My Experience with the American Healthcare System

I tend to wait for the right time to talk about subjects as the American Healthcare System. In my ten-year journey, I have seen the worst of the American Healthcare System, and also what can change when we start caring for those that are sick in this country.

So here is my story.

I was officially diagnosed with Bipolar One disorder in the psych ward at my local hospital at the age of twenty-two. The hospital released me with a laundry list of medications and no way to pay for any of the medication or the help that they recommended that I go get on the outside.

I had quit my job the year before and I wasn’t making anything resembling work. I was lost and in one of the worst depression cycles of my life. I didn’t know what the hell being Bipolar even meant and when I asked the obvious question of how one goes about paying for the medicine they made me take in the psych ward without insurance, the answer was simple.

They told me they didn’t know.

I was twenty-two and too old to be on my parent’s healthcare plan. When my mother tried to get me help me get help from the State of California I was told they could do nothing because I had a pre-existing condition.

Well yeah. You go to the hospital because you tried to kill yourself, the doctors overwhelm you with medicines, diagnosis, and send you on your way. If I knew beforehand that I was sick, then it wouldn’t be a pre-existing condition, was the reality of it? It made no sense to me but at the time I cared less about life.

My mother, however, did everything she could. The medicines the doctors said I needed were paid out of pocket. When the most expensive medicine, my Seroquel, started to cost $600 dollars for a thirty day supply, I had to rely on samples from my doctor and programs that offered the medication for free. The process took months to apply and even when I got the medicine I always had to apply again so quickly.

My mom fought tooth and nail just to get me into the adult system of care at my local behavior health department and it was wonderful how she succeeded because it’s rare that they take people on without insurance.

One of the funniest thing that was told to my mother after one of my suicide attempts, was that if I was illegally here I could get more help. The country in which I was born and raised in basically told me I was on my own because I was a relatively healthy male, was born here, even though I had a mental illness that stretched for miles, it didn’t matter.

From 2007 to 2014 I racked up more medical debt from countless hospital visits than I have in my entire educational process. The numbers are astounding and a bit on the astronomical side. But what I going to do? Not go to the hospital when I needed help. You try telling my mom that she shouldn’t take me in when I felt suicidal.

Perhaps the hardest thing of all in my journey without insurance is that for almost five years I really struggled on my own. Sure I was given limited help in the adult system of care by seeing a psychiatrist once a month, but that wasn’t he help that I needed. I got my medicine every month but that was about the extent of the help my psychiatrist could give me.

I struggled for a long time before finally, in Obamacare, it allowed me to get more help because I no longer could be denied help because of my pre-existing condition. I saw for the first time the benefits of having a therapist that could help me through my issues. I could finally see how getting real help, actually helps you understand your diagnosis.

The problem was that I had to live through seven years of not getting any real help with my diagnosis and dealing with being Bipolar one on my own. For the first three years my mother took on the struggle for me, but eventually, I took over and the struggle when you don’t have insurance it really sucks.

I guess that is where the debate starts. Would something like universal healthcare really work in America? It would help those like me who really needed help when every door was closed because I was a relatively healthy male (I seriously was told that more times that I can count on my journey even though I was Bipolar.)

I have researched this subject of universal healthcare to exhaustion and I have written several papers that outlines the good and bad. I get it people are on either side of the fence.

But my perspective comes from this, there are so many people in the mental illness community benefiting from a program like Obamacare. If the system goes back to a “pre-existing condition” type programs many people will lose their coverage and it can be the difference between life and death.

I would have to once again choose which of the medicines I take based on what I can afford and which ones will have to wait or stopped altogether. I may lose the ability to see my primary care doctor regularly and even if I can see my doctor, I won’t be able to afford the medicine that they prescribe me.

I do get it. Obamacare isn’t great for everyone, but what is currently on the table right now when it comes to reconfiguring healthcare will lead to going backwards for the mental health community. I speak in part of this specific community, but there are so many others out there worried about their future and if the cutting of healthcare means their life could end how we do that someone? It’s a serious thing and one that I have thought about extensively in the last year.

When did society change to a place where people who need help, citizens and even those aren’t citizens, are refused basic human rights because of politics?

It just bothers me especially since I am versed in politics, but I find myself tuning out political conversations these days because there is a real possibility that people like me will be ill equipped to pay for medicine that keeps them alive.

