Compassionate Care or Health Scare?
I used to worry about how I would afford to send my 3 children to college. I saw how expensive colleges were and the tuitions that I saw my students facing were rising steadily. I thought that sending my children to college would be the most expensive bill my wife and I would face in the future…but then I overheard two of my colleagues talking during lunch one day and I realized that the future was going to be a whole lot more expensive than I thought.
What my colleagues were discussing was the cost of healthcare for their children after college. Once their children left school and reached the age of 23 they were no longer covered by our health insurance policy…and that’s when the real expenses begin to accumulate, putting college tuitions to shame. In fact once your children leave high school you will be bombarded with phone calls and correspondence on a regular basis asking you to continually prove that your child is in school and attending classes and achieving passing grades. And if you can’t do so, your child will be booted off the insurers rolls faster than you can dunk your teabag in a cup of boiling water.
I was amazed at the stories I was hearing. Parents thinking that now that their adult children had finally left the protective womb of Takeoutasecondmortage University and would finally begin paying their own way in life were getting calls from those children asking for thousands of dollars more to cover their medical expenses.
Now that their children were adults and college graduates they were no longer under their parents’ protective medical coverage umbrella. Without jobs, they couldn’t afford to pay for their own insurance and even with jobs, many employers were no longer offering insurance coverage because the insurance coverage was more expensive to employers than a workers salary! And young adults were discovering that the purchase of private medical coverage on their own was more expensive than rent! So even if they had a job and paid rent they couldn’t afford private medical coverage and if they had a job and purchased medical coverage then they couldn’t afford a place to live! So they were dialing home and saying, “Please send money. I don’t feel well and need to see a doctor.” Or worse, they were moving back home!
Now thanks to what everyone is calling “ObamaCare” (like it’s a new disease or something!) my daughter is covered under my policy until she is 26 and hopefully by then will have had enough time to gain employment with medical coverage of her own. However, this seems to be making people angrier in America instead of happier because many are saying that healthcare is too expensive for even America to afford!
Is it really possible that healthcare in America is now so expensive that even the United States government can’t afford it? Then who can?? And how will any of us ever be able to afford it on our own in the future? Isn’t this an example of capitalism run amok? We now have a product in America, healthcare, that everyone needs but no one can afford! And it’s so expensive that no one wants anyone else to have it unless they pay for it themselves, which of course, is impossible!
In fact my school district’s Board of Education in the last year of my teacher’s contract offered our union this: An indefinite pay freeze with a 1.5% contribution to our health insurance premiums added to our deductions and to be adjusted upward on a yearly basis. This proposal would mean that beginning in 2010/11 a teacher’s salary would steadily begin decreasing to cover the costs of insurance coverage until…what? A teacher was working for nothing? Or rather, working for healthcare?
Now consider the fact that while insurance coverage from one’s employer is a great benefit it isn’t realized in the form of money paid to me. It’s paid directly to my doctor and dentist. They are the one’s who get part of what might be my salary paid directly to them through the intermediary of a fat cat middleman insurance company and everyone’s mad at me and my fellow teachers and fellow public employees, firemen and police and government workers included! What did we ever do besides show up for work and serve the public?
We’re not the ones charging outrageous prices for your bridgework and reading glasses and anti-depressants. God forbid you ever get really sick and actually NEED a doctor or a hospital! When my daughter went to the emergency room with appendicitis recently, she was rushed to the operating room, had her appendix removed and was home in 2 days. Our family was greatly relieved and overjoyed and glad that we were in a country where such great medical care was available to us all. But the total bill for doctor and hospital was almost $30,000.00! The house that my father, mother, brother, sister and I lived in for 25 years didn’t cost that much! And I’m not kidding!
The good news? I didn’t pay the bill. I had insurance. The bad news? How could I or any other working class, middle class, American citizen have paid this bill? Ever? And if you consider all of the hospitalization, emergency room, dental, you name it, medical events in my family’s lifetime from births to emergency room visits to whatever, the total cost must be approaching a sum that only the richest Americans could actually pay out of pocket.
When I graduated from college in 1977 and was no longer covered by my father’s insurance policy, I was able to purchase my own medical insurance at low cost without any trouble at all. Doctor’s still lived and practiced in many of our neighborhoods and some still even made house calls.
Today, personal medical insurance is almost if not completely unaffordable. Doctor’s live in private gated communities and rather than expect house calls almost 45 million Americans have no expectation for medical care because they can’t pay for it.
How does one explain to public school students who are studying business that it’s possible in America today to have 45 million potential customers for a business, yet that business doesn’t want them? Why aren’t we graduating doctors, who by the way have to learn from teachers, from America’s finest medical schools in the world who are eager to serve and bill this untapped market of citizens who are in need of medical care? Because they have a disease more deadly, virulent and apparently contagious than cholera, small pox, AIDS and the Bubonic plague all rolled into one. It’s called poverty! And it’s a disease we declared war on in 1965! And just like drugs, it’s still kicking our ass!
Until we address poverty in America and the role it plays in all American’s lives we will never solve the problems our children and our children’s children will face in their public health and in their public education. Is this a lesson that we can learn?