Late last week, I rescheduled my appointment with the UAB OB/GYN clinic to get my Depo Provera shot on Tuesday to Thursday afternoon at 2:30.1 I asked that the nature of the appointment also change, since I had done some reading and found out that Depo Provera increases the chance of bone loss. I was told that since I wasn’t dude for an annual visit until October 15 that I would have to make it into a birth control consultation. I said that was fine.
On Thursday afternoon, I was in a pretty good mood. I knew that it was possible, if the doctor took too long or there was some unexpected wait going on, I was going to have to stay at the clinic longer than usual because my mom had a dentist appointment, I still felt relatively optimistic. That should have made me nervous, but it didn’t. I was even joking around.
That changed after I started signing in.
The receptionist started by saying that someone should have gotten in touch with me. She asked if I was on Medicare. I told her I had Humana Medicare and Medicaid. She said that the Business Office had told them that Medicare wouldn’t cover my birth control consultation. I thought that there must have been some misunderstanding. Medicare has never denied a birth control consultation that I’ve been to, including the ones that I went to when my gynecologist was trying to come up with a treatment for the Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, but my hormones weren’t taking to the ring or the Seasonale or any of the many hormonal birth control methods that I tried. And I knew that, as a Medicaid patient, there shouldn’t be a rule against birth control access.2 I asked if she could appeal it and she said not today. That might seem like a perfectly reasonable statement for her, but I’m on a clock. Depo shots are only effective for so long. And once the progesterone has gotten out of my system, my dysfunctional uterine bleeding or, more specifically, my menometrorrhagia3 will act up again. I will bleed for days, weeks, or months on end until my iron stores are depleted and my anemia comes back with a vengeance.
Birth control is life or death for treatment for me. Even if it weren’t, denying access to it would be wrong. So I started drafting tweet after tweet of how horrifying the situation was.
Since I had no access to the internet until I got home, I accumulated around 50 tweets. And I started posting them once I got home. It wasn’t long before some of my friends and followers responded. It was another 18 hours or so before someone from Humana did.4
I wasn’t just sad, I was also pissed.
Lately, we’ve had some major budget cuts in Alabama’s social programs. Those cuts plus the misguided #DefundPP movement (and other anti-reproductive health crowds) are part of why birth control isn’t easily accessible to people who need it. For. Whatever Reason.
And I started thinking about how people think that defunding reproductive health intiaitives will save taxpayers money. It won’t. Birth control actually saves these whiny people a lot of money in other social programs. It saves them thousands of dollars in treatment costs for each menstruating person who uses them as part of their care for anemia, endometriosis, PCOS, etc. It saves money by doing its original purpose: contraception.
And I started thinking about how the current #DefundPP aren’t the first group to promote defunding the service. Some of those were successful, leading to clinics closing around the country. One of the clinics that closed was Huntsville’s. That closure directly impacted my life yesterday. I wouldn’t be wondering if I’ll get back on birth control in time to prevent the anemia’s return if that clinic was still open. I got even more angry as I came to that realization.
I started thinking about the consultations that my mom has to go for with her diabetes, kidneys, blood clots, bones, and blood pressure. This sort of thing never happens when she needs a medicine changed. Keeping patients away from treatment is negligent.
And I drew my line in the sand on Twitter.
I wouldn’t even apologize for all of the tweets because I knew that the tweets were the result of someone, somewhere fucking up. And that person was not me.
And I wondered if advocates for reproductive rights had ever even heard of this sort of thing happening.
The last line of this pretty much summed up my feelings:
And, as I wrote the 50+ tweets, I waited for my mom’s dentist appointment to be over.
As a result of chronically dry mouth (partly from the diabetes, partly from medications), most of her teeth have cavities. Her insurance (also a version of Humana Medicare and a secondary dental insurance from another company) is so great that it may cover $14 on a $108 appointment. And she needs over $3600 for treatment of 3 of those teeth. Only one filling is covered per year, and it even isn’t covered completely. The longer her cavities wait, the worse they get.
My dad and I haven’t gone to dental appointments in years because all the money for dental treatments goes to mom’s because she’s got the worst ones. Dad has cavities and teeth that break. He needs a lot of cavities filled.
At my last dental appointment, I was told I had an abscess of the nerve in a tooth that I had crowned in middle school. I also need tens of thousands of dollars in orthodontic work and even pricier surgery to correct bite problems.
So these are the joys of the healthcare system and the dental care system of this country. Fun, right?