Interviewing different generations on their healthcare coverage is interesting. Here I have my grandmother, Shirley. She is seventy-six years old and is a retired postal worker. Next up is the retired teacher, Cherie, my mother. She is sixty years old and is retired from the Detroit Public School System. Lastly, we have my sister Rae. She is twenty-nine years old and unemployed. Shirley retired from the United States Postal Service in 1992. Since then, she’s been witness to many changes within the scope of her healthcare coverage. Since she is retired from the state, Shirley has Blue Cross/Blue Shield as her provider.
Once she turned sixty-five, she started receiving Medicare. Shirley’s monthly premium for the Blue Cross insurance comes out of her monthly pension and the Medicare comes out of her monthly Social Security. She is able to see her doctor and choose her specialty doctors. Shirley has COPD so she see a pulmonary doctor on a regular basis. She doesn’t have a co-pay for her doctors’ visits because Medicare pays for that. Her payment for her prescriptions is not a fixed rate. Blue Cross provides her prescription coverage and they choose what percentage to pay depending on the medication.
Due to Shirley’s respiratory problems, she usually pays hundreds of dollars a month for her medication. Medicare pays for her oxygen. She receives her healthcare in a doctor’s office. She must go to the hospital to have blood drawn, take x-rays and run tests. She loves her doctors and I’m not so sure that she is as “in-love” with her providers. Over the years, she has witnessed her healthcare premium increase and her coverage decrease. For example, a few years ago, she received a raise in her monthly Social Security amount. She also received a raise in her monthly premium for Medicare. (S. A. Bennett, personal interview, January 26, 2014)
Cherie is a retired math teacher. As an employee of the Detroit Board of Education, she had the top-of-the-line Blue Cross/Blue Shield healthcare coverage. Her co-payments for prescriptions were low for her and her family. She could see any doctor or specialist without referrals and this was great because her youngest daughter (Me! ) had skin allergies and they were always visiting a new dermatologist’s office. Fast forward twenty-years and Cherie retires from the Detroit Board of Education in 2012. Instead of Blue Cross, she now has HAP as her healthcare provider.
The monthly premium payment for HAP is taken out of her monthly pension, which is now being taxed. Now she has a primary healthcare provider that she sees regularly. She has a co-pay of twenty-five dollars to see her primary care physician and thirty-five dollars to see any specialty doctor. If she needs to see a specialist, such as an orthopedic surgeon because she has arthritis, then she must seek a referral from her primary care provider. Cherie also has asthma so when she needs to see her pulmonary doctor, she must first see her primary care doctor to receive a referral.
Her prescription coverage has changed drastically. She now pays a flat rate of fifteen dollars for all generic medications. With Blue Cross, she used to pay three dollars for the generic medication and five for the name brand. Blue Cross used the name brand medication as their first choice, Hap pays for the generic medication first. Cherie loves her primary care physician. He knows her well because he has been her doctor since she was seventeen years old. She visits her doctor in a clinical setting and appreciates not having to drive to location to have labs and tests ran.
When need be, they draw her blood right there and she only has to hop on the elevator for a few floors to get x-rays. Cherie is grateful to have healthcare coverage in this day in age but her healthcare coverage when she was working was much better than her retired healthcare coverage. (C. D. Bennett-Harris, personal interview, January 26, 2014) Rae is currently unemployed. Last year she had a bad apartment fire, lost everything and had to move back home. She was living out of state working for a casino as a dealer so she lost her job. Her healthcare coverage under Blue Cross/Blue Shield ended thirty days after she had to quit her job.
Rae was medically uncovered until she found a clinic for the homeless. Before she found this clinic, if she was ill, she would have to through the emergency to get treated and received an outrageous bill for it. Rae still has to get treated from the ER sometimes because she can only see that doctor at the homeless clinic for free. The prevalence of homeless people without health insurance is high in her city so it takes a long time to get an appointment with the doctor. Rae has asthma, sinusitis, and is just all together sickly so she needs to see a doctor regularly.
Once she started seeing the doctor at the homeless clinic, they enrolled her in a program that allows her one pap smear. If anything comes back bad or inconclusive, they will not pay for additional testing or treatment. The clinic also enrolled her in a program that pays for her asthma medicine and birth control. She visits her doctor in a clinical setting; all testing and blood draws are done there. Rae really likes the doctor at the clinic and of course she is very appreciative for the clinic and what it does for people but it was hard going from good healthcare coverage to none at all.
These interviews showed me that access to healthcare and even how healthcare is paid for is different across different generations, as well as different income brackets. My sister has no income and therefore, she has no health insurance. My grandmother is retired and yet a significant portion of her monthly pension and Social Security goes to healthcare coverage. My mother worked as a teacher and had great healthcare coverage, now life as a retiree can prove to be pretty expensive.
All three of these ladies loves their physicians and are grateful for some type of healthcare coverage. But Rae may get tested for something but nor treated, Shirley has prescription coverage but foots the majority of the bill and Cherie has to go through the hassle of obtaining a referral whenever she needs to see a doctor outside of her primary care physician. The bottom line is when referring to healthcare, you have millions of different providers that provide millions of different coverage plans that meets the needs of millions of different people.