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Choosing Between Physical and Mental Health: Life in the Gap

By: A.L.L., Broward County

Currently I am uninsured. Last year I was homeless and qualified for a health insurance program through the County. It lasted one year and covered physical health. I was able to address some health issues, like high blood pressure and high cholesterol. There was no mental or dental health coverage. I got a job recently and they offer health insurance. I was not able to sign up during this year’s open enrollment because the premiums and deductibles are too high. I will probably sign up during the next open enrollment just as a safe guard. It all depends on my budget.

I live with bi-polar disorder and have been dealing with it for the last twenty years. This is my most important medical concern. If I have to choose between treating my physical health or mental health, I choose mental health. Over the last twenty years, it has been my most distracting issue. I have to address and manage my mental health because it’s what keeps me stable enough to maintain employment.

Right now I pay out of pocket for my mental health care and medications. I use the Good RX program that helps me find the lowest prices on medication. Oftentimes I have to shop around and work with my doctor to find generic medications that are affordable and treat my health issues. I take five different medications for my bi-polar disorder that range from $10 to $65 a month. There are times when I can’t afford the more expensive medications, so I’m not able to take all of them all of the time. It really depends on the cost.

I’m currently researching my options for health insurance. I need a plan that adequately covers mental health. Many plans limit you to eight or ten therapy visits per year, and that’s not enough. It’s hard to find insurance that has good mental health coverage. I pay out of pocket to treat my disorder. Luckily, I have a longstanding relationship with my Psychiatrist. He allows me to pay $100 per visit, which is way below his actual cost.

I haven’t had dental care in a very long time. The dental program offered through the county was for extractions, filings, and regular cleanings. The dental insurance through jobs I’ve had have provide limited coverage. Well, I have periodontal disease and need regular deep cleanings. These cleanings are expensive, but they help prevent extensive (and expensive) surgery. Nova Southeastern College has a dental school here that offers dental services on a sliding scale. I will look into their program and see if I can get dental care. I feel like the healthcare situation is backwards. You can’t get healthcare until you are in a crisis. At that point, you can go to the Emergency Room or to a provider and negotiate services. What about prevention?


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