Health insurance stories: What's yours?
I don't know about the "I Like Obamacare" meme that the Obama administration is pushing as the landmark legislation comes before the nation's supreme justices. Sure, I like "Obamacare," a.k.a. health care reform, but I definitely don't love it. I'd much prefer a single-payer health care system (a.k.a. socialized health care). All the arguments against it, or most of them, are also arguments against our current system. Take rationing. Today we ration health care to the wealthy and the people with professional jobs. Take long lines. Have you ever sat -- with a legitimate emergency -- in an emergency room? OK, then, you know that long lines are already here. My last visit, for stitches, took us six long hours. The procedure took 10 minutes.
I really believe that many of the woes attributed to "big government" and a "welfare system" could be alleviated with single-payer health care; for one thing, it would be easier to get birth control, so many families could be planned instead of just happening to families not equipped to deal with them. For another, bankruptcies would be greatly reduced; our nation's bankruptcies are more frequently caused by medical bills every year (20% in the first half of 2011, not counting those bankruptcies with medical bills as a factor). Another thing: every time we chat about "radical homemaking" or other ideas that center around the concept of spending more time at home with our kids, health insurance comes up. It hamstrings us, ties us or our spouses to jobs we may not love, because we can't imagine affording insurance without it -- or because we or our kids have chronic diseases that would preclude us from getting good private insurance.
In my helter-skelter, pie-in-the-sky, best-of-all-possible-worlds dream for the way our country could be with single-payer health insurance, we'd have more mobility, more happiness, less debt, more time to pay attention to our kids, and more making choices for the right reasons. More health, of course.
I thought it would be interesting to think about the whole debate going on right now in the Supreme Court -- which, according to pundits watching the courts today, is going to be struck down on very weak legal grounds and very strong political ones -- in terms of our own stories. How has health insurance influenced your life? What decisions have you made simply because of health insurance? What is YOUR pie-in-the-sky idea for how the system should work?
Here's my story:
It wasn't the first time he'd ever thought of joining the military, but my husband chatted with a friend in the National Guard and made the decision a few weeks later: he joined the Army Reserves. He'd be on "active duty" while he was in basic training and the secondary training reservists get for their MOS (his, driving, was the shortest training and would allow him to be back before the baby was born). Active duty = free health care, and it covers you for a few months after you get home; long enough for Truman to be born on Tricare, blessedly, completely, free.
After that, we qualified for a very reasonable rate as a reservist family, with no pre-existing condition clauses, leaving us free to make decisions for reasons other than health care. When I decided to leave The Next Job, when my third little boy was a toddler, I could do so without giving up affordable insurance.
OK, just one more story.
A family friend works at a local emergency room as a "valet," parking cars for people who arrive at the emergency room with more on their mind than finding a parking space. He sees all kinds, but a big portion of the kinds he sees are people without insurance. They either wait until things are absolutely desperate -- or show up with mild maladies that they can't afford to have treated in regular doctor's offices. It's always a mess. He's parked cars a bunch of times for people who were bleeding or inebriated or otherwise probably not in shape to drive. Why?
Who can afford to take an ambulance? The ambulance company knows where you or your loved ones live and can track you down to pay the bill more easily.
So, what's your health insurance story?