Monday, October 28, 2013

Freedom in the Time of Healthcare

The other day I was standing in a long line at the cable company, and listening to the discussion in front of me. I couldn't be accused of eavesdropping, because there was no way I couldn't listen. The discussion was about Obamacare. I could tell as soon as I got in line behind them, because I heard the phrase "shoved down my throat." I'm so sick of that one. "This is the land of the free, why should I have to be forced to buy healthcare? I don't want that shoved down my throat." I guess he meant the medicine. I waited in line, hearing what else he had to say. "Premiums are going up, I don't even know if I can afford them. Do you know how long we'll have to wait under this new system? I don't want to be forced to buy insurance and would rather pay the penalty. They shouldn't make me." I decided I couldn't hold my tongue and jumped in as politely as I could.

"Premiums are going up, you say?" He looked and nodded. "Good thing that hasn't been happening all along, at several percentage points higher until a few years ago. I used to pay for a family plan about ten years ago. It was a good plan. My wife and I have one now, coverage not as good, but we are covered. It's more than twice what I paid ten years ago."

"Wow, that's a lot to pay a month." he said

 "It is. Income hasn't doubled over the same time period. It sucks. My wife spent five days in the hospital last month. The bill is into five figures, but we pay less than $300.00. If we didn't have insurance, we would have been screwed."

"I'm not sure what doctor you are using, but my wife has been having a lot of medical problems lately. I can count on one hand the times I got a same day appointment. I'm not sure what mythical land you live in where there are no wait times, but I'd like to live there. My wife has quite a rash that we showed to the doctor recently. She has an appointment for the dermatologist in November. When she needed a bunch of tests, the doctor sent us to the emergency room so we could do them right away. Normally it would have taken well over a week to get them, as well as the results."

"I get into my doctor pretty fast." he said. "But I live in a really small town."

The conversation ended with him mumbling about losing his freedom. What I wanted to say, but didn't was this: I understand you don't want to have to be forced to buy health insurance, and that's fine and all, but when you end up in the emergency room with a broken leg and can't afford it, it's not free. I pay for your unpaid medical bills. Me, and everyone else with insurance pays for it. No one asked me if I wanted to pay for it, I don't have a choice. It's factored into the rates. One could say that those of us with insurance are getting the uninsured's unpaid bills.  The uninsured, non-paying people are getting a 'free ride' and this just puts that to a stop. It is the rare snowflake indeed who goes their entire life without needing medical care.

I guess the 'freedom' he is losing is the freedom to go to the emergency room on my dime, as well as yours.