Health Insurance

It’s the basics that always get to me: the way they are always successfully concealed by politicians and lobbyists. You’d almost think they were trying to deceive us.

There’s an alleged ‘debate’ in progress regarding health insurance, but one of the sacred cows that no one seems interested in sacrificing is the idea of employers paying for health insurance.

There’s a question I’ve been asking since I first entered the workforce in 1982; every time we’ve had an ‘insurance expert’ come in to describe their wonderful offerings to the company, I’ve asked this question, and it invariably embarrasses them. It’s a simple and obvious question.

What happens if I get really sick? Let’s say cancer.

Since I’ve actually had cancer, I can tell you what happens.

You lose your job, and you therefore you lose all your health insurance.

Employer-paid health insurance is a bait-and-switch created by the insurance companies. In practice, your employer-paid insurance is only going to pay for the little stuff for you; it will pay for the big stuff only if it happens to one of your dependents.

If you get cancer, then you have very few choices. Your medical treatment is going to run up a debt about the size of a house, maybe six or seven houses. If you can even consider paying for this out-of-pocket, you weren’t working to begin with, and you have no place in this debate: you are independently wealthy, and you can just cash in a few investments and pay for it. For the rest of us, it is a decision to go broke, or die.

You can hold off the inevitable for a bit, by re-purchasing your former health plan after you are fired, under COBRA. This is, of course, the only way you are going to get health insurance of any kind, since your illness gives you a ‘pre-existing condition’ that makes you uninsurable until some employer is willing to pick you up again. Since you aren’t able to work, however, you generally don’t have the money to pay for COBRA; and even with COBRA, you still have to pay up to your out-of-pocket maximums, each and every year. God help you if your treatment spans the Christmas season – you’ll pay your out-of-pocket maximum twice.

Now, this isn’t exactly what happened to me, since I’m self-employed, and my employer isn’t going to fire me no matter what I do. So I was able to keep my insurance, and avoid the punitive COBRA premiums. But I was unable to work, and therefore unable to make income to pay those premiums, so my retirement fund vanished. My cancer was, relatively speaking, mild: treatment was over within six months, recovery was swift, and I was not left disabled. Had it been worse, I’d have been forced onto Medicare – socialized medicine – and into living on Social Security – welfare.

Or I’d be dead.

When people spew insurance coverage statistics for the US, they really need to remove all of the ‘primary insured’ individuals – that is, the working employee whose employer pays for the coverage – because they aren’t really covered.

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