by Barbara Baskind
May 13, 2019
Unsettling: Losing Your Health And Your Insurance
What happens when you are comfortably settled in the best possible situation for your illness and find out that your employer-based insurance suddenly stops covering you? What happens when you are told—after the fact—that the course of treatment prescribed for you will end in a matter of days? That’s my story. Let me begin at the beginning: a story that opens in a series of happy mid-life events.
My friends always said I was the one who had it all. I was happily married to Jerry, the love of my life. I enjoyed a degree of success in the upper echelons of my industry, exclusive costume and wardrobe design for one of the most successful and respected entertainers in television. Jerry was a noted assistant director, highly regarded for his documentary expertise, garnering awards for his excellence, and always in demand. We decided to have a child late in life, and at 45 years old, I became pregnant. Everyone cautioned us about late pregnancy, the risks to mother, the risks to the baby, the strain on the marriage — doomsayers all.
My pregnancy was a great journey and we all successfully survived — the beautiful baby, me, Jerry, our marriage. Yes, we had it all.
We were out celebrating my 60th birthday. That was last May, 2018.
And on May 29th, something went terribly, terribly wrong. In the middle of our celebratory dinner, I suffered a severe stroke, leaving me paralyzed and unable to complete daily living tasks: simple things like bathe, dress, and brush my hair. I required assistance for every aspect of living. I was hospitalized for 6 months, grateful that I could see clearly, speak with ease, and hear. Apart from the severe paralysis, the only other significant disabling quality was an uncontrollable shaking in my right hand.
I was discharged home. We had good insurance through three unions known for excellent coverage — the Screen Actors Guild, the Director’s Guild, and the Costume Society of America. Home care was provided as we needed. But no one could foresee the two falls I was to suffer at home, damaging my brain and robbing me of my short term memory.
After that fall, I was hospitalized once more, again for a period of months. I stabilized somehow, that is, I pulled myself out of my despair. And with that came a restoration to a new normal. A new normal which seemed to change weekly, often daily.
The hospital would only discharge me to a skilled, long- term rehabilitation facility. We found one near our home, allowing for frequent visits with my family. And, of course, good quality Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy and, after many negotiations between the social worker and our union insurance, the facility was finally approved and I was transferred to a remarkable rehabilitation facility.
Here’s where another form of trauma took place. I had been at the rehabilitation facility for about 5 months when my Physical and Occupational therapies were suddenly discontinued. And while trying to sort this out, I was told that our insurance was not in force, and that I had to be out of my room in 2 weeks, regardless of whether I had a place to go or people to care for me.
You cannot imagine the plunge in my heart as I tried to wrap my arms around this. One year ago, the woman who had everything. And now, survivor of a severe stroke, wheelchair bound, unable to care for myself, staring down the hall and imagining myself tossed on the street. This was my worst nightmare — and it was happening. I had to ask myself, “What kind of society lives with penalizing rules for the most at risk, for those least able to care for themselves?
Fortunately, a new friend advised me of my rights as a disabled person. Because we had just applied for Medicaid, and regardless of whether bills had been paid, I could not just be dumped on the street. And somehow, the Nursing Manager intervened with the correct calls, and my appeal is going forward. I am now comfortably resettled in my room, and my therapies have been reinstated thanks to Medicaid. I am still uncertain about my future but, for the moment, I can stay where I am, pending appeal and can then gather myself together to face life as an individual with a severe disability.
Under the NY Health Act, I will be able to get the right care, determined by a board of qualified doctors and nurses. Simply put, if it’s covered by Medicare or Medicaid or any State or City Employee Health Plan, it’s covered by the NYHA. It’s financial mechanics are fully vetted and, yes, NY state can afford it because it pays for itself. Find out more at Campaign for New York Health.
Barbara Baskind is a wardrobe designer who has worked in many venues, stage, screen and television.
Submit original writing for publication in WEEKDAY MAGAZINE, click here. Fiction, non-fiction, commentary, news, news analysis, and poetry are welcome. Bronx slant always preferred.