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March 11


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MARCH 29, 2012 5:05PM

Pre-existing Condition

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I am mentally ill.  At least this has been my label--my diagnosis has gradually evolved  from anorexia, to bulimia, to eating disordered non-specified with depression, to bipolar to borderline personality disorder. 

 At the age of 12, I was hospitalized.  After spending three months in a residential treatment center, where they rewarded me for eating with tokens that looked like poker chips to spend in the hospital  'store', stocked mainly with candy, I was discharged to my parents.  The insurance had run out, and I was left with a label and a pre-existing condition. 

Mental health gets overlooked within the health care system. People tell me that I need medication to function properly, and I've had enough meltdowns without it to believe them, but the newest psych meds aren't cheap.   The right cocktail of psycho-pharmaceuticals could wind up costing eight or nine hundred a month.  I qualified for Arizona's health care cost containment system, or AHCCCS, but I was required to resubmit information on a yearly basis.  It was a hassle, but nothing compared to dealing with the state mental health care system, which flounders in beaurocracy and too few psychiatrists, with a backlog of appointments that can span out over eight months.

My husband had insurance, but I had a pre-existing condition.  It was not until the new healthcare law came into effect, that I could choose to use his insurance plan.  The co-pays are higher, but I do not have to deal with the stigma and hassle that are prerequisites to dealing with the state mental health facilities.  His insurance covers counselling with a twenty dollar co-pay.  I had given up trying to get counselling  as a client of the state contracted mental health provider.

This is not a rant against the public health system: AHCCCS covered ALL the costs of my pregnacy; the delivery of my son; and my son's first two years of doctor check-ups.  In terms of strict medical care, I would take AHCCCS over anything else.  My dilemma arises from the mental health portion of the plan, where mental health providers are contracted out by the state.  There may not be a difference in general practitioners, who will and won't take state insurance, but there is a difference in psychiatric facilities and psychiatrists.  In the mind of the state, the mentally ill are still a nuisance, not worth nearly as much as those with a non-stigmatized illness. 

I am grateful for the option that Obama's healthcare plan gave me-the option to choose a psychiatrist, who treats  me with dignity and respect, rather than just another crazy person. 

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are your two pics above from different ages? they look that way. as for the mentally ill being a nuisance to insurance companies, dont worry. anyone who tries to collect money is the nuisance. private insurance is where unregulated capitalism tends to fall down. 3 initials: AIG....
mental illness is poorly covered by most private plans which rarely cover the newest medications and have limited inpatient days. There is an expectation "they" are taken care of by the state but many states have taken medicaid money and not paid back. block grants are popular as well, where the money is given to counties to determine their mental health needs and can then use the "rest' for other purposes
You are right. It is poorly covered by most insurance. I'm fortunate that my husband works for the county and recieves very good health insurance. I am all for a public option - at least AHCCCS covered my medication when I had no other choice, but compared to basic medical medicaid, public mental health providers have a very long way to go.
I hope you get yourself straightened out as soon as possible. My taxes are high enough as it is.

Your writing ability and your picture suggest that you're not as disabled as you may imagine.
Thanks for sharing this wonderful post! This is such an important topic, and I agree that mental health care often gets overlooked within the healthcare system, and in public discussions about the healthcare system.

The lack of access to mental health care, lack of insurance coverage, not enough providers and with the long waits you mention (as well as the significant number of mental health care professionals who charge high fees and don't accept any type of insurance) is a huge problem, and prevents many people from accessing the care they need. So many people would benefit from accessible and affordable mental health care, and people often don't receive treatment until things reach a crisis stage. I think also many people don't even know where to start looking or how to navigate the mental health care system; sometimes going to a regular internal medicine doctor is a good place to start, or checking out, or if one has insurance, looking at the insurance company website for what providers and services are covered.

I'm so glad that President Obama's healthcare plan is making such a positive difference in your own life...every person in our country who needs it should have access to care with dignity and respect.
Thank you so much for bringing this up and sharing your story! Mental illness has often been overlooked in the debate and is absolutely critical since it affects so many people.
Gordon is right;you look extremely smart and well adjusted.Good luck to you and your family,and an extra bonus to your husband.
The ank you for pointing out the benefit you have because of B.Obama's new concept of medicare.

I'm glad you made out okay, jenni, but there is still a stigma against the mentally ill, as you well know. I had anorexia as a teenager, which mostly went untreated. My mother has been mentally ill most of her life and now has Alzheimer's. She was not admitted to the best nursing home (Hebrew Home in Riverdale, NY) because they said they could not "accommodate her needs," meaning "psychiatric." I was told by a veteran social worker who works primarily with geriatric patients that nursing homes definitely discriminate the mentally ill. We can only hope that things improve, right?
I remember when Ronald Reagan, with his trickle-down economics, flooded the streets with millions of severely mentally ill patients as Medicare stopped coverage. I suppose this would be “Reagancare??” There was NO PLACE for them to go, so they filled the jails (some genyoueyeine ecicomical think-tanking going on there) with people who presented an issue with “public safety.”

Sadly, it’s, as you so eloquently stated, still in the “ignore them and they’ll go away” tank.
Wow, Gordon, way to go with the empathy there, fella!
Jenni - hope you get to continue receiving treatment. I know the meds they have now can allow a lot of people to get out there and live their lives!
Assuming a human being cannot control themselves negates everything Buddha and Yogic Masters have learned and taught. I simply cannot buy it. There is a way out of suffering, you just need to work very very hard at achieving it. I'm sympathetic to the stresses of trying to deal with a very unsympathetic world, but to suggest that you cannot control your situation without their medications and help ends freewill as we know it. Are you sure you've exhausted every internal possibility for self remedy?
Aristo, it is obvious that you have little or no experience with mental illness. Or have you achieved the ability to think yourself out of a heart attack?
Did you become bipolar before or after you began taking psychiatric "medicines?"

The proportion of Americans disabled by mental illness has skyrocketed since these "medicines" were introduced. I believe there are some people on OS whose identity is so heavily invested in being "mentally ill" that, for them, there is no turning back. I don't think you are one of these people -- yet. You obviously are young, healthy, articulate, intelligent. I urge you to think long and hard about the ramifications of continuing down the path you are on.