The Healthcare/Health Insurance System Is Broken, Why Can't We At Least Try To Fix It?

Everyone is talking about healthcare reform. Many people are freaking out. Really freaking out, screaming about socialized medicine and keeping the government out of our guts and so on. Some people think it doesn't need fixed. Some people like things just the way they are.

Let me tell you my story. (I've ranted about it before, so if you've heard it, forgive me.)

Not so long ago I had a great job. The work was good, the pay was fair and the benefits were really good. The health insurance was good, it let me take care of my kids and my wife with very low co-pays and only a few hundred a month out of my paycheck (for the big bunch of us, that was great!)

Then I got sick. For a while, I got short term disability which was a certain percentage of my working pay. The best part, I kept my benefits including my low-cost health insurance. Great. Or so I thought. As my illness progressed over the following months, I had to have many tests. Many expensive tests.

Before too long, my short term disability ran out and I was switched to long-term disability. Great. Still very generous of my company and it's allowed us to continue to eat. However, my benefits were cut off. Ok. not unexpected. Under a program called COBRA I could keep my health insurance, except that I would have to pay for it all including what the company used to pay for.

Here's where things start to go wrong. As I mentioned, my share was a few hundred a month. Being in management at the company, I also knew how much the company was paying. If I was truly going to pay both what I and the company were paying for my insurance, I should have still been able to afford it. However, the first bill I got under COBRA was well over $1000. Almost $1500. More than double what it should have been. More than I was getting under long-term disability. To keep my insurance, we'd lose our house and have no food. When I asked why it was so high I was told "premiums went up at the same time". I find that convenient and hard to believe, but there it was.

I had no choice but to drop my health insurance.

But then the bills started coming in for all those expensive tests. My insurance wouldn't cover any of them. This was after, when I still had insurance, I was told they wouldn't cover my medicine. More bills came in. Then more. The insurance wouldn't cover any of them.

It turns out that the insurance I had was crap. I would cover "well" visits to the doctor, but anything you actually need when you are sick, they wouldn't. All those expensive tests? They won't cover a penny.

So now here I am, no insurance. I pay about $300 a month for my meds and I get calls from collection people all the time for the bills on those tests. I am unable to get any more tests because I have no money.

I did the math. If I had kept the money I paid for insurance, I would be able to pay the bills for the tests they won't pay for.

What is wrong with this picture?

I got an email the other day from a friend praising the Republican party for criticizing health reform. My friend actually went on to say that he agrees with those who say "health care is a privilege, not a right".

I respectfully disagree. Take those people who are saying "it's a privilege", take away their income, make them live below the poverty line, and give them cancer. Ask them then if healthcare is still a privilege.

To be clear, I am not advocating socialized medicine. I'm not saying "free doctors for everyone!". I'm just saying that circumstances like mine are all too common. Someone needs to make the insurance companies do what they are supposed to do, pay the bills. What's the point of paying for insurance if you still have to pay the bills?

Also, people like me deserve a chance to get back on some kind of health insurance that we can afford that actually pays the bills. I'm not asking for free health care. I don't want charity. I just want to be able to take care of myself. I want to be able to get more tests and eventually figure out what's wrong with me. Why are people with money more deserving of that than I am? Maybe I can get back to the point where I can make money if I have decent health care. Why am I being left to die just because I can't pay my doctor bills?

I've read about the President's plan. It's not perfect, but it's not what the fear mongers would have you believe either. It would make the insurance companies do their job and it would give people like me a chance to take care of themselves. That's it. It's not government run medicine. I don't care what others say, that's not what it is.

Yes, tax money goes into it. Yes, someone is going to have to pay for it. But guess what? You are probably paying for insurance that isn't working for you anyway. So you can either pay for the insurance company's CEO to get richer and richer or you can pay the government to DO SOMETHING.

That's all I'm asking for. For someone to DO SOMETHING. I don't want an hand out. I want a chance. I want the chance to be the rich guy who doesn't need insurance. I want a chance to be the guy who's taxes went up because he makes $200,000 a year. But right now, I don't have that chance. Why? Because, according to some, I'm too poor to deserve healthcare.

Just give me a chance to take care of myself. That's all I ask. Don't like the President's plan? Fine, suggest another one. It might not work, but it's better than the ripping off of sick people that has been going on so far.

See my friend Christopher's take on this at his blog.