Have a Healthy New Year, or Else . . . by Christina Knowles

I’ve been counting the days until 2019. Why, you ask? Because I’ve been in extreme pain for five months, and I naively thought I’d get treatment once the new year kicked in, and my meds would count toward my deductible. How idealistic I was.

I have no cartilage in my knees and have had four knee surgeries throughout my life, beginning when I was just 22 years old. In the past, I have been able to manage my knee problems with spinning, yoga, and had even worked my way up to walking for an hour three times a week. But then, I pulled something in yoga class in July and haven’t been able to walk (for exercise) since. I’ve been to physical therapy, got a cortisone shot that only helped for a few weeks, and have been faithfully doing my exercises at home, but sometimes the pain is so bad that I can’t sleep. When I stand up after sitting for any length of time, I can barely walk.

My doctor wanted me to get shots of hyaluronic acid to lubricate my knees and relieve some of the pain. Eventually, I will need knee replacements, but I’m trying to hold off as long as possible. With these shots, the doctor says I will be able to work out again, building muscle that will help me when I finally get my knee replacements. I told my doctor I needed to wait until January because I figured the procedure wouldn’t be cheap, and I have a high deductible plan, so I wanted to take advantage of meeting any deductible for a longer portion of the year. I had no idea that the prescription for the injections alone would cost $2900.00. This is not something I can make payments on either. It’s due up front before the injection. I was told that if I had a copay plan, the copay would be $684. Even that is insane.

One month ago, I was talked in to trying CBD oil to treat the pain and inflammation. This oil, which you can hardly find any information or studies on, at least in the United States, is not cheap–$100 for one ounce of full spectrum 1000 milligram tincture. I was very skeptical and did not want to put out that kind of money for something that is not approved or recommended by the general medical community, but while in excruciating pain, I decided it was worth a try. I honestly didn’t expect it to work, but within 10 minutes of taking one dropper of the tincture, I was walking almost pain-free and without a limp. It lasted a few hours, getting progressively worse and wearing off completely in about five hours. I don’t think it helped me enough to go hiking or on a long walk, but it relieved the worst of my pain and allowed me to get around without looking like an old lady. Of course, this one hundred dollars a month I will be spending on CBD oil does not count toward my insurance deductible. Our government would rather approve opioids and deal with the epidemic of addicts than legalize and research CBD or any cannabis related medicine.

But what bothers me the most about this whole situation is that I work a full-time job with benefits and so does my husband; we have insurance, and I even have additional income on the side from teaching college classes and writing, and I still can’t afford to buy the medicine I need. At this point, I’m wondering how the United States is even considered a first-world country with its barbaric health care practices. At 17th in health care quality, it isn’t worth the price. I’m starting to consider medical tourism or even emigrating to a country that has single-payer nationalized health care. I’m not even retirement age yet, and I have perfect blood pressure, low cholesterol, and no sign of diabetes. I’m in good health now, but what in the hell am I going to do when I am old and need lots of medical care and am on a fixed income?

Even if the Affordable Health Care Act survives the Trump presidency, it does not go far enough. Drug companies need caps on what they can charge, insurance premiums need to be affordable to everyone, and doctors should make a reasonably good income like other professionals in a public service position, like say–teachers. Well, maybe a bit more than that.

If working two jobs, having a professional degree, and medical insurance is no guarantee of receiving adequate health care, it may be time to dispel the myths and get on board with Medicare for all.

For now, I’ll wish you, and me, a healthy, hospital-free new year.–Christina Knowles

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