Chris T. Pernell
Doctor and Clergywoman

Chris T. Pernell

Chris T. Pernell is a doctor and an ordained clergywoman in New Jersey. Two of her recent projects include a prison-based wellness program and a faith-based childhood obesity initiative.

The Lessons of an Uninsured Physician

As a physician segueing from the security blanket that had been academic medicine and diving headfirst into health policy and management in the nonprofit sector, I find myself without the safety net of employer-provided health benefits. Uncomfortable by the risk of no coverage, but also financially squeezed in today's economic climate, I even find myself out-priced by individual plans. I too have become one of the many faces in the 47 million plus uninsured and under-insured lot. Though I never imagined it, this doctor who made the choice to serve disadvantaged communities, likewise is in need of outside help --- to create a more viable solution for us all. No action or incomplete action is simply unacceptable.

As President Obama obliges a firm push and the Congress articulates "change", legislators would best serve the American populace through a government-backed public option.

The merits of an effective public option include real choices and competitive rates for a beleaguered public formerly stuck between health insurance at the mercy of the job market or no coverage at all. The latter is not a good option for neither the insured nor the uninsured, both interconnected in a delicate tapestry which feeds escalating health-care costs. As priorities go, it is true that the insurance industry cannot be left to regulate and police itself, a job at which it has miserably failed. But inherent in a public option would be pressure on insurance companies to be more forthright and reputable in conduct.

Finally, I recall a conversation with a friend who works in the childcare industry and has undergone recent major surgery. She petitioned her job for health insurance, not previously offered, and they agreed given the dire status of her health. But then faced by the need for a second operation she was informed shortly before her scheduled procedure that she would be dropped. Forced to scavenge the internet for discount health programs, like millions of others, she grasps at an interim solution, hoping to provide some sanity, some safety net but no comprehensive coverage. I wonder if I too will choose the lesser of two evils knowing full well I am still vulnerable to one catastrophic medical event. Rather I am compelled to add my voice to the clamor for change.

By Chris T. Pernell  |  June 9, 2009; 9:34 AM ET  | Category:  Health Care Reform , Insurance Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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It is impossible to "shop around" for services. First, you have to actually reach a person on the robot phone systems. Second, no one seems to know the cost of anything, it changes according to the whims of the provider.
Case in point, I needed testing, I did not have a primary policy only a discount plan; most if not all of any medical bill was paid by me. I tried for (4) weeks to get in touch with “THE APPROPRIATE PERSON” at (5) area hospitals to find out about cost, availability and insurance acceptance. Mostly all I got for my trouble was long phone waits ending with transfers, disconnects or messages that were never returned. They can't tell you because there is no set price, no transparency. I finally gave up. I called my physician who said to me, “sometimes I think I would be better off as a greeter at Wal-Mart, at least I would be able to do my job properly". He treated me without the tests. I can’t be proactive with my care; I can just put out the fires.
I have actually had to pay more for some things because I had the discount program! I use breathing inhalers, with my "discount" I was paying the co-pay and the contractual price set by the discount program which was considerably higher than just buying it without insurance!! If the pharmacist hadn't clued me into the scam, I would still be paying over 150% for my medication. I cancelled it, put the money in savings; I use it to pay my costs. If you aren't the insurance elite, you are going to suffer, period. Greed rules the system.
Insurance companies and hospital boards to me are greed personified, but they have good intentions right?
I feel my life will end earlier than it has to because I don’t have access to health care.
By the way, I’m a professional person who is caught in “perm/temp” limbo for over 20 years at a major electric company. Not everyone who is without care is uneducated or illegal; we are just caught in a corporate web that rewards them for cheating us. Without a public plan, people like me will still be without care and forced to pay for “discount programs” that are useless.

Posted by: kaetc81 | June 16, 2009 2:24 PM
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do not side with big business and the insurance companies and pers drug companies.....side with the AMERICAN PEOPLE AND BARACK OBAMA .........THAT IS THE REASON HE WAS ELECTED...WHEN IT COMES TO HEALTHCARE IN OUR COUNTRY.

Posted by: STANTONCAROL | June 14, 2009 8:27 AM
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This is a very honest article and millions of people are in the same predicament. That you for shining the light on this!

Posted by: prophetessjnc | June 10, 2009 3:24 PM
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Very true and well said Dr. Pernell! Thank you for a wonderful post.

Posted by: audreydaniel | June 9, 2009 2:14 PM
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