DIDN’T A MAJORITY OF AMERICANS HAVE MEDICAL COVERAGE BEFORE OBAMACARE?

The question on Quora was “didn’t a majority of Americans have medical coverage before Obamacare”?


I thought about the answer. This is one of those issues in which I had — still have — a gigantic personal stake. I’m one of those people who would never get insurance without laws forcing them to give it to me. Maybe a majority of working adults had medical coverage, but among those who were not — for whatever reason — working, mostly, they had nothing. This includes disabled people, old people, people injured and unable to return to work. And, of course, children.

We were among the group who no longer had medical insurance, although we’d had it before.

I was desperately ill. Massachusetts had not gotten its own medical care system yet and the U.S. had nothing, the situation to which it seems we will shortly return. I could be fixed, but no one would help me because I didn’t have insurance. I went from not well, to sicker, then even sicker. One day, I realized I was dying. For real. I was beyond sick. I felt as if the air was blowing through me and I was disappearing.

Someone told me about a doctor in Boston who might be interested. He was interested, but I had no insurance and no money. When it suddenly occurred to me that I really was dying, no kidding, I called the doctor. I said I was dying. He told me to come to the emergency room and he would take care of the rest. They took me in. I spent three weeks with a vitamin drip in my jugular vein trying to get me physically able for surgery. Then, he invented a surgery to fix me. It had never been done before and he warned me it might not work. I pointed out I had nothing to lose because I was going to die otherwise.

Anyway, after the surgery, my abdomen went septic and he had to call in the plastic surgery swat team. They performed another surgery, cutting out all the rotting skin on my abdomen and leaving me with a scar that looks like I was partially eaten by a shark. But I got better and a couple of weeks later, I went home. I only weighed 90 pounds and was warned that no matter how difficult it was, I had to eat. I needed to get back up to about 130 pounds. Which I did.

The hospital took care of the bill. I never paid for anything. Miracle number one.

Eventually I got Medicare — after finally getting disability. The process took almost four years. In between, I got cancer in both breasts and was fed a lot of poison and … then …

My heart failed. A lot of surgeries, later, I got more leases on life — and the hospital ate any expenses not covered by Medicare. They knew I couldn’t pay it. It is one of the things about dealing with large hospitals — they can manage catastrophes like me.

In the course of this period, Massachusetts got its own healthcare program and then there was Obamacare. By that time, I was already on Medicare.

I am alive. That I’m still breathing is amazing. This is just a brief overview — but before there was health care, if you weren’t absurdly lucky and just happened to have a brilliant doctor and a few top quality hospitals to lend you a hand, you would be dead. I could as easily be long gone by now.


Not having real health insurance is not politics: it is life or death.
It has nothing to do with how you vote. And as a reminder, the dead do not vote.

How did this stuff happen? How did we go from being good earners with high incomes to not having medical insurance and watching me slip from life to death?

I’m glad you asked.

I became too sick to work. My earlier job had fallen to bankruptcy. I was too ill to find new work. My husband had also stopped working. We had no money, no insurance, and I was dying. It is amazing how quickly a life can fall apart. It takes surprisingly little and ill-health is often where it begins. We thought we had enough — or soon would have enough — but when you are sick and uninsured, whatever money you put away disappears.

This is a “life accident.” You work. You’re doing fine. Your company goes bankrupt and you are not eligible for COBRA — assuming COBRA even exists. Some people lose jobs because they got old, or the company decides they will do better with younger, cheaper help. If you have a union, you might (at least) get some kind of payment to go with your pink slip. If not, you’re just old and unemployed and very unlikely to find equivalent — or any — employment. Because there aren’t that many companies looking to hire mature workers.

Your health insurance — assuming you had it — leaves when you leave and if your mate is part of your insurance, both of you are now without insurance. Sure, there are emergency rooms, but an ER won’t cure your cancer or repair your heart. If you have cancer and you do not have insurance, you are dead. Emergency rooms don’t take care of long-term illness. They might fix your broken leg — and send you the bill — but if you’ve got breast cancer? You’re done.

