The other day on Facebook, I broke my own rule about keeping it light and fun and frivolous. Ironic, isn't it, after the FaceBible post I made only a few weeks ago?
Honestly, I didn't mean to do it. If I hadn't been in such a harried and hopeless state, I never would have posted something so inflammatory, nor the subsequent responses to the replies it generated.
What was this heinous thing I posted, you may ask? Some of you know, but for those who don't, I posted my frustration over the fact that we will be without insurance for the next six weeks. Some of you also don't know that Husband lost his job twice in less than a year. This has made our insurance situation pretty tenuous and very high maintenance. Up to this point, we have managed to stay insured. Now however, there is just nothing we can do.
After we reached the maximum period for Cobra coverage, we obtained really crappy and really expensive healthcare with the staffing company through which Husband had recently acquired his new position. We were able to to do this because his new employer requires a 90 day contract period for all new employees, which is negotiated through the staffing company. Once that term expired and Husband was hired as a permanent employee, that option was no longer available to us. Unfortunately, we will not be eligible for the new insurance until after the first full month of employment. Since the permanent hire took place in the middle of a month, this means a period of six weeks without benefits.
No problem, we thought. We'll simply purchase private insurance for that short period of time. It would cost us, but it would be worth the peace of mind, since a serious illness or injury could be potentially ruinous to our long term finances without it. Unfortunately, every carrier we applied to turned us down because of my stroke history. To insure just the boys for a 6 week period was ridiculously and prohibitively expensive. And since Husband is now gainfully employed, we do not qualifty for any sort of assitance.
So if something happens in the next six weeks, we're on our own. This is a scary thing to face when you have experienced a life threatening medical event and when you have adolescent children who do all manner of foolish things in the name of bravado and machismo.
As I said, I posted this on my FB page. And though I should have known better and not been shocked by the responses, I didn't and I was.
I don't have any right to healthcare it seems, nor do my children. It's a privilege that only people who aren't loafers and deadbeats should have. This despite the fact that both my husband and I have worked hard for many years to be productive members of society, to live within our means, and to plan for the future, so we wouldn't have to one day be a burden on anybody, much less society. Of course, it was a much more complicated discussion, but that was the gist of it: other people pay for theirs, why should you get some for free?
I won't lie...it hurt, I really try not to take stuff like that personally, but at the moment, I'm sorely lacking in objectivity. Yet another reason I should have kept my mouth, er...my fingers...shut. But...I wasn't asking for free. I was asking for access at a reasonable cost. Right now I can't even pay for it because nobody will make their product available to us. It's beyond frustrating.
I don't understand this dog eat dog mentality. This whole...every man for himself thing. People want to enjoy the freedoms and privileges that living in a civilized society affords them, but they do not want to accept any of the responsibilities. Indeed, it seems that the very idea of social responsibility is both foreign and abhorent to many of my peers and it also seems that anybody who finds themselves in a position of needing assistance is a mooch, a ne'er do well, a bum or a lazy booze swilling bastard.
Funny...I never considered myself any of those things.
I wanted to write about it. But then I realized...I already had, several times, albeit from a slightly rosier perspective. We had only suffered one job loss at that time. Still the point was a salient one, and I decided I couldn't say it any better now than I did then (Ever feel that some of your finest material has already been written?).
So I'm recycling it. Because it still holds true. It's still a grave issue facing our country. And it still makes me angry and sad that some folks think it's perfectly okay that others are going without medicine and treatment in a country that is one of the wealthiest in the world. We put people in jail for not getting their pets medical treatment. How is it any less criminal for people?? It baffles me, truly. As does the lack of compassion and social conscience.
I've been saying it for years...
We DESPERATELY, DESPERATELY need a system of universal health care in this country. I've been saying it because I lived it when Husband was consulting and I'm living it now that Husband has lost his job. When Husband was an independant contractor, we were responsible for our own healthcare needs. The cost to insure our family of four was in excess of $900 each month.
Just let that figure sink in a for a few minutes.
Nine. Hundred. Dollars.
Since we had small children and only one income, we quickly came to the realization that we really had no choice but for him to stop consulting and take a salaried position with good benefits. That was ten years ago. For ten years we have watched our premiums and copays rise, while the number of covered services and providers became smaller and smaller. Still, I felt fortunate that we had insurance at all.
When the news of his termination came, there was some pretty serious panic in those first grim hours. But we've crunched the numbers, done the math, and gone over the budget with a fine toothed comb.
It's going to be very, very tight, but we can sustain for a while, assuming no disasters strike. The kids will not go hungry, the mortgage will not go unpaid, we will not have to cook our meals on a hot plate by candlelight.
So my focus has shifted from feeding my kids, to insuring them.
Well what about COBRA?
That's what you're thinking right? COBRA is the answer, that's what it's there for!
Well guess what...the RIGHT to insurance doesn't do a damned bit of good if we can't pay the premiums. Would you like to take a wild guess as to the dollar amount of our COBRA premiums?
One THOUSAND. Sixty Seven. Dollars.
With no money coming in, we are supposed to magically produce $1,067.00 each month to insure our children. That's an impossible number. BUT...if we don't pay it? One debilitating illness, one serious injury, one little disaster could absolutely devastate us. Ruin us. Bankrupt us and leave us fighting the rest of our lives to regain our financial footing and restore our credit. We have planned well, laid a little aside, carefully tended our modest nest egg. But it could all disappear in a puff of smoke if one of us gets sick.
