Friday, August 7, 2009

Health Care Stories: Bethesda, MD

Shannon shares her concerns about the future of the American health care system.

I am one of the fortunate ones. All my life I’ve had employers that offered pretty decent health coverage. At my first job, I remember the health company representative coming in to meet with staff and telling us we had a “Cadillac health plan.” I’ve had my squabbles with every health insurance company I’ve ever dealt with about some bill or another. But as a single person, I had always been covered fully by my company and never had to worry about it. And I’m not one of those people who reports favorably about their insurance coverage because they never actually use it, so it seems just fine. I use the hell out of mine. From specialists such as allergists and dermatologists to giving birth in a first-rate hospital, I have really gotten my money’s worth out of the system.

But I am terrified. Why should I be scared, you ask, when everything seems to be going so well for me? Well, first of all, when your entire health care package is based on the whims of your employer, who wouldn’t be scared in this economy? What if I get laid off? What if my company needs to reduce costs and cuts health coverage? What if I’m faced with a period of being uninsured that will jeopardize my entire lifetime of coverage? When I started a new job after grad school, my health insurance company asked me to prove that I had insurance beforehand so that they would cover something. What? Why would I have to prove I had insurance in the past in order to have my current insurance cover something? What if I actually do have a gap someday!?!?

Now having a family has added further potential cracking points to the coverage I have. My company charges so much to have family members added to one’s plan that I would nearly have to forgo one paycheck just to pay for health coverage. And my landlord and all my other debtors wouldn’t like that. So we had to go the private individually purchased insurance route and get the cheapest health plan we could find. As everyone knows, the higher the deductible, the cheaper the health plan. So our coverage doesn’t cover much. Recently, we had to make a financial decision between sending the monthly check for insurance or sending a family member to the doctor. We chose to pay the insurance company instead of going to the doctor. Isn’t that insane? Instead of using my money to keep my family healthy, I’m giving a nice little gift every month to my insurance company’s highly paid executives and its shareholders.

And of course who isn’t terrified by the stories about insurance companies denying coverage for major life-threatening things? I know that my family and I are one accident/one illness away from life-altering financial devastation.

That’s my personal story – which isn’t particularly eventful, but it illustrates the fact that even the “safe” insured members of our society are on unstable ground. I would love to fall to my knees in front of Congress and beg for a single-payer health system, if I thought it would work. Unfortunately, the mound of money being paid by the health sector to fight health care reform is likely blocking any view they’d have of me and my pleas.

Bethesda, MD


Shani said...

A related issue is that more than half of all bankruptcy filings are the result of overwhelming health care costs. Yet rather than fix the health care system to address the root of the problem, what did we get? A 2005 revision to the bankruptcy laws that made filing more difficult, more expensive, and less likely to provide relief from these onerous debts.

Mike Licht, said...

Obama's gonna kill Grandma?