A few weeks ago, I landed in the Emergency room with a massive toothache. I sat for three days until the pain was shooting up into my temple and down the right side of my chest. It might seem ridiculous but I’ve never had a toothache before and thought it was just temporary until I woke up on the third day and could no longer close my mouth.
Lucky me, we were in the hospital on MLK day and the dental clinic was closed so all they could do was give me antibiotics and pain killers and refer me to the clinic. I went to the dental clinic the next day, only to be told that they were not a part of Hackensack Medical University and so did not bill clients or offer Medicare. Lacking health insurance, as I have for three years, I shelled out $100 for an X-ray and evaluation. Only to be told that I needed a Root canal and crown. $1,1100 for procedure is completely out of my reach as I’m currently on unemployment.
Since then, I have been on a mission to find low cost or charity care in NJ and what a nightmare that has been. I’m hoping that one of two sources that I’ve found may be able to help me in this week since the antibiotics have run their course. Mind you, Bergen county is the most densely populated area of New Jersey but that is all the help I’ve been able to find.
I even spoke to an ACA representative and much to my disgust, they don’t even show you available dental plans until you’ve signed up for healthcare, which means you don’t know what the deductible will be and there are no emergency provisions for care. So, even if you signed up today, you aren’t eligible for care until April 1st.
In the ten days since the emergency room visit, I’ve contemplated just how awful and obscenely expensive our medical system is; been enraged at how little resources there are to help sick people and struggled with how completely demeaning it is to be unable to take care for yourself as an adult. My loathing for the stranglehold that the insurance companies have over this country is boundless.
For me, the financial free fall that I’ve been in since 2009 hasn’t ended as for many millions of Americans whose stories are not told. It breaks my heart to think of just how many people suffer silently while struggling valiantly with illness and financial woes.
Coincidentally, I found out today that a childhood friend of mind is ill with a rare blood disorder called Idiopathic Thrombocytopenia Pupura (ITP). Reading about Damon’s struggle has made my tooth woes pale into insignificance. It reminded me of what I already know, our health is a priceless gift.
Please read Damon’s story, share and support, if you can.
**Image for this post is Keith Haring’s Heart. Keith Haring was Damon’s favorite artist as a teenager.**