Poor and Sick

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I wish people would stop yelling about MAH TAXES and try to understand what it’s like to be poor and sick.

First, let me get the “lazy poor people” stereotype out of the way. Spending hours every day looking for jobs and polishing your resume is the opposite of lazy. Taking any temp job that comes along, including under the table, is not lazy. Walking blocks every day asking people if they need their lawn mowed or if they need handyman services is not lazy. Working part-time for minimum wage as a cashier when you have a college degree is not lazy. Working from home because that’s all you can find is not lazy. So no silly remarks about the lazy poor.

Second, let me get the “they must not be poor if they’re fat” stereotype out of the way. Poor people either have very little money for food after they pay for shelter and things like, oh, RUNNING WATER, or they’re receiving “food stamps.” People on food stamps buy the cheapest food . . . the big loaf of white bread made with high fructose corn syrup, the nasty $1 bologna that would make you gag, meat on sale and past its prime, canned vegetables on sale. A steady diet of all of that and pasteurized processed cheese slices and white pasta and white rice make you “fat,” even if you never eat sweets. So no silly remarks about fat poor people.

Third, while walking is free and great exercise, poor people often live in areas where it’s dangerous to walk. They often don’t have cell phones in case someone starts following them. It takes money to put gas in the car (if you have a car) to drive to a place that’s safe to walk.

Then there’s the issue of health problems like asthma that make it difficult and even dangerous to keep up a regular walking schedule. Say you’re deathly allergic to grass pollen. Well, that pretty much cuts out walking 20 minutes every day during the spring and summer, doesn’t it? If you live in a two-story house you can use the stairs as a form of exercise but most poor people don’t live in two-story houses. Here, it costs $40 a month to be a member of the Y. Poor people generally don’t have swimming pools. Yes, you can do some exercises in your home. But when you’re overweight and everything is exhausting and you’re depressed because you’re poor, it’s hard to get motivated to use your stepladder and a couple of cans of baked beans as makeshift exercise equipment. So no silly remarks about “just go for a walk and lose weight.”

Being poor is depressing. Being told over and over “you’re perfect for the position” and never hearing from the potential employer again wears you down, as do stupid comments about your supposed laziness or the fact that you’re overweight. Being poor grinds you down and causes depression, anxiety, and insomnia. And all those things lower your immune system and that leads to chronic physical illness.

It’s really hard to treat chronic physical illness when you’re poor. For example, asthma. Symbicort, a daily preventative inhaler, can cost over $200 if you don’t have insurance. $200 a month. But if you don’t have it, you’ll end up in the E.R. Frequently. And of course you can’t pay that bill so then you have to stop answering the phone because of the debt collectors. The cheapest rescue inhaler costs around $60. If you can’t afford a preventative inhaler, you’re going to be using your rescue inhaler a lot, which is unhealthy and expensive.

Now, say you develop symptoms of a serious illness like Lyme disease. You get bitten by a tick, you get the rash, you start feeling weak, exhausted, getting excruciating headaches, lose your appetite, lose the desire to eat. You know you need to go to the E.R. but:

You know you can’t pay the bill

You know you’ll likely be treated like crap in the E.R. because you don’t have insurance

You know the bloodwork will make the bill even higher

You know that you likely can’t afford the treatment

What do you do?

Or, you have a cavity because you haven’t been able to go to a dentist in years and you break a tooth. Sure, you can go to a community care clinic IF there’s one in your area and you can get the tooth pulled IF it’s not so badly damaged that it requires dental surgery to remove it, but first you have to wait. In pain. You have to apply for Medicaid. You’re not getting Medicaid if you don’t have kids. You have to wait for the denial letter. You have to take the denial letter to DSS and get a form from them stating you’re indigent and ineligible for Medicaid. Then you have to wait for an appointment at the community care clinic. Meanwhile you’re taking probably kidney-destroying amounts of OTC pain meds and learning to chew on one side of your mouth.

“But Obamacare!” But stupid greedy Republican governors who decided not to expand Medicaid to cover people who fall into the Obamacare gap . . . those who don’t make enough money to purchase a policy through the Healthcare Marketplace.

You know, poor people.

Lazy, fat poor people.

When you’ve been poor for a while and you’ve become sick as a result of poverty, you don’t exactly make a standout job candidate. So the cycle never ends.

God forbid you get cancer while poor.

I hope that all of this makes someone somewhere re-evaluate their BUT MAH TAXES attitude, but I suspect I’m just preaching to the choir.

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