Have you been working hard and paying your bills on time your whole life? Saving your money and trying to get ahead, looking forward to retiring some day? You read in the paper and hear on the news about so many people that are uninsured. Uninsured, and don’t have health insurance because they can’t afford it. Are you one of the uninsured people like I am? Are you worried about having a health care emergency and not knowing how you would pay your medical bills? You know you really can’t switch jobs. You feel you’re getting too old or under skilled to be hired by anyone else. You might even be self-employed too. You know you can’t or don’t want to learn a new skill to get a new job at a bigger company that has group health insurance. Your present employer really can’t afford health insurance for his employees and you don’t see that changing where you work.
You have gotten by this long without health insurance and you know that you should do something about it. osf my chart But health insurance is expensive and getting health insurance is a good idea and something you have always been planning to do. But, we just keep putting it off, until it is too late. So what is a man with a family, or a single person do if you barely can find the money to pay for the necessities, like the rent, or a mortgage, the higher price of gas and food, much less expensive health insurance?
Do you think you can beat the odds? For men it is one in three, for women one in five that you will have a major health care emergency hospitalization and incur medical bills for surgery, hospital stay, outpatient medical care, therapy and prescription drugs. Do you worry and lay awake at night, wondering how you would pay for emergency care, if you needed it?
Ever wonder what you will do if the worst happens and you had to go to the hospital without health insurance? In a word. Bankruptcy. The retirement you worked your whole life for and dreamed about… the retirement you always envisioned is gone…taken away from you in an instant. And by a calamity you have tried to avoid. A calamity that broad sided you, and you had no warning and you never knew what hit you.
Imagine this scenario. You are 55, been in great shape your whole life, you work hard and live right, don’t smoke, eat healthy foods, watch your weight and have been taking care of yourself the best way you know how. But lately you have been getting a little short of breath. You shake your head and say “it’s just getting old” and keep right on working on the house, the car, the lawn, the crops or a new project you just have to get done. While working, all of a sudden you feel really short of breath. You stop, sit down and can’t breathe. You look down and your arm is feeling funny and tingly. All of a sudden you feel a shooting pain running up your arm into your shoulder, “ah…just overdoing it again” you say to yourself. I’ll just rest a spell and it will go away. But this time the pain does not go away like other times. You feel the numbness and worse, a stabbing pain goes into your shoulder. Quickly the pain intensifies and travels deeper and is shooting across your chest, a crushing pain and now you are really scared. “Wonder if this is a heart attack?” You know you waited too long and it’s too late…This time it’s for real. You are in the middle of a heart attack.
You are desperate and in stabbing pain. You know calling 911 might save you…if you can get to a phone. You call for your wife and she is inside the house and does not hear you. You try to get up and feel faint and you have no strength and your legs just can’t move. You holler louder, it hurts so bad and she hears you this time. She rushes to your side and you are so short of breath you can’t talk, the pain is too great. You point to your chest and she can see by the look on your face you are suffering and in great pain and something is terribly wrong. She runs to call 911, frantic about you and tells the ambulance to come right away and she thinks you are having a heart attack. She runs back to your side and you both are terribly scared and all you can do is wait.
The bad news has just begun…When the ambulance arrives, you find out the very worst has happened. You really are having a heart attack…they rush you away to the hospital, taking your vitals and giving you the drugs to save your life. Expensive surgery follows with angioplasty to open up your blocked arteries in your heart, and you get a stint to keep the worst blocked artery open. The doctors say that you should make a good recovery with adequate care, rest and therapy. You will have to take heart medications and high blood pressure drugs the rest of your life. Already the worry has started, and you think to yourself. “how am I going to pay for this”? The deep financial worry never leaves you. You have heard stories of financial disasters happening to good people with no insurance, Tragic consequences happening to people getting hit with huge medical bills for surgeries in the tens of thousands of dollars. You lost…you did not beat the odds.
Now what can you do? Your retirement dream is gone, now you will have to work the rest of your life to pay your medical bills off. The story, I shared is real, this medical tragedy happened to my brother, a farmer, a hard worker, a self-employed bulldozer operator in the prime of his life. No health insurance and he now faces a $45,000 medical bill he can’t pay. Not unless he wants to sell the beautiful log cabin home he built with his own hands and the farm he worked his whole life for. He is worried sick and tied to heart drugs for the rest of his life. Heart drugs and a stint that make him feel even more sick. He has decided to sell part of his land to pay the hospital and clinic bills. He hates to do this, but has no choice.
He tried to pay the hospital and clinic with agreed upon payments of a $1,000 a month each, paying every penny he could, but that was not fast enough or good enough. The hospital and the clinic still turned his account over to the collection agencies even though he was paying over $2,000.00 a month. He is an honest man who worked hard his whole life and did not deserve this. He can barely afford the heart drugs and makes just enough money so he does not qualify for state-assisted health care or prescription drug benefits.
One more thing is important…That is not the only calamity. He is not eligible for any type of health insurance for his heart, even if he could afford to pay $850.00 a month for health insurance coverage, plus his monthly medical bill payment to the collection agency. Why? Because now, he is uninsurable. In order to be covered under health insurance for his heart, he would have to not have any hospital care or treatment related to his pre-existing condition for seven years to quality for having that heart condition covered under any health insurance policy. For my brother, he will have to work harder than ever to pay this debt off, just when he should be taking it easier and not working so hard to prevent yet another heart attack. There will be no retirement for him, he is 59 and that is a terribly hard price to pay.