I waited a long time to write such a blog post because my story hasn’t always been great when it comes to the American Healthcare System. It seems we have become a society that worries more about the profits of the medication that the doctors prescribe us over the lives of human beings.

I wanted to end this post on a few ways. I reflected today on how much better I could have gotten with real healthcare in the beginning of my diagnosis. Could my first suicide attempt have been my last? I am not blaming the American Healthcare System for all my suicide attempts over the years but the reality is I didn’t get the help I needed. I think if I got help things might have been better earlier, but I digress.

I am still here in spite of the American Healthcare System.

It’s true I worry about my future, but I worry about the future of others as well. The young twenty something who decides to forgo getting healthcare coverage because it’s too expensive. Then down the line, he or she is diagnosed with Bipolar disorder and it’s a pre-existing condition. No healthcare coverage and lost in the darkness of depression and he turns to suicide as the answer.

That was me.

Lastly I would like to hear the thoughts on the American Healthcare System from my fellow bloggers. What does the future hold for us?

Always Keep Fighting.

J.E. Skye

Photo Credit:unsplash-logoDaan Stevens

70 Replies to “My Experience with the American Healthcare System”

  1. I am from two generations above the 20 somethings, I have medication that I can not afford even with insurance. In 2002 when I first started having problems I was told it is just arthritis, I was in my 30’s. I can feel where you have been and where you are. I too have thought that it would be easier for all around me if I wasn’t here. Hang in there, keep fighting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Medication prices when you can’t afford to pay are just astronomically ridiculous especially when they could save your life. Thank you for sharing your own experiences.

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  2. Our healthcare system sucks big time. Obamacare did help in some major ways (pre-existing conditions, letting children stay longer on parent plans, etc), but didn’t go nearly far enough. I wish we would be rational like every other civilized nation and get a truly universal healthcare plan in place. I know some countries have done better than others at implementing them, how about we study the greatest successes and emulate them rather than keep digging our own graves here the way we have been doing? It frustrates me so much the lack of care in this country for the sick in general, but especially for the mentally ill.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel you 100% with everything in your comment. It’s a horrible system and we need to change as as a country. We have put profit in from of the health of our citizens and it’s proving to be worthless unless your making money off diseases.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I am from Canada but I have often wondered why people were so against Obama Care. Canada is better in that you can get in to see a Dr. If you don’t make enough money you don’t have to pay the medical Service plan fee. For me I am self employed as is my husband. We don’t make a lot of money but we make just enough so that we have to pay our own preminums. Either way I get to see a Dr. I do not have a personal insurance plan. My meds are not paid for. I can’t help but think if I (or should I say when because so many people are getting it now,) get cancer Orsomething else I won’t be able to afford all the treatments unless we sell our home. Man, you have been through hell and back!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. They have some programs but they are really complicated to get into, I am sure it is nothing like what you have in Canada

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  4. You’ve had one hell of a journey … Blessings to you and your mama xoxo
    Our system is similar and most of our ‘mentally ill’ who have no income / insurance, are homeless. Period. For me, ‘there but the grace of god, go i ..’ I waited to long for ‘assistance’ from our system and I’m still trying to un-do the damage of trundling along undiagnosed. I don’t have a shred of faith in our systems and it’s forced me to look for alternatives … some have worked, some haven’t.

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  5. It is truly mind-boggling that in the US governments have chosen to continue to treat health care as a privilege rather than a basic human right. We’re certainly not perfect in Canada, and we don’t have universal prescription drug coverage, but my understanding is that health care expenditures per capita are lower here. Hopefully at least the Republicans will continue to fail with their attempts to scrap Obamacare.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve been fortunate enough to have private or student health insurance for most of the time since I was diagnosed. But I’m on SSDI because I can’t work because of my diagnosis. If anything should happen to my husband, I’m screwed.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Wow, really? I didn’t realize they take age and work experience into account. Keep trying, and good luck!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh my word! $600 for 30/days supply?!?!

