Confessions Of A Woman With A Rare Disease And Without Health Insurance

I remember a time when my mother had to literally take permission to step out of the house or to buy even the most basic household items. Women in India have come a long way since then. Today, women are more socially empowered and financially independent. By and large, male members are not the only earning hands in the family. I belong to one such household. We may be earning as much as the men in the family but it does not really mean that we are the ‘bread-earners’. We tend to put ourselves second to our family.

I am a manager with a leading marketing agency. While juggling between work and home, giving time to my health felt like a guilty pleasure. Why so? Because my family’s health was the top priority and mine never really mattered.

I had been ignoring a ringing sensation in my ear for almost six months. Facial numbness and difficulty in hearing and swallowing had become an everyday thing until the day I fainted at work. My employer took me to the nearest Apollo hospital and after a series of consultations and visits, I was diagnosed with a rare condition called acoustic neuroma. It was a critical illness that could destroy the rest of my life. I stood there wondering how could this happen to me? My life almost came to a standstill.

I had to take a break from work. My five-year-old child had to be taken care of by my 75-year-old mother-in-law. My husband’s income alone wasn’t enough to run the house as smoothly as we had done together. Most importantly, we couldn’t afford the medical bills. My employment insurance did help me get through the initial phase of my treatment, but it obviously couldn’t have covered the entire cost.

I was devastated by the thought that my five-year-old wouldn’t grow under the care of her mother.

Fast forward to this date, I have been cured and I lead a normal life. Thanks to the high prices of land and a personal loan, we sold an ancestral property and availed a loan to compensate for my treatment.

But it left a scar in me. All the moments of carelessness flashed through my eyes while I lay on the operation theatre on a dewy morning of November, 2010. We had to pay a heavy price for my negligence towards health. We also realised the importance of health insurance.

It took me multiple blows to understand the real importance of health insurance.

  • The time when I fell from the stairs and had to spend my savings of six months from a small job to pay for multiple fractures.
  • The time when I was pregnant with my first child and had to bear the entire cost on my own because my husband had to pay for two senior citizens in the family and their medical bills.
  • All those times when I was spending an inscrutable amount of money on my diabetes.

It was my fault. I was callous and aware, yet ignorant. It took a life threating disease to bring me to terms with the fact that women have radically higher lifetime medical expenses than men do, about one-third higher, on average, so it is more important to plan health insurance. The deeper I thought, the worse I felt. As a married working woman, I’ve always had a plethora of responsibilities. But I never realised that smart financial planning can help me secure my family’s, as well as my life, against uncertainties that may affect even our financial status. By not paying attention to my health and needs, I was not only complicating my life but also my family’s life.

We invest in areas of our lives that are important to us. We invest in our education, in our talents, in our families, and in our homes. Since we need our health to take advantage of the great things we love, it is important that we also invest in our health. Moreover, health insurance is a vehicle that can be used for savings as well as investments, if that helps you get one.

I urge all the women out there to please get insured. The reason I am still struggling with loans and financial liabilities is my lack of health insurance. I could have provided a better life to my child, and my husband could have saved more, if I had health insurance – more precisely, adequate health insurance. Make sure that you have health insurance that will cover for the care you need, when you need it, and at a price you can afford!

This is the story of my mother. I witnessed her story as the above-mentioned five-year-old daughter, so I know for real the struggles she had to face. I made sure I had health insurance as soon as I received my first salary and it was my mother who encouraged me to do so. She does not want her daughter to be the person she was – careless and sacrificing towards her health.

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