Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook have read updates on my quest to transition to full-time freelance science writing. The major hindrance to going full-time is health insurance. My eating disorder (and accompanying medical issues, such as osteoporosis, epilepsy, a herniated disc in my back, GI issues, etc) would all be considered "pre-existing conditions" and thus not eligible for coverage. Hence my almost too ironic job at the bakery: a group plan under an employer would render me eligible for coverage, even of my pre-existing conditions (after a 6 month waiting period). This fact also tethers me to having some sort of full-time-ish job, which is rather irritating for someone who wants to spend their time freelancing and not slinging bread, wrangling pies, and frosting cupcakes.

Thankfully, my parents have a fantastic insurance agent whose office is right across the street from the bakery and I talked to him about what the possibilities were for me. Presciently enough, on July 1, Virginia adopted the federal high-risk pool insurance program for people with pre-existing conditions that were otherwise uninsurable. The key is that your pre-existing condition cannot be covered under a policy for 6 months. What we came up with was a short-term medical plan that would not cover my pre-existing conditions and a special hospital income protection policy if something catastrophic happened. At the end of those 6 months, I would go into the federal high-risk pool. Since mental health parity also took effect on July 1, I should--fingers crossed--be okay.

What shook me, however, was the agent's comment that without Virginia's adoption of the high-risk pool, I would be uninsurable. That would mean my dreams of freelance science writing were essentially dead in the water. My eating disorder had effectively rendered me untouchable.

That's what breaks my heart: that some bureaucrat somewhere could so quickly and efficiently kill my dream because I have an eating disorder. I realize that paying out more in benefits than you take in with premiums isn't a good business model. I get that. I also get that eating disorders aren't cheap to treat. But to have an eating disorder diagnosis render me unable to get a health insurance policy for the rest of my life? It's depressing.

I feel like I have worked so hard in recovery to try and bring back a semblance of normality and health to my life. Many of my hopes are pinned to the wish that, one day, the spectre of my eating disorder will no longer haunt my every move. Finding health insurance is a stark reminder that some people never forget. I know some of my family members have been unable to forgive me for getting ill, and I had attributed that to human emotionality and fear and frustration. But this cold, calculated move makes me wonder if I'm permanently broken. If a whole, healthy me will ever emerge from the wreckage of anorexia.

I don't want to dwell on this, as I know insurance companies know precisely diddly squat about life. They were, after all, the ones who denied almost all my claims relating to the eating disorder, when I was sick enough that even I knew I would die without immediate treatment.

Although I have some issues with the health care reform bill that finally passed through Congress earlier this year, it has allowed me the chance to live my dream, and for that, I am grateful.


Kris Baldo said...

Carrie, I am so glad you will be able to get insurance. So many people have pre-existing conditions that preclude them from getting coverage in the private market -- asthma, high cholesterol or high blood pressure (even if controlled with meds), headaches, anything! It's amazing to me that there is anyone out there who doesn't have a pre-existing condition.

With health care reform, I am sure that if my daughter (who has an ED) loses or quits her job, she could manage until 2014 even if she can't get another job with group coverage. She'd have cobra, then she could be listed under my husband's policy until he gets medicare in a couple of years, then she'd have a 3-year cobra. I am so grateful that I don't have to worry any more that she will be uninsurable.

Miriam said...

Insurance is so hard do deal with :( and it's so frustrating! I'm sorry for you and the rest of us who have had to deal with problems like these, but I'm really glad VA came up with that plan so that you are okay, at least for now.

Have you heard about ProjectHEAL? I love their idea...I just wish more companies would GET IT.


Kim said...

This is a very emotional subject for me. I decided to freelance a few years back but I was "uninsurable." That pretty much squashed the freelance thing. I think I like a regular job anyway, so it worked out...but I still get furious about insurance issues. I feel like I'll never be able to get insurance unless it's through an employer. To insurance companies, anorexia is the scarlet letter 'A.'

Harriet said...

I've thought about this for my own daughter so often. I've been told by agents that she would never be able to get coverage for the rest of her life because of the anorexia. That's unreal to me. But then again I think insurance is basically a shell game anyway.

The whole freelance thing has been a huge factor in my life too. While I have never had an eating disorder I've had other stuff (anxiety and depression) that would render me uninsurable. Frankly, who hasn't had something? That's why I went back to full-time work seven years ago. And while I'm glad I landed where I am now, I spent a miserable few years doing stuff I really didn't want to do, just to get the insurance.

I'm glad you're going to be able to work out a solution, and follow your dream.

James Clayton said...

Interesting and good to hear that there's hope for sufferers. The idea of being ill and forced pay for it (buying wellbeing) is bizarre.

In the UK at the moment it's hugely worrying that we appear to be going in the opposite direction of the US. I have huge concerns that in under a generation there will be a huge number of 'untouchable' people unable to get employment or insurance.

KC said...

Really glad you get health insurance! This is a huge issue and one many people are able to overlook (people with health insurance, that is). I have been unable to get health insurance for 4 years and finally will have it soon! I'm thrilled! But it's been very scary at times. People have pointed me toward low cost, no insurance options, etc. -- and trust me, I've pursued them all, but at the end I could never jump through all the hoops to get actual care. There's always a catch (often being, you can pay-out-of-pocket to see the doctor for a lower fee, but you can't order the needed tests). It is scary and sad to me that we live in a country where people with eating disorders cannot get basic medical care. Very glad you have found a way to follow your dream and take care of yourself.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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Have any questions or comments about this blog? Feel free to email me at carrie@edbites.com

nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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