Government Lifeline

at 12:35 AM

I've always believed that a society is measured largely by how well its government takes care of its most vulnerable members, especially when it comes to health care. However, as a Silicon Valley professional woman, I didn't think this applied to my life.

I'd always had excellent health insurance through my various jobs and I took it for granted. Then I wasn't in a job; then the COBRA program that extended insurance coverage from my last employer ended; then in 2005 I found out I needed major, lifesaving surgery. The State of California came to my rescue with the Major Risk Medical Insurance Program. Underwritten by Blue Cross, my application was quickly approved and my preexisting condition was covered after three months.

Surgery at Stanford was really successful, but my health problems were just beginning. I could barely get out of bed long afterwards and it took two years to discover the operation had triggered Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It took another two years to find a doctor who knew how to help me. All the while, I watched in a fog as a new president was elected and the country became embroiled in health care reform. From what I could tell, President Obama was trying to replicate for the country the kind of program that had worked so well for me in California.

Unfortunately, my premiums were climbing astronomically. I'll be gauche and tell you what I was paying by 2010: $765.50 every month. But again, my government came to my rescue. I had just moved back to San Francisco from the Peninsula and became aware of the city's Healthy San Francisco Program. It's not technically insurance but - gauche alert - for just $60 a quarter, I get access to a local network of physicians, to a Walgreens pharmacy and to the California Pacific Medical Center.

The limited ability of medical science to handle a condition like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is another story. But for me, Healthy San Francisco works. My medical home is just blocks from my apartment, and the services are effective even for a complicated, misunderstood condition like mine.

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San Francisco, you make me so proud.

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With a Perspective, I'm Bola Odulate.

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