Today was one of those days when I realize that growing up poor also means growing up in a different world than the people I know now. Growing up poor means not knowing how insurance works. And today, I was shocked when a doctor’s visit and medicine were reasonably priced for no apparent reason other than a magical new card meaning something somewhere to someone.
Recently there’s been a barrage of bad days at work. So today, was naturally the day my body gave up. I woke up with inflamed gooey eyes and a sore throat. I’m falling apart. Period cramps, cuts on my feet, and a headache, it all piled on me this morning.
The sniffles with the stress and “boom,” go visit a doctor because that’s what you get to do when you have a job that allows for sick days and health insurance.
Actually, that’s nice. It’s a shiny bright spot in an otherwise gloomy day.
Then I think about it and I get pissed off. The conjunctivitis is a severe allergic reaction, but I never had health insurance growing up. One kid got sick and all the kids got the same prescription—there’s one doctor in three towns. And you hope to god he keeps up on medicine and takes care of his patients. Maybe he was a good doctor. I don’t know. I only remember going to the doctor once in my childhood, and then I didn’t make it to the doctor. The physician’s assistant saw me since the doctor was in a different town that day. (And yes, my brother who had the same cold took the same prescription as me.)
I feel lucky I have a stable job with a steady paycheck that allows me to pay my bills (the whole mountain of them) and health insurance, and sick days, because I haven’t had it. However a part of me resents it.
Why do I get that? Why doesn’t everyone? What have I done that makes me special enough to get help paying for medicine? Shouldn’t every job allow for paid sick days? Shouldn’t everyone be able to visit a doctor and afford the visit?
It’s such a relief to be in a position where I don’t have to worry about whether or not I can actually afford to go to the doctor when I need to go to the doctor. And yet that same privilege vexes me.
It’s exactly that actually—that American society thinks of health as a privilege, not a right.
Somehow I have to be “good” enough to have a good job that allows me time off to be sick. And, I’m left to wonder how I was lucky enough to land a job that will let me text in late to take a day off because I woke up feeling icky. I didn’t do anything special, and I wasn’t born as anyone special.
I realize the Affordable Healthcare Act is on it’s way to helping everyone get basic healthcare. But I’m starting to think that’s not enough. And we’re still debating this country’s deplorably low minimum wage. It’s not a debate. Minimum wage is far too low. No one who works a full-time job in this country should be living in poverty, yet millions are.
The realization that just one year ago a day like today would have derailed my budget, set me back a month, and most likely added to my debt, pisses me off. There has to be a better way. I don’t have to deal with that now because I’m one of the lucky ones with those “good jobs” that are in such short supply. So now I can think about how much the system punishes the poor for being poor while I drink coffee and shop for a house.
As an addendum, I have a great job–I love it. I’m usually pretty excited to see what new challenges await me at the office. Today was an illustration of problems within a larger system, not at work.
Second addendum, no photos today as conjunctivitis is disgusting and there’s not really anything else visual to go along with this rant. Sorry. Maybe you’ll get a coffee photo next time.