By Janet Hayes, former UUA Public Relations Director
My husband and I enjoy unusually good health. Neither of us has any chronic medical conditions, nor have we ever used prescription medications. We don’t even need glasses. So, although we were happy to be protected by the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Health Plan, we didn’t spend much time thinking about our health insurance. We had always been the folks whose premiums paid for other folks’ medical care. But all that changed in 2009, when our son was born three months early.
At the end of my second trimester of pregnancy I was diagnosed with severe preeclampsia, bundled into an ambulance, and sent to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. I was hospitalized for two and a half weeks before Logan’s emergency delivery at twenty-eight weeks of gestation.
His birth was a heartbreaking experience. Our tiny boy weighed only two and a half pounds and he wasn’t able to breathe on his own. He spent nine weeks in a plexiglass isolette in the neonatal intensive care unit, struggling to breathe, eat, and grow. He was cared for around the clock by a team of specialists—neonatologists, opthamologists, audiologists, respiratory therapists, radiologists, and dozens of dedicated nurses. He received blood transfusions, x-rays, ultrasounds, vision and hearing tests, and countless medications. As the days and weeks passed, Logan slowly grew stronger and bigger. Gradually our worst fears subsided as he avoided dangerous complications of prematurity and began to thrive.
After nine long weeks our son weighed more than five pounds, and he was ready to come home. That was the happiest day of my life. People called Logan a “miracle baby,” and his survival and good health did seem miraculous. We began to settle into an nearly normal family routine, but premature babies require a great deal of medical care even after discharge. We visited Logan’s pediatrician and various specialists and therapists almost weekly for several months.
During Logan’s hospitalization I was too overwhelmed to open the medical bills that had been arriving daily. So one night, after the worst was over, I sat down to a stack of envelopes nearly a foot high. I had a knot in my stomach as I began opening them, certain we would be facing bankruptcy. Instead I read dozens of statements from the UUA Health Plan itemizing extensive provider charges and noting that they had been paid mostly or entirely by the Plan. I was stunned and so very relieved.
The statements kept coming for the next six months. For the year that covered my pregnancy, Logan’s birth, hospitalizations for both of us, and months of intensive outpatient care, the provider charges totaled more than half a million dollars. But my family’s out-of-pocket expenses were only a few thousand.
There was no bankruptcy. Never did anyone call to cancel our policy or to deny expensive treatments for my son. During the most agonizing period of our lives, we were supported by our loved ones, by my employers at the UUA, and by dozens of medical professionals. And we were sustained by hundreds of participants in the UUA Health Plan—my colleagues at the UUA and employees of Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations and organizations across the country. As part of an interdependent web of commitment and caring, each Plan participant contributed to our miracle.
Today Logan is a happy, thriving one-year-old, and few people would guess at the challenges he’s overcome. It’s profoundly humbling to reflect on how much we’ve been given, an amount that far exceeds our own contributions. My family and I will always be grateful that the UUA Health Plan was there when we needed it most. Thank you.