    Feel for you man. You’d like to think the amount of money floating about in various sectors/celebrities etc. That basic healthcare should be a given. Shame on the pharmaceutical companies more than anything, they certainly manipulate markets to push the cost of medications up. Disgusting.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I’ve been putting off forever getting the help I need for my bipolar disorder.Now that I’m finally growing some balls to reach out, if Obamacare is repealed, i won’t be able to. This whole topic has been bothering me so much, causing anxiety. Not to mention, i have a list of chronic pain conditions and if I lose my insurance, it’s going to be taken away. i can’t afford the shitty health insurance they offer through my work. I was paying more than I was receiving so I dropped it & I still qualified for Medicare. If I can’t get those medications, I won’t be able to work.I hate this stigma that everyone on Obamacare are lazy, unemployed losers. That’s not fair. The reality of it is that people like us, that work shitty jobs or go to school, are on it because of what capitalism has done to the health system. it appalls me that people, including my own family members & co-workers, hold this belief that boils down to this: if you aren’t wealthy, you don’t deserve health coverage. Even if you cancel out all the adults, think of all the children this will affect. Children with chronic conditions or just the chicken pox, children with mental health conditions, unable to receive treatment because their parents are poor or their parents health insurance is crap. It’s definitely a problem for mental health but also for everyone.How do people think that it’s okay to rip health care away from children because of issues that they have no control over, like their parents’ income. How fair is that? I have a very conservative cousin that i debate frequently on Facebook about politics. I’m independent but I lean more liberal. I think Trump is a disgrace & I’m all for universal healthcare. It’s a necessity, just like water & food & shelter. I asked him once, when we were discussing healthcare, what about the kids? He never answered. He didn’t have an answer. Ugh, this whole ordeal has been bothering me so much. There are flaws with Obamacare, for instance charging money if you fail to have insurance, but it has done so many things for those of us with low income. I went years without health insurance, I couldn’t afford it. When I started having chronic pain, fibromyalgia, knees dislocating, DDD, my bills piled up. They still aren’t paid. It’s not that I don’t care or I don’t work or i don’t try. it’s that the reality is, if you were born in poverty, the likelihood of moving forward in life is a hard ladder to climb. It’s 20x harder for those in poverty to work their way up. Crony capitalism has done this. I’m finally reaching out for health for my mental health just to be kicked in the face.

    Ugh, sorry for the long comment but this is a subject dear to my heart. I’m reblogging!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really don’t mind the long comments. This subject is such a frustrating one and it effects so many people that, as you say, if you are not a millionaire it doesn’t help you to be sick. It’s a sad world we live in when people, citizens of this great nation, are worried about not being able afford their medications.

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  9. This is why I am so grateful for free public healthcare in the UK, and why it makes me so sad and angry to see politicians in the UK relentlessly attempting to privatise it. I’m sorry for the horrible experience you’ve had with your healthcare system, I think it shows something is terribly wrong with society when people in vulnerable positions don’t have easy access to help.

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    1. Privatization of healthcare leads to only one thing. Profit over the health of the citizens. It’s a sad world indeed that some people can’t see that universal healthcare benefits the country and even the world. Healthier citizens can work, travel and be a part of the economy. But In America there is no profit for healthy people. I think sometimes they cures to cure things like cancer but in America cancer is a billion dollar industry. There is no money in a cure.

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  10. From 2008 to 2013 I had no insurance. My doctor worked with me, but she was a family doctor and we did the best that we could. I stood in the pharmacy and cried when they put me on a medication that was going to cost me $600 a month. The pharmacist felt sorry for me and paid $150 out of his pocket to help me and my aunt (who lives on a fixed income) paid the rest. By the next month, I had been introduced to a program that was available in my area that got me help for my medications. I had to jump through hops to get help and go through red tape at every turn, but I got help. (That program no longer exists because of lack of funds)

    In 2014, I found a medical clinic that takes care of all 3 of the people I see to help me. I lost my help with medications, but was given some help with a program that I do pay for. My mental health medications are covered or affordable, but only from one pharmacy that is an hour from me and any new medication I change to or dose that is changed my doctor’s have to prove WHY I need that change.

    Honestly, I worry every month that this month I won’t be able to get my medications or help from my doctors because of more and more limitations that keep getting put on my insurance.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Mental Health care in the UK is hit and miss, mostly miss. Although free you wait and wait and wait and wait and wait to be seen or heard by someone who tells you they cannot help and refers you to someone else you begin waiting for … Powerless and hopeless … I pray for those without family or support

    Liked by 1 person

  12. My sister had a terrific job at NASA in security, her own house, and a new car. She started getting sick and kept getting sicker. She had served in the Gulf War and had that syndrome, plus arthritis in her back, and an auto-immune disease. She couldn’t work, sold everything and bought a van and lived in it for years. My mom then had enough to help her buy a used RV and she now lives in that. My husband and mother have been supporting her for many years.

