During this whole “health care debate” I’ve had several people tell me that they don’t need health insurance because they never get sick. I can relate – I’m lucky enough to be one of those same people. I’ve been sick twice in probably the last 6 or 7 years. Heck, it might be longer than that. Outside of a food poisoning incident in 2003, I really can’t remember being sick with anything.
But I still see the value of health insurance and believe everyone needs it. Granted, I would prefer we had universal health care like the rest of the industrialized world, but that’s still a ways away.
In fact, I’ve seen first-hand why every American needs health insurance. What happened to my mother is a perfect example.
She’s self-employed, wasn’t old enough for Medicare but didn’t qualify for Medicaid. She, like millions of other Americans, fell into the crack of not having access to health insurance. Sure there were some local programs she could get into, but they didn’t qualify as “health coverage” – they were just basic programs that helped her get stuff like blood pressure medicine.
Well, one day walking in her house she had a slight accident. The toe of her rubber soled shoe caught on the hardwood floor and caused her to trip, dropping her down on her knee.
Long story short, an ambulance ride later to a Dallas hospital revealed she had broken her kneecap in two, requiring surgery that she had to have for the knee to heal.
Oh, and a $20,000 medical bill she couldn’t afford.
Amazing isn’t it? She hadn’t been sick. She rarely needed to go to the doctor. Outside of getting older, as a means to help her maintain her health, she really didn’t have much need for health care at the time (she couldn’t afford it anyway), yet there she was in a hospital with a $20,000 medical bill for an unexpected surgery she had no way of anticipating.
One stub of a rubber sole on a shoe cost her $20,000.
This story isn’t rare. Hell, it isn’t even that expensive compared to the horror stories I’ve heard about Americans being saddled with unexpected medical bills for heart attacks or cancer treatments.
But it does show just how fast it can happen to anyone.
That’s why when people say something like, “I’m healthy, I don’t go to the doctor, so why do I need to pay for health insurance?” I just shake my head.
It’s the same reason why we have car insurance. Sure, if we’re driving it’s something we’re legally required to have in all states except New Hampshire, but for most of us we’ll pay for car insurance while rarely getting back what we paid into it. We have it to cover us just in case something catastrophic happens in our lives.
But I saw first hand what one wrong step walking within your own home can lead to – a $20,000 medical bill.
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