I had a wart on my face.
And I never thought of myself as a vain person but having a wart on my face changed my thoughts about myself. A wart. On my face. And not having much other than my face to get me by: the wart was a big deal. Not okay.
In grad school, I had excellent insurance. Even in undergrad, I never worried. I paid a lot for it and never used it except for the occasional and University-required immunization and/or tetanus shot (most often caused by stepping on rusty bottle caps at assorted college-type parties), but I never really thought about health insurance much because, as young and healthy as I was then, I never really needed it. For that, I was fortunate.
Plus, the Government paid for it then.
They remind me about it every month now.
Creeping up on 40 changes things, though, I think. Or, I guess. I feel. So does spending a year in Florida working at Walmart. With a Master’s degree. Without health insurance.
“You count those pills so fast!”, she said.
“You think so?” I asked.
“How you do that?” the other girl asked.
“Count the pills like that?”
“Well, I just count them by fives rather than individually,” I said.
“I never thought of that!” she said, slapping the other girl somewhere in the mid-section, almost like a sucker-punch, and then moving on to find some other pills to count out.
In Florida the sun is constant, the Gulf is warm and clear, the poached eggs are always under-done, and most people have trouble with basic math.
Working in the Pharmacy at Walmart is the worst of all. Which is where I was, counting out little blue ED pills, by the fives (because, yes, there are that many Old Fuckers in Florida). Without the benefit of my own health insurance. Because I could only get a part-time job in the Pharmacy at the local Walmart. With my ability to count things in multiples I totally should have been full-time. No one else recognized that in me, though.
Back in Cali, a few months later, things were better in the sense that the poached eggs were actually poached and that I didn’t have to count by fives anymore. The Ocean in SoCal has a whole bunch of tar and hypodermic needles in it, sure, but, mostly, it just depends on the beach that you go to. You gotta’ just pay attention to the tides because there’s always another, cleaner beach up North. Better surf, less needles.
And in Cali, there is always opportunity. Much like the opportunity I got to move to Washington.
Where everyone hates Californians.
Which is fine with me because, hey, even though I grew up there, it doesn’t mean that I’m from there. Even though I sort of am. From Boston, too. But who needs to know about that?
In any event, a few years after grad school, a couple of states later, and one opportunity as a full-time-benefited employee of the Natural Food Store, I got me some health insurance. Finally!
It only cost thirty bucks a month! And even though I had it, I never needed to use it! I paid for it for three years without using it, ever! Until I got a wart on my face. Which was, like, $1,080-ish into my policy and I only went to a doctor because, you know: wart on my face.
I’m way too pretty for that kind of nonsense.
So, after some gentle reassurance from the Dermatologist, a bit of cutting and just a tad of cauterizing (yes, I did smell my own burning flesh), me and my temporarily-numb and un-warty face lived happily ever after. Until the bill came:
My newly-smooth face and I had to pay another $418.95 toward my own health.
Which wouldn’t have been so bad, I guess, had I not just also gone to the Lady Doctor to get my feminine bits checked out:
“When was your last exam?” The Doctor asked.
“Uh, two or three years ago,” I said, my knees clamped together and all of my shivering masses shrouded underneath a giant paper “gown”.
“You are a couple of years early then. You only need a Well-Woman Exam once every five years. Don’t you know that?”
“No,” I said. “No, I don’t know that. No one sent me a letter or a text or an email or Facebooked me about this. No one told me that I only ever needed to get my vagina checked out once every five years.”
Shivering in my paper towel, I said, “I’m almost 40, you know. And my hormones are weird. And I have insurance so can’t you please just take a peek and let me know what’s going on and forget about the five-year rule? My vagina is unhappy and requires a professional opinion. I have insurance!”
“I don’t know that your insurance will cover this visit,” the Doctor said.
Every once in awhile, when I get really heated, especially when someone won’t do what I want them to do, my voice drops down an octave and my eyes get unusually blue. This mostly has to do with a kind of rage that, rather than being projected in shouts, radiates outward from inside me in a way that can best be compared to a really, really serious version of Sigourney-Weaver-as-Gatekeeper-in-Ghostbusters. Except way less sexy:
“Please perform my exam,” I said solidly and succinctly. “I need to know the state of my health.”
I may or may not have uttered, “Zuul.” I’m not sure.
So, the doctor did her doctor stuff.
And I got another bill.
The visit and exam was $180.00.
My insurance covered $65.00 of it.