    We are very thankful for the VA in Washington State. They have helped my sister a lot and finally upped her payment from $100 per month to $700. Because she is a veteran she gets free medication. But where would she be without family? Most people she met, when she was homeless, were sick. They couldn’t work, so they lived in their cars or vans. One guy she met had been a physiotherapist. He had a mental breakdown and lived in a camper. They all moved from rest stop to rest stop or sometimes campgrounds. The man eventually jumped off a freeway bridge. My sister wasn’t family, so she never did know what happened to him. It is a crime against humanity when governments don’t take care of the sick.

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    1. Wow this is true an amazing story. We need to really help those more that have served our country. Thank goodness for family. I hope it all works out. I can’t imagine.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. She is doing well now. But when my husband retires and my mother is no longer with us, I’m not sure what will happen. She may have to sell the RV and live in a van again, or perhaps the Lord will send someone else to help her.

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  13. I live in Canada. Reading this post has made me so incredibly thankful for being born where I was born. As a Canadian, Health Care is non-negotiable. My prescriptions have always been covered – depending on my income level over the years: it was covered by the government entirely when I was a student. The most any Canadian will ever pay for healthcare is about 75 bucks per month in premiums. And if you’re a lower-income person you don’t pay anything. There’s no such thing as paying anything and I mean anything to see a doctor or go to the hospital. I also have extended benefits through my partner’s work which means I can go see the extras like psychologists and physiotherapists in massage therapists etc – which is just icing on the cake. The thing about Universal Health Care is that you’re always able to see a doctor even if you’ve got something really minor like the flu. Or maybe just think maybe you have strep throat. When my mental health took a major turn south, Healthcare coverage wasn’t something I needed to worry about. When I compare myself to you and what your experience was it makes me want to cry. That’s so incredibly not fair. The thing is that it does and doesn’t work for a lot of people, true. But our health can change in an instant. You could be completely healthy one minute and then needing coverage the next. It’s unpredictable. I’m so glad your mother was such a rock for you. She is a wonderful person. And it pains me to think that not only do you have to deal with the emotional issues, but add on the financial ones. I can’t even imagine.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The system in Canada seems like a dream. I should move their one day. I thought when Obamacare came along things would be okay and it was. The problem with it is that there was too much concessions on both sides so it’s nowhere near as good as a Universal Healthcare system could me. It’s a struggle. I don’t know if tomorrow I will lose coverage again simple because I have a pre-existing condition. Thank you for sharing this with me!

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  14. Having lived in two countries with universal healthcare (South Korea, Canada) before moving to the States, the healthcare system leaves me speechless every time. It doesn’t make sense to me (either) that they would see bipolar as a pre-existing condition. From research, the average age for the onset of the first episode occurs around 25, so one would not really technically “have bipolar” until then and, more importantly, all the disabling consequences in one’s life until then. I guess I struggle to see this condition as something I’m born with because as they say, of both genetic and environmental component to becoming bipolar. Also, in’t a healthcare system in place to make its citizens happy and productive as they can be? (If not happy, not in pain at least?) Anyway, thanks for your story about perseverance despite such difficult obstacles. I’m closing in on my first year of getting my (correct) bipolar diagnosis, so it gives me hope to see other people have made it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind words and sharing your story. It is stupid that they would label being Bipolar a pre-existing condition but somehow they did.

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  15. You just hit on the very subject that causes me more concern than any other issues with our country. And that is saying something because I have a lot of very big concerns, just none are as big as the health care system. My struggle with mental illness is one with no medications and some of my thoughts when I get depressed are scary. But I can’t afford to seeing doctors and taking all sorts of medication, and I have health insurance. It’s just practically worthless health insurance. Plus I have exactly been impressed with the health care that is available. My stays in the hospital produced a heavy bill and gave me a little time off the pressures of life only to give me way more once I was released. Quite often they release people way before they are ready because of insurances. I don’t know what the solution is, but it seems to me with all the mass shootings and so forth, we ought to be at least talking about getting people help who can’t afford it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think a solution would be a Universal healthcare that is affordable. It’s never going to be simple but right now our system is based profit over the health of its citizens. When healthcare is about prolonging illnesses and racking up healthcare bills the people who can barely afford their coverage and those who have no insurance lose. We as a citizens have to put people in place that care nor for the Everyman and not the rich who are the only ones who can really afford healthcare in this country. Obamacare isn’t the best but what is on the table now only favors the rich

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      1. I agree that is the only real solution. However, the pharmaceutical and insurance companies contribute vast amounts of money to supporting the politicians who are never going to let that happen.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. As I’ve mentioned before, I live in Australia, and there are very few things that make me angrier than the American Health Care system. One of my friends is currently studying to be a doctor in Sydney and he has a very high number of Americans in his course. When he asked why they were studying in Australia many said they knew they would feel guilty working within the American system and having to turn so many without insurance away. The fact that anyone in the medical profession would feel guilty for practising a profession designed to help others shows just how broken that system must be, as do some of your previous stories.