What kind of country are we building? What kind of world will this be if we have stripped the last hint of human kindness from our culture? What is wrong with compassion — even if it costs a little more? To me, this isn’t political. It’s humanity. It’s caring for others, including those you’ve never met.

That’s what compassion is.

49 thoughts on “DIDN’T A MAJORITY OF AMERICANS HAVE MEDICAL COVERAGE BEFORE OBAMACARE?

  1. Reblogged this on Pressing Patience and commented:
    Lucky for me, I didn’t have anything life threatening… just chronic. But yeah… Universal Healthcare isn’t about politics, it’s about who lives, and who dies. I would gladly pay a little bit more for my taxes so that everyone has a chance at life. Gladly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t feel that way. It really ISN’T political. It’s life and death. Babies born with illness who will die as toddlers because they are out of health insurance options before they hit a year old? Doesn’t anyone see something terribly wrong with that? Republicans — the thinking, intelligent ones — must feel terribly betrayed by this mess.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Espiritu en Fuego/A Fiery Spirit and commented:
    This point touches my heart and soul. As many of my subscribers know my brother Stephen has Autism and lives in a Group Home Residence. Gradually more and more services/programs for Special Needs people are being taken away due to lack of funding.
    Nine years ago I had a stroke but I was fortunate to have health insurance. Still it did not cover everything and last year I filed for and was granted bankruptcy. All it takes is one tragic event for your whole life to be turned upside down. But through miracles and the Grace of God I’m still here. My brother Stephen is still here. I don’t like the direction America is going with it’s lack of compassion and caring for the sick, disabled, Veterans, children or the elderly.

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    • I think I’m probably another miracle survivor and I am grateful and often both puzzled and humbled by it. But the point is — we should not NEED miracles to survive! This is not the way it ought to be and in a modern world, it can’t stay like this.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. We have universal healthcare, as you know. It has its price-fuelled problems, its waiting lists and ‘cheaper options’, its postcode lottery where where you live affects how/whether you live….but even at that practically unemployable age and faced with chronic/life altering/threatening problems, we do know someone will do something to help.
    It beggars belief that one of the richest countries in the world can even consider throwing its sick and injured on the scrap heap. Regardless of the political implications, what is a nation losing when it no longer values what age can teach youth, when the best answer to age or illness is the cemetery?
    Dystopia already…

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  4. I am extremely glad and grateful that i live in a country with universal health-care, surely one of the best in the world. Had i been unfortunate enough to live in the US and had to pay for all the medical help i have been a beneficiary of in the last 7 years in particular, i too would be dead now.

    Still, having said that i can see the issue some of your (and increasingly my) countrymen have. Here in Aus our government is in debt to the tune of half a trillion dollars and rising rapidly. On a per capita basis US federal debt is roughly triple that! The point must come when our governments simply cannot afford to be so generous – you cannot spend more than you earn indefinitely, sometime The Crunch must come. I sincerely hope it is not in my lifetime, but i rather suspect it will be.

    I have no idea what the solution is but to me the best idea is to systemically reduce the inequality between the rich and the poor and the rich will not help voluntarily. There are some people like Bill Gates who announce they are giving away vast portions of their personal wealth for the benefit of humanity. Bill is roughly twice as wealthy now than when he made his announcement (and began giving) several years ago. (although his wealth was at it’s largest – 100 billion before the dot.com bubble burst in early 2000’s)

    It’s a question of compassion versus simple economics.

    Just had an idea – pass laws preventing the ludicrous level of payments to sports stars and CEO’s so that no-one earns more than 1 million per year and the rest of their salary package goes into consolidated revenue.

    love.

