17 Camryn K

Insurance is important to me because it saved me and my family from living in ten lifetimes worth of debt. Going backwards a little bit, I was born in southern China, when the “one-child law” was still in effect in order to reduce the outgrowing population in the country. It back fired a bit, because soon orphanages and foster homes began piling up with second and third children who had been given up or abandoned by their parents. Many people in China live in poverty, and having more than one child meant paying a tax for that child. So, most parents felt that giving up their child was the only thing they could do. Even today, everyone is still unsure whether it was because I was female or a special needs child that I was given up. Regardless, I was left near a police station, and then put into an orphanage with hundreds of other babies (mostly girls) just like me. Only, I was set apart from the others because I was born with a “severe” (very large) cleft lip and palette, where my nasal cavity did not develop completely, so it left me with a large hole under my nose. As well as crooked teeth, the cleft palette caused speech problems, struggles with eating, and even chronic ear infections since my entire facial structure was affected by the irregular development of my skull.

The cleft lip was repaired in China by an American doctor, but it was funded through the good deeds of charity donors. Insurance was not available for special needs orphans in rural China. Insurance is not available to many people in China. After two years of waiting, two wonderful American people adopted me, as well as five other special needs children from China. Altogether, my parents had ten children. Three grown and out of the home, and seven left to care for the best they could. As expected, there were, and still are, thousands of dollars in medical bills that need to be paid. My mother has brain tumors, I have my cleft lip, and all three of my adopted brothers had a clubbed foot. Besides the special bills, there are expected to be typical child finances such as dental appointments and flu shots that have to be paid. My dad worked endlessly for as long as I can remember to pay off insurance bills, as well as out of pocket expenses. The brain tumors caused my mother to have to sleep constantly and unable to stand for more than fifteen minutes at a time. She was forced to be a stay-at-home mom, helping with the bills with her welfare checks. Even though we did pay hundreds of dollars for insurance coverage, it was worth it for us in the end because we got help. Without the insurance we had, we either would have been in a lifetime of debt, or we would not have been able to help me, my brothers, or my mother overcome what difficulties we were dealing with. That is not what my parents intended or planned to do. I have had twenty three surgeries in all for my cleft lip and palette, my mother has had five surgeries in all for her repeatedly growing brain tumor, and my brothers have had two foot surgeries each. Combined with regular and special doctor appointments, we have dealt with many things that we needed insurance for. Every member of my family, at one time or another, has suffered from mental health issues. Two of my brothers suffer from different forms of autism and depression. Autism is a special mental health issue that needs special attention, therapy, medicines, etc. The fact that we had access to insurance sealed my brothers’ fates. They got treatment and help because my dad was able to pay for it with help from an insurance company.

Unfortunately, my dad lost his job two months ago, and now we are left without insurance. They say that “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone” and I understand that completely more than I would have if we had never lost our insurance. I see now that something so mundane such as insurance is truly important. Now, my brothers cannot get medicine, and I cannot get braces or any other dental work done for my cleft palette. People take insurance for granted since it is assumed that everyone has it. That is not true. In a family such like mine, any help we can get, we will take. We have been doing reduced lunches, receiving waivers for tests that would otherwise be paid out of pocket, scholarships for free books for school, and gone to community charities for clothes and Christmas gifts. Mundane things such as insurance and school lunch are not as simple as people think. They are lifesavers for families like mine.

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