One of our kids’ friends — a young man they’ve known since school days — is in the hospital right now with a brain tumor. Despite having an good job, he can’t afford the copay so, like tens-of-thousands of American citizens facing prohibitive medical expenses, he has created a campaign at GoFundMe.com to get help.
At first blush, this is something laudable; big-hearted people getting together to help a person in need. It’s the American way. Something to be proud of. But that isn’t the way it should be. Our role should be to show up, to sit, to reminisce, to laugh, to cry. It should not be to throw enough dollars into a hat that someone who happened to step on a medical landmine can remain among the living.
According to Becker’s Hospital Review, “With the rising popularity of high-deductible health plans, a number of patients have trouble paying their medical expenses. This struggle may lead them to set up a crowdfunding campaign such as GoFundMe. But these campaigns are often unsuccessful at achieving their financial target, according to a study published in the journal Social Science & Medicine . . . most of the campaigns (90%) only garnered 40% of their financial target on average, according to a news release.”
Welcome to the Great American Healthcare Crapshoot where each citizen gambles that they will be lucky enough to never test the true limits of their insurance. But sooner or later luck will no longer be a lady: Medical expenses contribute to two-thirds of U.S. bankruptcy filings. Dr. David Himmelstein, professor at Hunter College notes, “Even the best job-based health insurance often vanishes when prolonged illness causes job loss – just when families need it most. Private health insurance is a defective product, akin to an umbrella that melts in the rain.”
What a tragic comment on the state of healthcare in the richest nation on earth — and the attendant mindset that has been pawned off on its citizens. Co-pay? Pre-existing condition? Lifetime cap? Seriously? I don’t know what’s more shameful: that some cold-hearted insurance genius worthy of a Don Draper “Mad men” fever dream came up with those terms or that the American people ever allowed them to be foisted off on them in the first place.
The games we play with healthcare would never pass in the day-to-day retail world:
Copays: When my new car fails under warranty, they don’t ask me to pay 20%. They fix it. 100%.
Preexisting conditions: When my new smartphone breaks, no one checks to see if I have a history of devices breaking in the past.
Lifetime caps: When I file a damage report, there’s no disqualifying buzzer that goes off because my claims have reached a certain amount.
In coming weeks and months examine carefully information that will be coming the people who benefit handsomely from the current system. For example, the cost for a universal healthcare system like Medicare for All is often cited as being $32 trillion over 10 years. That number is likely correct, but it is almost always conveniently omitted that the $32T amount will be easily offset by the many more trillions that will be refunded to workers for the healthcare they already pay as part of their salary.
PeopleKeep notes, “According to data gathered by eHealth, the average health insurance cost for single coverage premiums in 2018 is $440 per month. For family coverage, the cost for premiums in 2018 is $1,168 per month.” That’s your money. You earned it and it will be returned to you in full to cover a no-strings universal healthcare system.
Countries the world over routinely provide universal bumper-to-bumper coverage to every one of their citizens for half what America pays with better outcomes (Vox, Time, Bloomberg). And it’s getting worse. According to Business Insider, in the category of healthcare and education, the US has dropped from 6th place in 1990 to 27th in 2018.
And remember, this has nothing to do with providing free healthcare for illegals and “losers.” It’s for you, your family, and your neighbors.
Let’s make the terms “copay,” “preexisting condition,” and “lifetime cap” anachronisms. Let’s put two-thirds of bankruptcy lawyers out of business. Let’s free up GoFundMe.com to make the dreams of people who have always wanted to go to art school or travel to Paris a reality, not people who have always wanted a brain operation.
Change is hard. But think of the rock-ribbed Republicans in Nebraska whose cattle peacefully coexist with gently wafting wind turbines. Or the SoCal GOPers who have covered their roofs with solar panels. We’re a smart enough country to question what we’ve been doing for so long just because it “feels” right. We’re courageous enough to make it happen. And we can certainly scrounge up the money somewhere to afford to pay half of what we pay now for better healthcare for every citizen.
* * *
Multiple award-winning author Charles Caratti (Carr) writes and edits for many well-known publications. Also a noted playwright and director, Caratti’s works have been performed at premiere venues across SoCal. Contact him at charlescarr.com.