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    • Firstly, we aren’t in debt because of medical care. it’s all those sleek missiles and planes where the big bucks go. Wars cost big money and there has been a continuous war somewhere for as long as I can remember. It doesn’t have to be like this, either. I lived in Israel and the medical care was great. Amazing. Doctors didn’t get rich, but pretty much nobody got rich — but almost nobody lived on the streets either. In the end, a country needs to decide what is important. We’ve gone with war as our top priority. Maybe someday, in some future we probably won’t live to see, people will be more important than fighting. I’m just not holding my breath.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I heard that something like 60% of your Fed budget expenditure is ‘defense’ related so health costs are surely not the main cause, but i believe it will become an increasingly large proportion of the budget as we live longer and work less (so less taxation income). Many individuals and corporations have made vast amounts of money thanks to the war/arms fixation and they no doubt influence government policy to a high degree. We went the mining/agriculture route as our preferred income stream and it has served us well for 200 years, but now times are getting tougher and we don’t have any answers as to where the extra money is going to come from, other than our one ‘growth economy’ – tourism. 😦

        love.

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  5. Thanks heavens for that doctor you found. That situation sounds like the Dark Ages. I guess being in the UK I have it lucky. Though the money is running out, as it is everywhere… but I suppose a brand new nuclear missile is far more cool and shiny than free health care.

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    • Our lack of medical insurance in this country has been disastrous as long as I can remember. The main difference now than earlier is that it costs so much MORE now. In 1967, after insurance (AFTER insurance!), we were left with a $30,000 bill, which was more than 3 times his salary. We were broke from day 1 and never got it together.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Firstly, I am so glad that you survived all those medical problems. You were blessed with just the right help and assistance when you needed it. Secondly, I do hope that America will provide lasting coverage for all its citizens. It is bewildering that it hasn’t always done so and may not do so again in the future.

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    • I have been fighting this battle since I was in my early twenties when my first hospitalization bankrupted us before we’d been married a full year. I was in the hospital for half a year — and we HAD insurance. It’s just that it was what was then typical: 80% + insurance. Insurance paid to their limit, and you paid the rest. This was 1967 and when all was said and done, we still owed more than $30,000 … more than three times my husband’s entire salary and of course, it would be a couple of years before i was physically able to work. Bankrupt from the beginning, we never recovered.

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  7. Marilyn, I was going to say “What an amazing story!” but that wouldn’t do your telling of it justice because there are so many other “amazing stories” out there akin to yours. Why we continue to do battle over health care when Medicare for all offers a solution is a national tragedy lodged squarely in the lap of crony capitalism: the insurance industry and its campaign contributions to those who have the power and authority to turn the dream of universal health care into an American reality.

    Your personal story is compelling. So personal. So real. The universal is best illustrated by the concretions of real time and space – story homes in like a laser beam. Thank you . . . and God bless the United States of America.

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    • I don’t really like talking about it, but it is absolutely true and if it isn’t one of the miracles people are waiting for, I don’t know what is. We always think a miracle is waiting for God to open the clouds and come down for a chat, but I think they are more like this. Amazing things happen because there is goodness in the world.

      But we should not NEED a miracle to take care of our medical needs. it’s not supposed to be like that. Thanks for the reblog. People need to hear that this isn’t some weird political tale. This stuff really happens to real people in our country. Smart people, working people, people from every part of the country. You don’t need to be dirt poor, either. This is the stuff that makes us poor!

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    • Thanks Gordon. I find it beyond appalling that whoever those people in congress are, they believe that the nothing they want to give us is going to protect anyone from anything. Why, in this richest nation on earth, do we tolerate being treated like scrap for the junk pile? Forget about politics, what about human dignity, compassion, and faith? What happened to normal people caring about each other because that’s what we are supposed to do?

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    • By the time I passed through lethal non-insurance disease #1 and moved on to cancer (times 2), I had Medicaid (MassHealth) and when I got the the heart surgery, I had Medicare. I don’t even care to think about how dead i would otherwise be. Medicare isn’t perfect, but it is damned good. Especially when you consider what they would “like to offer us” instead. I hope you are getting through this with you soul intact.

