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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Out of the Mouths of Babes

I haven't written in a while and its not for lack of things to post about. Lots of things have been happening in my life and and its transcending the blog and moving to a visual medium. My best friend, after months of listening to me and others vent about job loss, health care, and other drama floating in this recession induced abyss, has decided to work on a documentary. It's an exciting project for me to be involved in and I look forward to updating you as it moves from an idea to a final product.

In terms of my own woes, I have been bumping my head against the pre-existing condition exclusion with my new insurance company. I almost feel like I was better off unemployed. I was excited to have a job after months of searching for many reasons. It was new, and though the job I took pays next to nothing, it presented me with a tremendous opportunity for personal growth AND health care (as opposed to expensive COBRA coverage). I waited to finish my probationary period and then went in to choose my health coverage option. I discovered that the insurance company had raised the rate by over 23%. This would mean that half of my already insufficient pay would be going to health care for only me (spousal coverage would take about 75% of my monthly pay). This doesn't include dental and vision coverage. It was a take it or leave it proposition initially because small companies simply don't have the "leverage to negotiate." Then, we were presented with a few other options with lower premiums. For me, this was terrible because the low premium plans have high deductibles and you can't see a specialist (which is all I have seen for years) without a referral. Prescriptions are over double what I used to pay with my six figure salary. The process of picking the plan for the whole agency was...well, you'll have to wait for the documentary, but I'll say that it put me in a situation where I felt laid bare in front of my co-workers, I spilled a few tears and at the end of what felt like a battle, I went home without the win. Once I finally chose a plan, I came home expecting to get an insurance card. Instead, I got a letter about my pre-existing condition and how I can legally be excluded from treatment for these conditions for up to one year. I am five days from running out of some of my medications, I haven't seen my rheumatologist in 3 months and I am in a back and forth paperwork exchange with the insurance company. Heavy sigh. To be honest, a potential position came up with another company and though it's a contract position, if ultimately offered to me, I will take it. It sucks that most fulfilling jobs aimed at social justice are impossible to sustain unless you are independently wealthy. If I get excluded from coverage for a pre-existing condition, I will be choosing between heat and health care. Its not the place I want to be and it's certainly not a place I can live in considering my health issues. Again, we're back at the tug of war between personal fulfillment and financial commitments.

So why the heck is this post called "Out of the Mouths of Babes?" Despite all of the drama in my own life, I had the opportunity over the past four days to help facilitate a workshop for high school students talking about how they deal with various "isms" (sexism, racism, heterosexism, adultism, etc.) in their lives. The workshop gave them a chance to bond, to speak out, to listen, to validate and to share. What I walked away with was a sense that despite the struggles they have to deal with at such young ages, they feel empowered to change the world. They agreed that the world is filled with ills and they seem overwhelming but they still feel that change is possible. Most importantly, they feel it starts with small changes in their own lives. I have to say, these young people had a serious impact on me. They have been through a lot and are wise beyond their years. Their fervor reminded me of the saying I wear on an inscribed bangle almost daily: "Be the change you wish to see in the world." -Gandhi

I am rejuvenated and reminded not to get bogged down by my own situation. I need to focus on the bigger picture because until it changes, my situation will remain the same. Something has to be done about ________________. You can fill in your own blank. At the moment, mine would say health care, unemployment, underemployment, cuts to funding for non-profit organizations working for social justice, and better medications for lesser known illnesses. Though I spent the week empowering youth, I walked away empowered too. I feel the strength of my voice a little more and am better prepared to raise it. Who's with me?

Also, check out the next post for a great poem that one of the students from the workshop found and shared. Really good stuff.

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