Women and the Fiscal Cliff: Getting Sick Is Not An Option

I mentioned on Tuesday that I hesitated and missed out on making a  couple other points regarding women and the fiscal cliff. On the HuffPost Live segment, host Alicia Menendez asked how this issue effects women and children. Helaine Olen and Joan Entmacher both offered great responses that incorporated the economic effect this has on families and society. I should have chimed in on the personal. For me, getting sick is a terrifying idea. I don’t mean a simple cold. Even the flu doesn’t frighten me quite as much as a disease such as cancer or an accident. If I think too much about it, I’d never sleep at night. The financial, physical, and psychological toll that such an event would have on my children and me is unfathomable. I think it’s a tragedy that in our country single moms cannot find affordable healthcare, and that the few programs that do exist and benefit us are at risk of being cut.

For nearly four years now, I have gone without health insurance. I’ve learned to be proactive in my own health. I was an avid mountain and road biker a couple years ago. It was not only great physical exercise, it was also a great stress-reliever. I had two falls that I thankfully walked away from with only a few bumps and scrapes. However, I took that as a warning and stopped biking. It not only was an activity that put me at additional risk of injury, a major accident from biking would land me in the hospital and with broken bones. I could never afford the medical care required for this. So, I stopped the activity. I have made every attempt to eat and live healthily. I am back to a mostly vegan diet, I don’t exercise like I should but I’m working to get back to that. I don’t smoke and as of the last couple months no longer drink either. I’m doing as much preventative care as possible within my means. However, I know it’s not enough. There are things beyond my control, including a family history of disease from diabetes to heart disease.

I can’t even think, let alone write, too much on the thought of if I got sick. From the medical bills to my not being available to care for my children, our life would be tossed upside down. At the end of the day, I am it for my two daughters. I get a lot of support from my family and my friends; I have no doubt they would once again be there for us. But it is a nightmare to consider the ripple effect this would have on my children’s lives. The bottom line is simply that I cannot get sick. The effect it would have on my children would be devastating. None of us can completely prevent illness, even with the best healthcare. But the difference would be early detection, treatment (as heartbreaking documented in The Education of Dee Dee Ricks), likelihood of survival, and the financial burden I would then have to carry for, most likely, the rest of my life. This clearly would impact my children’s lives, from having enough money to keep a roof over our heads and food in their mouths to the daily stress of them knowing we were financially struggling. Poverty begets poverty. One major illness is all that stands between me and poverty; and far worse to me, is that my kids would then face such a fate.

When Alicia asked me what would I do if Planned Parenthood lost funding, it did cause me to pause. I struggled to come up with an answer, a plan, an alternative, but ultimately, I don’t know what I would do. It’s been my bit peace of mind I’ve carried for the past four years with regard to my health; at the very least, I am being screened for cancer, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. It was startling to imagine losing that. The fact that outside of Planned Parenthood I don’t have regular medical care does frighten me. I worry that perhaps something outside of their scope could be missed. I am hopeful that universal healthcare will kick in and I’ll be able to once again have coverage and be able to seek out medical care when needed, and have equal access to preventative care. It’s disgusting to me that in 2012, in the United States of America, working people cannot afford healthcare. How do we as a country have no shame about this? How do we allow single moms who are working and struggling to raise their children go without healthcare? We need to move forward instead of backwards. I am not a number, I am very real, and I hope our politicians remember that as they navigate the fiscal cliff.

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