      Having cancer is like being in a long tunnel. After you start the tunnel, you are in it as long as you are in it. No turns, no backing up, no parking. You just keep going until one day, you see some light. Hang on in there. And don’t brood, if you can help it. The brooding makes it worse and it’s quite bad enough anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks for sharing this! When it comes to insurance, I didn’t have insurance from ages 15-27. My mom lost her job, thus losing insurance, and decided meth was more awesome than getting me on medicaid (when I still qualified for being a minor). I remember when I finally went to live with my nana, she finally took me to the dermatologist after suffering one of the worst rosacea flare ups the dermatologist had ever seen. Because I didn’t have insurance and my case was so severe, the dermatologist cut the bill in half and I got some much needed treatment. Two weeks after seeing the dermatologist, my rosacea completely cleared up — after having to deal with my face looking like a pizza for a year, made worse by being bullied for it in high school. I went into college and did most of my medical stuff through the student health clinic — $100 a semester saved my life. But when I got out, I didn’t have insurance and started racking up ER bills — strep throat/nose, staph, flu, panic attack, etc… I ended up going through county behavioral health services to assist with my anxiety and depression, which thankfully was free except for meds, which were still reasonable. I paid a lot of doctor fees out of pocket — $120 every time to avoid the ER, whilst making $15k annually and also on a homeless adventure couch surfing with crazy people.

    Finally, when Obamacare rolled out, I got insurance… with a $2k deductible. I had to have my nana explain what that meant because I didn’t know shit about insurance. Essentially, until I racked up $2k in medical bills, I’d still have to pay everything out of pocket.

    Mother fucker.

    Now, I have insurance through my state job and I LOVE it. Seriously, the only reason I haven’t moved back to where my S.O. lives or down with my (now clean) parents, is because I have awesome health insurance and some chronic conditions — rosacea, severe allergies, chronic sinus issues, Hashi’s and all the wonderful things it does to your body, debilitating sciatica, etc…

    I don’t think I’d ever found out that my body was eating my thyroid without insurance. I couldn’t imagine what special kind of hell I’d be in right now if I hadn’t been taking thyroid meds for the last two years.

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    • I would be dead three times over at the least by now. Actually, only once because I would have died the first time I ran into lethal illness with no insurance. That this stuff is happening in one of the richest nations on earth is a more than a little hard to fathom. All those supposed “Christians” are busy muttering about faith in Jesus and compassion: it’s enough to create a small army of atheists. I’m just not seeing the love.

      We are both on Medicare now and overall, it’s a really good system. It works surprisingly well. Sure it could be better, but it is the best medical insurance I’ve ever had, including the stuff we paid for through the years while we were working. To throw us all back on the scrap pile is simply appalling.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I hate to say it, but I joined that small army of atheists years ago because of that very reason.

        I feel the insurance industry and the current health care system is inherently flawed, and I’m fully open to new ideas as long as it doesn’t leave everyone with their asses hanging out. I don’t know if my experience with Obamacare is/was the same as everyone else’s — I had a stupid high deductible which was not like having insurance at all. My parents also have Obamacare and they have an absurdly high deductible as well. Hell, I think they are still paying on out of pocket fees from my mom’s gallbladder surgery from two years ago.

        And I know I’m part of the lucky few that has really, really good insurance through my work. I went in for skin allergy testing two weeks ago that cost me a $40 specialist copay — without insurance it would have cost me well over $600. In fact, my mom was supposed to have skin allergy testing, but they hadn’t met their deductible and it would have cost them $500 out of pocket. Suffice it to say, they didn’t do it.

        I’m interested in seeing how single payer works out for California — I’d rather a different state try it, like Colorado, where it’s much less politically volatile, for a lack of a better word. In theory, it should work. But human error is a helluva thing.

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        • What you got from Obamacare depended on who was willing to “service” your area. In this area — Massachusetts — we had some very good companies including Blue Cross and others and the available insurance has been really good. And of course, we are on a Blue Cross Advantage plan from medicare, which is so much better than I expected.

