time around the review window had been mandated out of the program’s small print and so I set about the depressing business of securing private health insurance.
Dave, our insurance broker came with great references, a winningly bright-toothed smile and a premium personal policy that looked to include cosmetic procedures. I was straight about my potential as a client and made no bones about my bottom-line requirement: to get my kids’ affordably insured until such time as I was significantly poor enough to re-enroll them in the state-assisted program. “Fair enough”, Dave nodded accommodatingly, he didn’t even roll his eyes when I asked him to show me the cheapest worthwhile policy in his portfolio. I rejected the Kaiser option immediately, the last time we’d been covered by them they had identified my husband as a newborn and repeatedly requested that I bring him in for his “wellbaby” appointment for six months despite several ineffectual notifying calls to their customer service reps. I also nixed the chance to pay a mere $200 a month for a policy which called for me to pay the first $10,000 of medical costs after the kids’ first free annual check-up.
Dave believes that his business will be decimated in the next five years because of Obama’s health reforms, but in the meantime his sales patter is as pearly as his teeth; he sold me a $600 package which covers the whole family and we all get three free doctors appointments, not to mention breaks on generic drugs and we only have to spend $8,000 before the motherlode of coverage kicks in!
This represents the kind of extra monthly bill that forms an undercurrent of stress and resentment in my modest life and has me imagining re-matriation to England, where at least the common woman gets a free pap smear once a year, and one never has to consider bank balance before consulting a health professional.
So last week, our youngest had an abdominal cramp that scared him, he’d had a nervous tummy all year but during a school play dress rehearsal he ended up on the floor in some notable agony. Off we went to the emergency room where I whispered to the registrar that I doubted my Blue Cross coverage was active but I didn’t want my sick child to become aware of that. (The boy had already asked me several times on the way to UCSF if it was “O.K.?” for him to be going to the emergency room.) Our Blue Cross coverage was miraculously active so I relaxed as I realized I would only be paying for a mere 70% of the ER visit! We did tests: blood, urine and three types of poo analysis, luckily Brother just has a case of acute gastritis, probably brought on by an aversion to being pushed around and called ‘white boy faggot” everyday at school. He feels better but I’m full of foreboding – when the mailman comes will that trip have cost us a thousand bucks or two?
The truth is that we rarely visit the doctor anyway, we treat all our minor ailments with non-presciption natural remedies and keep ourselves healthy by eating the best unprocessed fresh foods we can afford. Neither do we drink, smoke or eat to excess, our supplements comprise walking, swimming, the occasional sweat lodge and as many laughs and good times as we can muster.
Brother’s gastritis is being treated with minerals, vitamins and amino acids, plenty of aloe vera in his OJ and cabbage or sauerkraut daily. I got his “prescription” of Zantac over the counter for $10.99, which thanks to a egalitarian-minded pharmacist saved me $44!
I go a little further than the rest of my family with my alternative health regime with my on-off practice of urotherapy, or more plainly, pee drinking! Its hard for me to believe myself, I’m the kind that gags when I observe a booger-eater in action but pee-drinking is the kind of outlandish practice that can appeal to the uninsured. I first heard of urotherapy through a dear friend who had been smitten with rheumatoid arthritis, a horribly debilitating condition. She’d tried the conventional treatments but remained unable to pick up a pencil so painfully clawed were her afflicted hands. Her intuition was that her cure was close by and she pounced on a passing reference she found to urine therapy. Within hours of her first sips of her morning water came palpable relief, eight years later the condition has never returned. I’ve seen acne-sensitive skin rendered pockless through topical urine applications and then I have my own personal experiences to draw on. I didn’t have any aches or pains when I started to drink a little diluted morning water but I had debilitating depressive symptoms. I’d watched a dear friend decline and die too young and too painfully to really bear. I didn’t want to take the anti-depressants that the doctor recommended so I started to do urine therapy. Day one of imbibing the golden tonic I began to feel more hopeful; maybe it was purely psychological – maybe I was just so impressed that even squeamish me could knock back a shot of my own urine that it improved my mental state. I experienced no trace of the delusional fog which had accompanied previous attempts to jolly up with Zoloft and the like. I felt empowered, mentally stronger and in good pee-drinking company with the practice having been established in India two thousand years ago and recent proponents as likable and varied as Gandhi and J.D. Salinger.
I relish my health, and I keep studying herbal, ayurvedic and other systems that resonate. My sensors are on high alert for alternative therapies and I’m fascinated by new studies on the successful treatment of cancer with both hemp oil and baking soda.
So my free advice is drink your pee, smoke your pot, get as many laughs as you may, and never turn down a fresh vegetable!