When you can't afford to buy the help you need.

Saturday, April 05, 2008
Gordon Atkinson, a preacher/writer/husband/father down in Texas writes about what happens when you can't get health insurance, because your health is bad.

It feels like he lives in a third world country, but really it's America.

Unfortunately, every company we contacted turned down me and our middle daughter Shelby. Me because I take Wellbutrin. Shelby because she had some emotional troubles and spent some days in a psych unit in 2007. She was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and put on medication. She’s done wonderfully ever since, and we’re thankful to have had that time at the psych unit. It saved her life. (She’s fine with me telling you this)

In desperation we contacted a health insurance specialist who explained things to us. “Shelby is uninsurable,” he said. “Forget about her. She’ll never get health insurance.”

“Can’t she get some kind of insurance that wouldn’t cover her for any mental health issues?”

“Nope. She’s not going to get any insurance of any kind as long as she’s taking her medication.”

“That puts us in a hard place,” I said. “If she stops taking that medicine she’ll fall back into that horrible state that she was in. The medicine helps her.”

“I know it,” he said. “But that’s the way it is. You best just forget about her being able to get insurance. Put it out of your mind. No insurance company will touch her with a ten foot pole. You’ll need to keep her on your wife’s old plan with COBRA until that runs out in 18 months. I know it’s expensive, but after that she’ll be eligible for the Texas pool for the uninsurable. But she has to exhaust every other possibility before they will take her, so keep her on COBRA until they kick you off.”

“As for you, Gordon, I know an insurance company that will probably take you. I’ll have to talk to the underwriter, but I can help her understand your situation. You’re not in counseling, are you?”

“No. I’d like to be. Can’t really afford it now that COBRA insurance costs us like $1000 a month!”

“Thank God for that. If you were taking Wellbutrin AND in counseling, I couldn’t help you. That’s the kiss of death.”

“Yeah, but doesn’t counseling actually help people who are depressed? I mean, isn’t that actually a good way for them to get better?”

“Doesn’t matter. The insurance companies don’t like it. They don’t like the sound of someone in counseling AND on medication. It makes it sound like you’re a high risk person.”

“Do you know I’ve never been in the hospital since I was born? And I’ve only missed two days sick at work in 18 years.”

He didn’t look up from his papers. “That doesn’t matter.”

“Now Gordon, understand that if I can get you covered - IF I can - it won’t be with any mental health benefits. That’s over for you. I think I can get you health insurance, but anything having to do with a psychiatrist or any medications like Wellbutrin, well, you’re going to have to pay for those yourself from now on.”

I swallowed hard. “Okay.”


  1. Oh my....we Saskatchewanians are fortunate people indeed.

  2. That reminds me of the documentary Sicko. I know that you need to take anything Michael Moore says with a grain of salt...but some of those stories out of the American health care system were just appalling. I know we aren't perfect, but I can't imagine living in the USA.

    How about that for a sad story....makes me want to boycott Walmart.

  3. Yes, stories like that and those in Sicko give me a feeling of such utter helplessness and desparity. If it were me (very likely uninsurable) with my infection & ICU stay in November we'd be paying on that for 20 years. What about the surgery in January? I grow tense at the thoughts.

  4. What bothers me more about that situation is the mental health issue. You have someone that is doing something to work with their illness. They are taking the appropriate steps to manage and function in today's society. They are not abusing the system, or using the mental health as a 'crutch' to go on welfare. Yet are still have this 'stigma' of 'being a problem'. Just makes me very sad. Any wonder why so many of us hid the fact that so many of us are on those type of medications or suffer from a form of mental illness?

  5. Insurance companies are not in the business to help people. Their main purpose is to make money and if you have any risks you are not going to make them any money. I think the trick in the US may be to but some kind of private insurance when a child is born that they can carry for the rest of their lives - of course you would probably have to be a healthy baby.

    One can see where genetic testing would become a very risky thing to introduce.

  6. I personally believe that the manner in which healthcare is managed in the US is one of the sins for which it will be called to account as a nation on the day of judgement. Many Christian leaders (including some I know) will, I think, hang their heads in shame that day for the manner in which their greedy and independent spirits refused healthcare to the poor and needy. There are many aspects of America that are great and admirable. Their stubborn rebellion against authority and their hard-heartedness masked with the self-righteous delusion that all charity should be voluntarily given through the church has deafened them to the cries of the sick.

    That's my take from hearing American Christians discuss their healthcare system.


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