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  • Give us artists some health insurance!

    March 22nd, 2009EdoheartThe Life

    In my floor acrobatics class on Friday, a classmate of mine was suddenly injured while practicing a front-handspring. She landed improperly and twisted her knee. A row of students away, I heard her scream, “[Expletive]” over and over as she rolled on the ground in agony. All activity in the gymnasium came to a halt. Precocious child-gymnasts prepping for the Olympics swiveled their heads. They were no longer paying attention to their instructor’s lesson on the beam. Back in my side of the gym, we were reduced to children, so terrified by our classmate’s injury that we all stopped practicing. Our two instructors ran out of the gymnasium to get help. The injured girl clutched her knee, rocking from side to side and weeping uncontrollably as another student sat beside her trying to be as comforting as possible. All my energy deflated, I went over to a bench and sat down next to another student, a man in his late twenties. “I’m just going to sit right here and not move.” he said. I folded my arms. “Yeah,” I agreed. “Me too. No more handsprings for me today.”

    The injured girl still on the ground awaiting medical help, our instructors maneuvered us away from the scene of injury and convinced us to drill back-handsprings. “This one goes in the other direction,” one instructor promised. “So what happened to her couldn’t possibly happen this time.” Meanwhile, two students traded advice about the cost of taking ambulances versus taxicabs to the hospital. One girl broke several fingers in the subway and caught a taxi to the hospital. Dude, she totally saved like so much money.

    The remainder of class, I was more conscious than I generally am in movement, trying as hard as possible to maintain proper form, be gentle with my body, land surely and safely- in short, not injure myself. All this because I currently do not have health insurance.

    According to a CNN article published March 7th, 2009, young adults, ages 19 to 29, are the largest age group of uninsured people across the country. Reportedly, insurance companies even call us “the young invincibles” and I’m not sure whether that moniker is mocking or encouraging. What I do know is that this foolhardy system is not sustainable. We young invincibles are the dancers and circus performers, we are the musicians, bands, slam-poets, the sports-club athletes and delivery boys; the entry-level office employees, construction workers, the retail workers, the performance artists, the culture and entertainers and hope of America. We define this country yet protection for our lives has been excluded from its social provisions. Without doctors, America’s youth will age faster and injure worse than the youth of other developed countries who have had the foresight to provide their citizens with access to free healthcare.

    In Nigeria, when I was taken to an emergency hospital with an asthma attack, I was treated and given prescription medication all for the equivalent of less than five dollars! I know firsthand that the cost in the US for similar treatment would have been two thousand, five hundred dollars or more.

    The March 2009 article on CNN continues, “according to the latest data from the Census Bureau, in 2007, there were an estimated 13.2 million uninsured young adults.” As if this is not bad enough news, another article published in the New York Times February 2009 says the issue is even further compounded because young adults without access to health insurance have begun medicating ourselves. Although I was originally alarmed by this last story, I realized how true it was. I cannot afford to pay for my asthma prescriptions so I either take over the counter meds with ephedrine or I drink as much coffee as is possible to get my heart pumping fast, get oxygen to my lungs. Is this dangerous? Yes.

    In actuality, I am one of the lucky few. If I can save up the cash, starting in April, I will have reduced COBRA payments I can better afford thanks to President Obama’s new COBRA subsidy signed into law February this year. (A month ago, I lost my job like millions of others because my company was too broke to keep me on.) In the meantime, I am trying home remedies and self-medicating to heal my injuries. For example, I woke up two weeks ago with a crick in my neck that became a severely pinched nerve. I have been unable, for two weeks now, to move my head freely to the right or left. I am in pain all night and all day. I saw a masseuse but it didn’t really help. So, I’m saving up to pay my COBRA and I guess I’ll go get x-rays in April. But for two weeks now, I’ve been sleeping on the ground with hardcover books instead of pillows under my head, trying to realign my spine as economically as possible. I’m hoping my body will just magically fix itself like it has before.

    My message to the American government? Send your priorities to a chiropractor! Give us free health insurance. Health insurance is a right. As long as we young invincibles remain invisible, you have no future in sight.

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