Today I am ranting. This rant isn't for me, specifically, or even for my sister Crasey, whose recent experiences were the catalyst for this post. This rant is on behalf of all women everywhere in this country under this god-awful, ass-backwards, lying-cheating-stealing health insurance system that would deny a young woman coverage for her birth control pills under the most egregiously inappropriate, chauvinistic, patriarchal, dunder-headed, and asinine regulation I have ever heard in my life.
Here's some background. Crasey just graduated from college this December. Not to brag, but this young woman is awesome. She graduated Magna Cum Laude, a University Scholar, with Honors and Distinction, some 200+ hours of community service, and a double major. She got a B+ in Walking On Water, but that's about the only class she didn't ace. On top of all that, she directed her studies appropriately. Early on she decided she wanted to work in PR or event planning, and chose two majors that ably supported that goal. Every summer between semesters she drummed up some internship or job that built her resume, and at each place earned nothing but the highest praise from her employers. In short, my friends, this kid is smart, a hard worker, a hell of a lot of fun, and prepared to take on the real world.
Before settling into a 9 to 5 job, however, she and her boyfriend of 7 years decided they wanted to see a little something of this world, and have both applied for Work Travel Visas to Australia, where they are moving next month to spend a year working and checking it out Down Under. Another laudable goal -- see something of the world before you're tied to a desk!
So here is the problem. Health insurance. And under the greater rubric of health insurance, a more specific problem. Birth control pills. And not to put too fine a point on it, the problem of the young, unemployed, un-wealthy trying to get appropriate health insurance to cover their health concerns and needs. It's not that Crasey can't get health coverage that will cover her BCP; she can. But the cost is some hundreds of dollars a month, and the girl just graduated college and has no money. The health insurance she can afford (which is still over $100 a month) won't cover BCP. You want to know why?
It's a pre-existing condition.
Let me repeat. The risk of becoming pregnant is classified as A PRE-EXISTING CONDITION. In other words, if I may be so bold as to read between the lines, getting pregnant is an illness. A genetic illness that you were just unfortunate enough to be born with. Sort of like sickle cell anemia. Being a woman = genetically ill.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME.
But the problem is not just that one classification. You should see the byzantine line-diagram I drew to clearly understand Crasey's story as she was telling it to me. The flaming hoops of fire she had to leap through are enough to boggle the mind, and it's only due to her genetic predisposition to be unbelievably stubborn (see: pre-existing condition) that she got as far as she has.
So first step: how much is COBRA insurance for our father's policy, under which she is currently covered? TWELVE HUNDRED DOLLARS A MONTH. $1,200. At the risk of repeating myself, ARE YOU KIDDING ME? That's an effing HOUSE PAYMENT! So, clearly, not so much an option.
Next step, Crasey called up Blue Cross Blue Shield, where after sitting on hold for approximately 40 days and 40 nights, she was told that if she filled out a stack of paper that Crasey claimed would bury her for "weeks and weeks," she might be approved for 3 packs, just once. Fine, thanks so much, but since she'll be gone up to a year, that really won't be all that helpful.
Well, she thought, maybe I should just see how much the packs cost without insurance, so she called a couple of pharmacies to price check: between $50 and $60 a month. Or, as Crasey summed it up, "a utility bill."
She calls her doctors (OB, GP, etc) to see if anybody had sample packs she could take. No luck. She calls Planned Parenthood, and they don't carry that pill. But that pill is the only one Crasey can take that doesn't make her instantly nauseated, so it's that pill that she needs.
Crasey is an enterprising sort, and so she thinks to herself, well heck. I'll just call up the maker of the pill, explain my predicament, and see what they can do for me. So she hunts down (check this out,) the direct phone line for the Associate Director of Public Relations for Bayer (the maker of this pill), and called her up and left a message. So far, nothing back, but she's planning on calling back, maybe even posing as a reporter doing an exposé on the plight of young college graduates as they try to enter the job market and stay healthy and UN-PREGNANT in this economic down-turn. We'll see what happens.
I just want to head you off at the pass here, in case you're thinking, "well, why doesn't she just use a condom/diaphragm/rhythm method, for crying out loud? To that, I say, well, yes, you're right, she probably could, she may even have to. But why. Why should she have to when the birth control method that she and her boyfriend have finally settled on that works for them is a) available, b) accessible, c) legal, and d) provided for under all normal health insurance policies you would get through work? And more importantly, why is being a woman classified as a pre-existing medical condition? This entire situation strikes me as a perfect storm of an un-regulated privatized health insurance system and a social system that has deep roots in patriarchy and gendered inequality. Here you've got a young woman who is doing everything by the book, and is being systematically shut down in her quest to behave in a responsible manner while still trying to take advantage of the opportunities the American system have provided her. Her boyfriend, it might be noted, has no pre-existing medical conditions related to his gender, and his health care costs will be significantly lower as a result.
On behalf of my sister, and on behalf of all women in even remotely similar circumstances, I protest.