Dara Richter, Hudson Valley

My name is Dara and I live in Rockland County. I am 46 years old and I've lived with depression and ADHD my whole life, so I have seen the worst of our current medical system. For 6 years, I went without health insurance. Doctors where I lived simply wouldn't see you if you didn't have health insurance-- even if you could pay out of pocket! They simply refused. And clinics had waiting lists 3 weeks long, so I had to go to the emergency room when I needed medical care.

At another point, I only had health insurance because of a job that I hated, which drained me to the core and made me sick all the time. Ironically, I stayed, because without it I wouldn't have access to mental health care, or any health care for that matter.

The cost of treatment has always been a huge barrier to getting care. Once I attempted suicide, and after my one night stay at the hospital, I was sent home with some money for cab fare. There was no follow-up. No treatment plan. Nothing. But I heard from the billing departments! I received bills for the ambulance, the emergency room, the physician, the overnight social workers. The bills went through to a collections agency. I remember crying on the phone, saying crazy things like, it would have been better if I had succeeded. I actually feel sorry now for the agents whose job it was to call me.

I have also seen these problems from the medical professionals’ side. I worked briefly in a physical therapy office. As an aide, I saw that patients who had lesser insurance received fewer treatments, regardless of the severity of their case, plain and simple. They were also treated like second-class citizens. Patients got into battles with their insurance companies all the time, trying to get coverage for the treatment they needed. If they couldn't get the coverage, they would sometimes refuse the treatment, or limit it to less than what the PT prescribed. I treated everyone with love and respect. But I was only an aide, not a doctor.

Nobody needs health insurance. Everybody needs health care. It's so simple. Health insurance is a scam, and should be abolished. We need health care for all.