Only the fortunate don’t realize health insurance coverage is an issue

July 10, 2012

Many readers have ripped apart the mistakes and distortions in Michael Hurd’s commentary on the Affordable Health Care Act, but there is a minor point I want to discuss: his use of quotation marks.

Hurd, dismissing supporters of Obama’s healthcare plan, wrote, “There are those who foolishly believe that this all about ‘coverage.’”


I was struck not only by his statement, but also by his use of quotation marks, as if to emphasize just how foolish a person must be to even consider how “coverage” could be an issue.

Well, count me among the foolish - perhaps because I know the fear of not having insurance.

My first example goes back about 30 years. I was part of a small family business. We were nearly broke. We had a hard time meeting payroll, much less being able to afford health insurance.

One day, at the old Blue Hen Mall in Dover, my father collapsed. It had something to do with his heart. We didn’t know exactly what. He spent a couple of days in the hospital and was released. Not having insurance, he received a sizable bill, which neither he nor the company had the money to pay. My father returned to work. Shortly thereafter, we got a call at the office. A woman at a downtown Dover store called to say our father was having a “problem.”

My brother and I rushed to the store. I recall thinking, “What am I supposed to do? I’m not a doctor.”

At the store, my father seemed to be doing … okay. He was sitting. He hadn’t collapsed, but he looked pale and weak. And there we were. What to do?

Common sense dictated that a 51-year-old man facing a potential heart problem should be taken to the hospital. He should at least get checked out.

But we considered more than the state of his health. We considered financial implications. If he were to be admitted, which was likely, he would face another large medical bill - a bill he couldn’t pay. So we made an informed medical decision - informed not by expertise in cardiac care, but in the knowledge that another big hospital bill could force him into bankruptcy.

We didn’t take him to the hospital. As it turned out, my father hadn’t suffered a heart attack. He had an arrhythmia, an irregular heartbeat. He survived.

You could say we made the right decision. But, really, we were lucky.

Many years later my father had another incident while at work. This time health insurance wasn’t a factor. A woman who worked for us insisted he go to the hospital.

Health insurance covered my father’s quadruple bypass, and he remains healthy to this day, at age 84.

This story had a happy ending. Several years later we sold the company. I would have to get my own health insurance. I wasn’t overly concerned. I felt fortunate that I could afford it.

But there was still a problem. Because of one potential health issue we could not find an insurance policy for the entire family.

Again, I faced the specter of non-coverage, despite the fact that we were a healthy family of three.

We had to get a HIPPA policy, which is for people for whom traditional insurance companies won’t provide coverage. It costs twice as much as already-expensive private health insurance.

About a year later, we were able to find regular health insurance for the whole family. It would save us $6,000 a year.

You might think we jumped on that pretty fast. But you’d be wrong. We were afraid.

What if, for some reason, this insurance company canceled our policy? (Retroactive rescission is one of the issues covered by Obamacare.)

HIPPA rules wouldn’t allow us to simply revert back to its coverage. We could face an extended period with no health insurance - exposing my family to financial ruin. After repeated phone calls to the Insurance Commissioner’s Office, we determined that the insurance company couldn’t cancel our policy, except for fraud or non-payment. We made the switch.

In both cases, things worked out. But I’ll never forget weighing the financial considerations of taking my father to the hospital. (Anybody with health insurance would have gone.)

And I won’t forget my own fear of being left without health insurance, despite being able to pay for it.

I have two recommendations for people who don’t consider “coverage” an issue.

First, count yourself blessed. Second, never write about healthcare. You don’t know what you’re talking about.

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