It’s frequently terrifying, painful, and difficult, but sometimes it’s wonderful. I laughed, I cried… no, I’m not talking about “Pan’s Labyrinth,” I’m talking about health insurance. So is Jenny Price, who writes “Why I’m happy my health insurance costs $12,268/yr.

Honestly, if a national heath plan went into effect tomorrow, I’d be out of a job, and I’d be thrilled. The costs are astronomical, and those of us who are “lucky” enough to have employer-sponsored healthcare may not even realize how lucky we are: 5 years ago I might have complained about paying $120 per month for my coverage, not knowing that I’m only paying 25% of the actual rate. Yes, my health plan costs $480 per month, or $5,760 per year, unless I decide to get married, in which case that would double.

Oh, that’s right – I’m not allowed to marry anyone I’d actually want to spend my life with, much less put them on my health plan – yes, I am one lucky girl.

In the meantime, everyone without employer-sponsored healthcare is footing that bill themselves every month… or not. Back when I was teaching part-time and tutoring, I couldn’t afford to buy an individual plan, and at the time it was $285 per month. How many more people can’t afford it now? Millions.

Also, many insurance companies will exclude just about everything that might be useful for those of us in the queer community, while covering in full “corrective” surgeries for intersexed newborns.

What about something like cancer? The insurance companies agree that it should be treated, but they’ll limit you to certain facilities. Do you live in the middle of Pennsylvania, but want to go to Sloan Kettering, where there’s a doctor who specializes in your particular cancer treatment? Too bad – your insurance company will probably only cover hospitals in Pennsylvania. Even if you live in Manhattan, like I do, 20 blocks away from Sloan? Sorry – my insurance company thinks they’re too expensive. And I’m not saying I wouldn’t get excellent care at many other city hospitals… but what if that one specialist was the key? What if I got second and third opinions that said to go to Sloan? Too bad, doesn’t fit their bottom line.

I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but really, listen to Jenny. This should be at the top of the priority list for the 2008 candidates, and all of the officials we already have in office. The first step is to get everybody on some kind of plan. The second step is to make sure that the same healthcare is available to everyone – the same doctors, the same facilities, the same services. Yes, I’m an idealist – I know it’s unlikely that Congress will up and listen to me tomorrow when they sure haven’t been listening for the last 12 years – but I think this can and will happen, and I’m hoping that our voices will help it happen sooner.