    In Australia, our healthcare system isn’t perfect, but in comparison to many other healthcare systems around the world, it seems to be. We have a system called Medicare, which partially funds most medical appointments in the form of rebates. We are also given health care cards which give us large discounts on medication if we cannot afford them through circumstance or sickness. I pay about $5.45AUD ($4.09USD) a month for my antidepressants. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to pay $600 for meds that you need to survive! It sounds utterly unfair.

    The worst part is hearing stories all the time about incredible people (family friends included) in America who die because they can’t afford treatment for their illness. There seem to be so many preventable deaths, and now the little bit of help Obamacare provided is being taken away. It’s awful to see how little the government seems to care about the people it’s supposedly meant to take care of…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a real horrible system at times in America. It is crazy to think someone would have to pay that much for medicine buts it true. It’s really does suck that the reality of turning people away when your job is to help people is tough. It comes down to profits over the health of Americans in out healthcare system.

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  17. This makes me feel so privileged to have NHS. Something most British people like myself take for granted everyday. Reading this was inspirational because I can’t imagine needing help but not being able to pay for it myself. Thank you for sharing. I never knew American healthcare was so bad.

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    1. Thank you for taking the the time to read my blog post. The American healthcare system is based so much in profit that the people that really need help are often denied. Even with the improvements over the last few years the system has a real chance of going backwards with the current people in office. It’s a scary thing that healthcare can come so far and go backwards so quickly.

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  18. Ugh our health care system is pretty pathetic, in my eyes. It’s the main reason I try so hard to work on my mental health without any meds. Plus my med experience hasn’t been the greatest. I hated feeling like a quinea pig, just trying a certain medicine for a bit, if it didn’t work, it was on to the next. Luckily since my dad worked for General Motors I get to stay on his insurance until I’m 26. Currently I’m 22, so I have 4 more years. The thing is for me it’s not just the cost aspect, it’s just the fact that these people just don’t really care. I’m not sure if it’s just the area I’m in (I live right outside of Flint, MI) or what. I’ve been through countless therapists and only found one or two that I was actually able to connect with. Unfortunately they’ve either relocated or retired. The psychiatrists I’ve seen were just pathetic. One in particular had my very first appointment finished in 15 minutes. He wouldn’t even let me finish answering a question before moving on to the next one. I never went back. I don’t know what the deal is, but the way I’ve been treated by professionals who are getting PAID to “help” me is discouraging to say the least. I don’t understand why people lack compassion. It’s something I’ve never understood. Hopefully things will change for the better eventually. It really feels as if we’re all on our own here.

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    1. I see the whole psychiatrist thing as getting as many people into their office so they can make money. The American healthcare system is based on making the most amount off a person not actually helping. Thank you for sharing your story Marissa.

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  19. When I went into the hospital I was told that my insurance would not cover me because I was not suicidal enough. Isn’t that the silliest thing you ever heard? I think I had a three week stay (gotta love that Swiss Cheese memory from depression and anxiety!). The bill was insane. I got on a government program where I only had to pay $5 per therapy session (with a counselor crazier than me!) and $5 per presecription. At the time I was taking an anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, med to put me to sleep and med to help me focus.

    Considering the “treatment” I was on at the time, the paranoid anxiety I was experiencing, and the stress of all the bills, I’m surprised I didn’t end up back in the hospital.

    We have to start recognizing that mental illness is the same thing as diabetes or cancer or asthma. We’d never tell someone with cancer that we couldn’t treat them. But we have no problem telling people with mental illness that they’re perfectly happy and that it’s just all in their head.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly. I feel the same way. I get it cancer is a major thing and I have lost people to it, but so often people with a mental illness are pushed aside because, like you said, you weren’t suicidal enough, that is just ridiculous to tell someone. It is surprise that you didn’t end up in the hospital. That’s why we need to write more about this subject to expose just how bad it really is.

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