Back during the Clinton years (remember those?) when Democrats failed to pass "Hillarycare," Paul and I had a debate with my parents about health care reform. I wasn’t a huge fan of the Clinton plan, I thought it was weak and vague. But the conflict with my parents wasn’t about the specifics of that plan, per se. It was really more about whether some kind of sweeping health care insurance reform was needed at all.
Their attitude seemed to be: they had good insurance (through Boeing) and didn’t see the need for a change and were afraid that any change would be to their own detriment. What Paul and I tried to explain to them was that the two of us were people who would, personally, benefit from health insurance reform. And one of my brothers, maybe both, would have benefited.
Because we didn’t have health insurance.
This fact seemed remarkably hard to communicate to them. They seemed unable to absorb the idea that health insurance reform wouldn’t merely benefit some hypothetical welfare mother in Nevada, it would benefit their very own children. The information just didn’t seem to sink in. At a certain point I decided they were in denial and dropped it.
A couple of years after that
It was just like an episode of House only without the obvious life-threatening-ness. And without the diagnostic genius. They ran him through an astonishing array of tests, all of which revealed interesting anomalies, none of which would explain the seizures.
Concurrent with this, he started seeing a chiropractor to correct scoliosis that he discovered when the doctors told him he was an inch shorter than he was supposed to be. He also stopped taking Ibuprofin, one of the few commonalities to each event. Eventually, after many thousands of dollars in copays, the seizures stopped. We still don’t know what caused them.
Paul lost that job very shortly after this, when the company went out of business. So, really, he had health insurance just long enough to rack up thousands in debt.
We are still, sort of, paying off that debt, having cycled it forward into credit cards which we never completely payed down. And now neither one of us is inclined to trust insurance companies, or even doctors very much. When I watch an episode of House, sometimes, the thought crosses my mind, "Who’s paying for all that?"
A few years ago, Paul was a stupid-dummy-head and drinking alcohol in a hot tub at V-Con. We were in Surrey, very south BC, Canada. He slipped and hit his head. The whites of his eyes turned blood red, which scared me enough that I made him go to the emergency room. The cranky woman at the desk checking people in seemed to assume that everybody who came in there was a crackhead, and she clearly did not want to accept Paul as a patient. We had a conversation that went kind of like this:
CW: We need payment up front.
Me: (Pulling out the Visa) I have a credit card.
CW: Are you sure you don’t want to go back to the states and have your insurance pay for it?
Me: We don’t have insurance in the states.
CW: It’s going to be a couple of hundred dollars.
Me: That’s fine.
CW: We’re so close to the border. Why don’t you go back to the states and have your insurance pay for it?
Me: We don’t have insurance back in the states. We might as well pay you. You’re probably cheaper, actually.
CW: Are you sure you don’t want to let your insurance pay for it?
Like my parents years ago, she seemed completely unable to absorb this simple fact.
Out of the last twenty years of my life, I have had health insurance maybe five years total. I have spent a lot of that time freelancing and working for small companies that can’t afford to provide health insurance. In that time, I have had people suggest that I really ought to purchase some sort of insurance, that it was dangerous, even irresponsible to "go naked." But what realistic alternative did I have? Pay half my income for weak coverage that probably wouldn’t be there when I needed it anyway?
I made flowcharts.
1. No insurance => Disaster => Certain bankruptcy.
2. Insurance => No disaster => Probable bankruptcy.
3. Insurance => Disaster => Probable bankruptcy.
4. No insurance => No disaster => Possibility of bankruptcy.
I went with what seemed like the lowest possibility of bankruptcy. Anyway, it’s hard to make a bet that’s only going to pay out if I get hit by a car or something. I was betting that I wouldn’t get hit by a car.
Not everybody can make the choices I’ve made. You have to be in generally good health, with no dependents. But I really felt that it was the only choice that made any sense.
Last July, after a near decade without, I started working at a job that provides decent health insurance. I still haven’t been to the doctor. I guess I ‘m out of practice.