          This IS why we need a single payer system, so that we don’t live on whatever local insurance companies feel like charging us. Getting sick in a small town in Georgia shouldn’t cost three times what getting sick in Boston costs. That’s wrong, too. And it doesn’t have to be this way. Our “congress” needs to get their collective heads out of their asses and start working for the actual good of the actual people who live in this country. If they don’t, we need to use the American version of term limits — NOT ELECTING THEM.

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  9. Reblogged this…. Had a bout with St Vitus Dance when in 4th grade. (My mother had also). Although very intelligent, I could all too often not work fast enough thanks to that… I left many Human Resources offices in tears…. Was thankful for the times the insurance my husbands had on me through their employments… but now on Medicare and SS. but still have those memories. We did not have insurance when the deer broadsided our trike and I ended up in the hospital for two weeks and rehab nursing home for another two weeks. Thankfully, my current husband was able to negotiate and cobble together ways of getting it paid and or discounted.

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    • I remember when, after back surgery during which time I was in the hospital for 5 months, they presented us with a gigantic bill. I wondered, at the time, if I didn’t pay it, were they going to take me into a back room and break my back again? We never recovered from that. We had had some money from getting married. That was 1967 and it sucked every last penny out of our lives for the next 13 years. It was wrong then and it is still terribly wrong now.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. How wonderful it would be for our country if we could all go about the business of growing, caring, sharing, being creative, and doing competent jobs without having to lose so much of our energy to the stress of worrying about health care. How wonderful it would be for medical personnel to focus on health care. I just don’t get the eagerness to pass some bill that will abolish, or greatly weaken, Obamacare when we should be using it as a starting point to help all. What ever happened to “the common welfare?” What happened to compassion? What happened to practical problem solving? How joyous it would be to have a real “health care” bill.

    Liked by 1 person

    • All really great questions that I ask myself at least a dozen times a day. There are a lot of Christians who apparently don’t see any conflict between stripping people of the freedom to be healthy and leaving them on the scrap pile of human waste. This, to me, isn’t political. There’s right and there’s wrong and leaving the weak and the sick and the old and the young to simply die for lack of care? It’s wrong.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. Great health care is available to all Americans – but we can’t afford it. Why? The companies that dole out ‘insurance’ against the high costs of everything health care, are making money every time they reject a claim for some reason (“not covered” or some other vagueness ). Hospitals have to be so heavily insured now, that costs have gotten ridiculous. We the People are caught in the middle of this vortex. Until our elected officials have to deal with the crap We the People are dealing with (i.e. not having their own special version of health care, only for them) this issue will only get worse.
    Medicare is already worse – they aren’t covering much these days and you are supposed to buy “supplemental” health care to pay for what they don’t. Dr. visits and Rx co-pay’s still take half your pension (if you’re lucky enough to have one). If it’s OK for We the People to rely on Medicare, why are our representatives allowed to do something different? I bet if our esteemed congress, judicial, and executive branches of our government had to drop their fancy plan and change over to Medicare, things would change in a hurry.
    IMHO,
    JL

    Like

    • Well, you have to decide whether you feel that the insurance companies are there because we sue too much or because they are ripping us off. You can’t be on both sides of the same argument. I don’t disagree with you, but you should pick a side.

      Medicare is pretty good. Not as good as it could be, but my life depends on it and I’m alive, which is not a small thing. I have a Blue Cross Value Advantage plan, which is a PPO plan in lieu of Medicare. It’s really very good. The medication issue is a bitch, no argument. There are medications I can’t get that I need and I’m sure that’s true of many people, but BCBS has removed the co-pay on all blood pressure meds as well as nearly all antibiotics.

      I also agree that the people who make these laws should have to live with the results of their votes. I’m pretty sure a lot of our congress is totally out of touch with how real people live.

      However, Medicare is the best insurance I’ve ever had, including the stuff we paid for while we were working. It’s weak on the medications, but VERY strong on hospitalization and doctor visits. Not so great on major testing, but not awful, either. Pretty reasonable in ER visits and other emergency stuff. Very fair on lab tests and x-rays. And they almost NEVER reject a claim for anything.

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