it could happen to you, too
If you think you don't have to worry about health concerns, you may change your mind. I never worried either, not until my husband got sick. I've talked about his ailments before and I won't go into them again, but I want to clarify, for all of you working folks, that Mike and I worked too. Together, we had a very comfortable life, financially secure, no worries. Our house was paid off. We had health insurance, life insurance, dental, vision. We owned stock, mutual funds, cash accounts. We collected investment quality antiques. We were in every way, the two of us, far better off financially than many of our friends and people with whom we worked. No kids at home, two nice incomes. American dream.
Mike got so sick he couldn't work and we lost the bigger portion of our monthly income. No worries, I said, I'll do something else and I started a business. By the time he couldn't work, we were looking at medical bills of around $8,000 ~ not too bad, we had savings. The bills mounted as his condition deteriorated.
We had the best policy offered by the State of Oklahoma, a preferred provider plan, a blessing. But we had co-pays. They don't seem like much when you see the doctor once every six months or once a year. But those co-pays begin to add up when you're seeing the doc almost daily, when new meds are prescribed at least weekly, when tests and exams and treatments are being conducted constantly and every new encounter ~ doctor, hospital, pharmacy ~ requires another co-pay.
It was okay, though. There was a cap on the yearly out of pocket ~ $3500 for pharmacy and $6000 for hospital and, well, no cap on the doctor visits but those were only $25 a pop, and oops! that test isn't included in the out of pocket and, well, this test is not approved by the insurance company. ER visits were never less than $1800 except the single time he was admitted to the hospital. We were seeing the docs 3-4 times a week, and then there were the drugs. The most expensive drugs weren't approved for payment under the formulary. The $1400 monthly for interferon and ribavirin wasn't covered because the combination was considered experimental. It was the only treatment for one of his worst ailments, and yet it was experimental.
My health insurance was paid by my agency; Mike's was $440 a month. I'll break it down a little, these monthly expenses:
$ 440 for health insurance
$1400 for unapproved meds
$ 680 for approved meds with co-pays
$ 400 minimum co-pays for office visits
$ 300 average co-pays for various treatments, hospital stays, ER tx and the like
That's over $3000 a month for medical bills alone and we were insured. Some months were worse, some were better. With less than half of our usual income, it was a disaster in the making. I refinanced the house we'd paid off the year before he became ill. Most of it went to medical bills. I started a business and it was an instant success. I had extra money from the business to put toward medical bills, but I was working 80 hours a week. I sold stock I'd had forever and put it toward the ever increasing costs. This went on for almost five years, bills and bills and bills and bills.
People said "you're lucky you could start a business and have it do so well." Other people said "wow, you were lucky you had your house paid off." Lucky. Yes, I was lucky. Really, I believe that. But how much luckier I'd have been if I'd lived in a country where my husband's care would have been assured, where it wouldn't have driven us nearly to bankruptcy to try to make him well, where I wouldn't have had to work two full time jobs to keep up, all the while worrying about him and grieving and tending to his needs. Yes, I was lucky that I had the energy to work like that. I was lucky that my business went so well. I was lucky to have good credit and lots of it, and I am lucky that I've just finished paying off over $35,000 in credit card bills from that awful time. Lucky, too, that the money borrowed on the house is nearly paid back and I almost really own my home again. Lucky, lucky, lucky. That's me.
I am lucky, of course, because my husband is stable and doing so well. He did not die and I've got a lot of years left in me, and I've been able to get out from under this debt again. We're starting to do the things we used to do ~ travel, saving for retirement, saving for college for the grandkids. But lucky as I am, I worry about the next time. What if, God forbid, I could not work? We'd be out of luck because Mike can't work any longer and could not do for me what I did for him.
Michael Moore's Sicko is about people just like us. It is heartbreaking and infuriating and if it doesn't make you angry and fired up and ready to work toward revolutionizing healthcare in this country, nothing will. Please go see this film. It is important. It speaks to every one of us, all of us regular folks, the vast majority of American citizens who are working, living our lives, trying to make it and do well in life. Doing well in this country is an illusion until we have universal health care. All it takes is one illness, one injury, an accident, and it can happen to any one of us. I feel as strongly about this as I've ever felt about anything. It's an opportunity we have right now to change this system, to make our voices heard, to practice compassion for everyone, to take away the constant worry for those of us who have lived through a health crisis.
It's not going to come from our politicians. Of the current crop of presidential candidates, only three Republicans even mention health care on their websites, and those three are looking for private solutions, the very private solutions that have taken us to this point. The Democrats are little better, with only Kucininch proposing single payer insurance for every American citizen. Congress is owned by the health care lobby, so if there's any way out of the disastrous place we're in now, it is going to come from us.
I am enough of a rah-rah cheerleader for my country and my people that I don't believe there's anything we can't do if we put our minds to it. Universal single payer health care is good government, it is good policy, it is compassionate, and caring, the right thing to do. Let's do it. Start by seeing Sicko.