Addendum: One of us did. Shortly after this was written I suffered three mini-strokes. One MRI alone cost $5,000; I needed three, plus a myriad of other tests and procedures, as welll as monthly visits to the neurologist to monitor my condition. Not long after that, I had an accident resulting in a serious injury to my eye. The bill for the eye specialist alone, whom I saw for all of 5 minutes, was over $12,000. If we hadn't had the COBRA coverage, we would now be saddled with over $50,000 in medical bills.
It has happened and is happening to people all over America. People are losing their homes and filing bankruptcy because of unexpected and insurmountable medical expenses.
It's a very complicated problem with many causes.
First; the cost of procedures and medications have risen beyond what most people can afford to pay out of pocket if they need to. Second; lifetime caps on insurance are met relatively quickly when a calamitous and prolonged illness such as cancer strikes. Third; affording insurance as an individual is almost impossible, unless one has a substantial amount of disposable income, in which case, they probably can do without it anyway. Fourth; insurance companies, not doctors, are in control of what procedures are considered "necessary" and therefore, a covered service.
There's a lot more to it than that, of course. As I said, it's an extremely complicated problem that is going to take some time to fix.
What I know is this: If we had a system of Universal health care in place in this country, I would not be facing this problem right now, and neither would the countless other Americans in the same boat. Now, the ARRA is helping us a little bit. That brings our premium down to around $400. (We were not eligible for ARRA assistance on the second job loss)
But assuming that someone is completely without resources, even that amount is completely out of reach.
The maximum payout for unemployment benefits is $330/week BEFORE taxes, which is laughable, really. That's $1320 a month. That happens to be almost the exact dollar amount of our mortgage payment, and we live in a very modest home. So let's assume we have no other resources. How exactly are we supposed to pay for water, electricity, groceries, car payment (we have only one, most people have two), car insurance, gas, orthodontist...and still pay out $400 a month for health insurance? It just doesn't add up.
As I said, we do have some resources, but regardless it's going to be a challenge to pay our bills on our limited and finite means. For us, that means I will have to streamline our food budget and cut out some small luxuries; a relatively simple matter, all things considered.
Perhaps I will have to buy store brand orange juice instead of Tropicana, or the 10 for $10 Ravioli instead of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Maybe we will have to stop renting movies for a month or two. Maybe unlimited texting will have to be limited. Maybe I will have to start going to the library more often, insteading of patronizing Barnes & Noble and indulging in a four dollar coffee while I browse. The lawn service is already gone as is pest control (That one really hurts. Have you seen the size of cockroaches in Georgia?).
But for some people, it could very well be a choice between one necessity and another. For some people, it really is a matter of either/or. Either buy food...or take a sick child to the doctor. Realistically, it could come down to that for us if this goes on long enough.
People, we are the wealthiest developed nation in the Western Hemisphere. This is not an issue our populace should be facing. Nor should sick people be denied the latest and most effective treatments because they are too costly. Did you know that some cancer drugs cost in excess of $1,000 PER DOSE? That's what happens when you combine Capitalism and health care. That's what happens when we let the insurance companies and the drug companies take control and use our misfortunes to line their pockets.
Some of you might argue that letting the government take control is just trading one set of problems for another.
That may be true. But at least, with a universal system of health care in place, everyone will have access to basic medical care and medications that they need. Mothers won't have to debate about taking a feverish child to the doctor, or sacrifice their own health for that of their family.
We Americans like to point fingers when crisis looms. Politicians did it. Big Business did it. Greedy doctors did it.
But the real truth is much uglier.
Americans have done this to themselves with their sense of entitlement. We have resisted a government subsidized health care plan because we want only the best, we want to choose it for ourselves, we want it right now, and we want it regardless of cost. We don't want to share our sparkling, tastefully decorated clinics with the poor unwashed masses. We want to think ourselves worthy of more and better options.
And now, the cost of that proletariat thinking is becoming very clear. We are paying for our short sightedness with shrinking benefits, higher premiums, and perfunctory care from health care practitioners who are working under almost intolerable conditions and who are taking their orders from actuaries and administrators.
Soon, only the very wealthy will be able to afford any health care at all. And then we'll be back to the way things were at the dawn of the Industrial Age, when disease spread rampantly and even minor illnesses resulted in death. Mortality rates will skyrocket and the number of babies who make it past their first birthday will plummet.
Does that sound melodramatic? Well, perhaps it is. But not terribly so. Things are deteriorating quickly in this country. Those of you ensconced in comfortable jobs with good benefits are too blind to see it; purposely, perhaps. It's not fun to think about. But it's there. And it's getting worse every day. It's time to make some sacrifices. It's time to think about the many, rather than the few.
Establishing a system of universal Healthcare does not mean we are allowing Socialism to gain a foothold in our country. It just means we are creating a system of checks and balances, prohibiting abuses and maintaining a standard of care that is available to everybody, regardless of economic status.
For the life of me, I can't understand why people oppose this ideal.
Actually, I do. One word: privilege. We have grown complacent and myopic in an era of wealth and privilege. But that era is at an end, and this problem is going to grow into a plague that infects us all.
You could be next. Your family could be next. You think it won't and I hope it's not, but the reality is that it can happen to anybody these days. My husband had a degree, 25 years of experience, a spotless employment history, numerous awards and accolades and ten years of tenure at the company. Still, he was let go when the bottom line was at issue. Is it going to take a crisis like that to open your eyes?
I really hope not. It's a really crappy place to be, because I know it could be and can be, much, much worse. Living with that fear is incredibly wearing, and I've only been doing it for a week. I can't imagine doing it my whole life. Nobody should have to live with that hanging over their head every day; especially when there is a solution.
Support healthcare reform. Stop opposing universal health care. Vote. We have a voice and we can change things for everyone.