When politicians tell people to skip their iPhones so they can afford healthcare, it exposes how wide the divide between average individuals and their government representatives has become. I’ve had health insurance three times in my life: twice were government provided, and the latest is through my job. When I had free healthcare, I used it minimally (I was a full time college student, and didn’t have a lot of free time on weekdays), however I made full use of it for my children.

Now, through my job, I have the insurance to go to the doctor… but I’m stuck with co-pays, the deductions from my paycheck, and the convoluted fact that if I skip work to go to the doctor for an emergency, I could lose my job and health insurance. So even though I have insurance to see the doctor when I’m sick, I can’t because I have to keep my job.

Currently, I’m sitting in the office, sniffling like crazy after coming down with something this weekend. I was hoping by today I would be feeling better, but I’m not. At least my throat no longer feels like I swallowed a razor, but my head feels swollen with congestion. While I’m fairly certain I have strep throat (courtesy of my boyfriend), I can’t afford to go to a doctor and get tested. In this case, with my insurance, it isn’t cost prohibitive, it’s time. I can’t take any time off work or I risk losing a hefty chunk of my check and/or the potential for losing my job for taking too much time off.

For those who point to employer provided insurance, it has a lot of flaws. It doesn’t do a lot of good when you can’t make use of it for fear of losing your job. It doesn’t do a lot of good when you pay as much or more for annual healthcare costs than if you didn’t have insurance. It especially doesn’t help when you have to come to work sick, exposing others, who stay at work because they can’t afford to stay at home.

We wonder how minor illnesses spread to far and so rapidly in our germ-conscious society, but forget our society values our time at work more than our health. Adults go to work ill because they need the money. Children go to school sick because they can’t miss a day of school or they face a reprimand. Parents hand sick kids over to daycare because they can’t lose work hours.

Paired with a doctor’s note being the only acceptable out, and the outflow of money required to stay home from work is a bit much. I can’t afford to miss work, lose income, risk my job, and pay for a doctor to tell me I didn’t need to skip work. Maybe I have strep, or maybe it’s just a sniffle.

Overall, we force the majority of our citizens into a health vs. money standoff even when health insurance is available.

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