My Sad Healthcare Story – Every American Has One

I want to tell you about a very unfortunate situation I was in and why I support universal healthcare and paid maternity/paternity leave.

Eight years ago I worked for a community mental health agency and I absolutely hated it. The job involved a lot of driving and driving is something that makes me really anxious. I should have never accepted the position but it paid more than my previous job. 

At the same time, my husband and I wanted to start a family and in 2015 we found out we were expecting.

Many pregnant people in the US are familiar with FMLA – the Family Medical Leave Act. It allows you to take off up to twelve weeks unpaid from your job for a medical reason. For most American mothers it is the only way to have maternity leave.

There’s a catch – to apply for family medical leave, you have to have been with your employer for at least a year. So when I got pregnant, I was stuck at my miserable job. If I found a new job, I wouldn’t be able to have maternity leave. Let’s be real – no one is going to hire a pregnant person anyway.

My daughter came and I took eight weeks off. Family Medical Leave is typically unpaid but my employer required me to use all of my sick and vacation time while I was off. It only covered about two weeks and it turned out to be disastrous. 

When my eight weeks were up, I went back to work and my daughter went to daycare. She was tiny and it was gut-wrenching to leave her with strangers. As many parents know, when you send your kid to daycare they get sick – a lot. My daughter had only been at daycare for a week when I had to take her to the hospital for a fever of 104.

So here I am with a sick kid and no sick or vacation time to stay home with her. I had no options. I took a day off anyway and when I returned to work I got written up for it.

I continued to work at my miserable job but I was also looking at job postings. Then an amazing opportunity came up for my husband. He started a new job and it was good money – and we desperately needed money. Since you have to work for an employer for three months to get health insurance, I stayed at my job so my husband could go on my insurance. I stopped looking for a new job and stayed put.

Also, let me tell you how horrible the health insurance was at that job. My annual salary was only $20,000 and the health insurance offered had a $5,000 deductible. 

My husband was working at his new job and finally got health insurance. A few months later, I was laid off. Getting laid off should be terrifying, but I only felt relief.

Working at that job was one of the darker periods of my life and I was absolutely stuck there for nearly four years.

Today, I only work part-time so I am on my husband’s insurance which thankfully, is pretty good. My husband and I both have chronic health conditions so going without insurance just isn’t an option.

That’s it. That’s my sad story. That’s why I will always push for universal healthcare and paid family leave.


Fellow Americans, what’s your sad story?


  1. Katydid says

    So, so, SO many stories. Here’s one that’s at least amusing:

    I’ve known my dentist for several decades; he and his wife and good friends with good friends of mine, so we have met as a group on holidays, etc. This is important to the story.

    At one point in time, I was working for a very small company (less than 15 people) that hired an absolutely shady person to do HR and benefits. She immediately switched our medical and dental plans. About five months later, the family had a routine dentist appointment. A day before the appointment, the dentist’s wife (who did their billing) called to tell me that the dental company I was supposedly switched to had no record of anyone in my family.

    I called the HR idiot and told her that, and she began tap-dancing. She hemmed and hawed and finally said to tell the dentist to see me, but not bill me for 90 days. She finished with, “We work with this dentist all the time and he’s fine with it.”

    I called my dentist back and we all had a good laugh about that. But the bottom line was that the employees were having money deducted from their paychecks to pay for insurance that we never got.

    To this day, I don’t know if the HR person was pocketing our insurance money and too stupid to realize we’d eventually find out, or if she was doing some shady deal and giving kickbacks to the owner of the company (who was also shady, but just slick enough that you didn’t realize it at first).

  2. Katydid says

    Here’s another story about good people:
    At one point of my life, I was in a bad accident and wound up in the hospital in a coma, then putting together my life in the aftermath. My employer–a huge, national company that’s often on the list of “best places to work” (don’t ask me why–it’s totally not) kept dropping the ball on my insurance and also on short-term disability, so I was not getting paid anything.
    One afternoon in the hospital, I got a long-distance call from the short-term disability insurance people. A distraught woman in Chicago told me one of my coworkers called them asking for help for me. My company refused to sign off on the short-term disability, but she had spoken with my doctors and knew she was calling me in the hospital and wanted to reassure me that she was pushing my paperwork forward without the sign-off of my company. She asked me not to tell anyone because she could get fired for doing this, which is why I’m not identifying the company.

  3. Katydid says

    Sorry–last one, I promise. Very dark humor ahead.
    This was again when I was working at the national company with the “best place to work” designation. The company had a well-known history of wreaking havoc on pregnancy and maternity issues–legally they couldn’t get away with not hiring women, but they made it as hard as they could for women to work there. A typical trick they pulled was to claim they never got the paperwork for delivery, and thus did not add newborns to their mother’s policy…and by the time the women discovered this, the 30-day window to add a new family member had passed and they were told they had to wait until the next open enrollment period to register their child.
    This never happened to men whose wives had babies, only to women employees who were pregnant.
    I was with this company for several years when I realized if I wanted to have a family, I would need to get started. So, not long after my first ob appointment, I contacted HR via email (that is, in writing) to notify them of my expected delivery date and to get their instructions as to what I needed to do to take maternity leave and to add the new family member to my insurance policy. Again, the point was to have this all in writing.
    Instead, they informed me that they didn’t cover any form of maternity care, and furthermore, there was no maternal recovery time off.
    I pushed back, saying that was part of short-term disability, and if a man went skiing and had a heart attack, his recovery was covered under short-term disability.
    Their response? A heart attack was “an accident”, but pregnancy was a “self-inflicted wound” and therefore wouldn’t be covered.

  4. Katydid says

    “Just leave your country and immigrate to another” isn’t always a simple option. I’ve lived in other countries to work, but if you want to be a permanent legal citizen, you need to follow that country’s immigration policies, which can take years. Back home, often people have obligations that keep them from moving, such as extended family members who need care, and/or kids in high school or college.

    I turned down a second 3-year stint in England because back in the USA, I had two dogs and a cat and the stupid six-months-in-quarantine was both prohibitively expensive and cruel to the animals.

  5. sonofrojblake says

    If your dog is more important than your health or that of your children, you do you, I guess. Immigration sounds preferable to any of the things talked about here,regardless of inconvenience.

  6. Katydid says

    @6: And when did you immigrate? Oh, yeah, you didn’t.

    I turned down a second 3-year stint in England because I didn’t want to bankrupt myself and also stress out my animals by paying the exhorbitant kenneling fee for quarantine.

    Immigrating permanently is also ruinously expensive and can take years, and anyone who has to take care of elderly family members or young family members is not necessarily in a position to pick up and move.

    But you keep sitting there on your pedestal. It appears you like it there.

  7. sonofrojblake says

    “It appears you like it there.”

    I suppose it does appear that way, what with me not regularly complaining about how horrible it is. /shrug/

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