I'm a cold heartless bastard
In life there are plenty of unexpected things that can happen and so as to avoid many of them we prepare... we brush our teeth to avoid cavities, we wear a seatbelt to avoid the windshield, we lock our doors to keep people from breaking in, and we carry health insurance so as to avoid overwhelming medical bills.
Sure no level of prevention or preparation is perfect, however it is every persons responsibility to make a reasonable effort to prepare/prevent issues that may come up.
This morning a TV I was near had the CBS Early Show on which had an interview with Tom Rider, husband of Tanya Rider, the woman who spent 8 days trapped in her car at the bottom of a ravine. On it he was talking about his wife, her slow recovery and the costs involved. That's right... she's uninsured and it's expected that her medical bills will end up totaling somewhere between $500,000 and $1,000,000. Truly a wonderful story of survival and aside from it being a wonderful sob story to try to sell people on programs like HillaryCare II or the Edwards plan as she is one of those 44 million Americans who lack health insurance... only it, like that mythical number leaves out a lot.
Lemme share a little secret most people don't know about the medical industry... and especially large hospitals... just because the bill lists something as $1,000, doesn't mean you are actually going to end up paying that much, even if you don't have insurance.
The short reason is that hospitals are known to artificially inflate their prices so as to have room for lower, negotiated rates with insurance companies that they actually charge. That's why when you've got something on your bill as costing $1,000, the actual cost to you (pre-out of pocket limits) might be closer to $78.
Hospitals are also known to be enormously generous as they want to avoid looking like a bunch of greedy monsters that care about nothing but money and are actually fairly willing (at times) to wave large portions of bills under certain circumstances.
So it is very likely that even if her total bill comes to $1,000,000... the total amount the hospital would ask them to pay will be significantly less... assuming they ask for anything at all. It is more likely that the hospital will simply decide to wave most, if not all of the remaining bill out of a (public) sense of community and compassion, after all, it only makes business sense as they are likely not the only hospital system in the area and want people to want to come to them for treatment and such an act is a wonderful PR stunt.
So we've got an uninsured couple who hit hard times... that stinks right? Not so fast... he is insured and she's not. Why couldn't she get on his plan? Good question. Why wasn't she covered at all? Even better question.
From the sounds of it, it was largely by choice.
Some articles claim that because some of her jobs were so new she wasn't covered yet, the interview I saw this morning the husband said something to the effect of "we figured that if she got sick, or broke her leg, that we'd have the money to take care of her."
Sounds like by choice to me... but still not sure? According to the same interview the couple on the verge of closing on a house AND had $60,000 sitting in the bank for a rainy day.
I'm sad to say that I took this story a little personally (a rarity for me) and it infuriated me because I am largely unemployed and unemployable, and spending $228 a month (on plastic) to maintain health insurance (and would even if I didn't need it) because I recognize it's necessity and am responsible enough to take care of myself and not expect others to do for me what I refuse to do for myself.
It is astonishing to me that this couple WILLINGLY went without insurance and now has the gall to whine about it.
Don't brush your teeth and get cavities? Tough. Don't wear a seat belt and go through a windshield? Sucks to be you. Leave your doors unlocked and have someone walk right in and steals your tv? Ha ha. Decided to remove the batteries from your smoke detector to power your GameBoy and you didn't find out about the fire in time? I guess Tetris was more important eh? Live in an area in a known floodplain and don't carry flood insurance? Hope you can swim. Don't change your oil very often and had your engine seize up? Maybe now you'll learn.
Hence the title of this post... I'm a cold heartless bastard and I freely admit it as I've got little sympathy for those who choose not to take at least basic and adequate preventative measures so as to reduce the likelihood and impact of a catastrophic event.
What's the solution? One option is something similar to the Romney plan (state mandated, not federally) of requiring people to carry some degree of health insurance, despite the far too often cry from people about the high cost of insurance, on which to a certain extent they are correct... provided we are talking about full coverage. Instead though they need to view health insurance the way we do auto insurance.
When was the last time you had your auto insurance company pay for an oil change, a tire rotation or an engine replacement? You don't! Why? Because those are the basic auto services that we all pay for out of pocket... just like a trip to the doctor or other minor things are for many who do not carry full coverage health insurance.
Generally the only time we involve the auto-insurance company is when we get into some sort of accident that involves significant vehicle or personal damage... provided you've got coverage, something that is sometimes optional (at least with regards to collision coverage).
The solution to cases like this is people being responsible citizens and consumers and carrying some degree of health insurance. Ideally they'd go for an inexpensive plan (not unlike life insurance) that covers only the big things, things that are not likely to occur so that if they do have a cough or a broken leg... they pay for it out of pocket, but if they require major surgery or extended hospital stays... the insurance kicks in.
What's stopping it? Personal responsibility, and the CBS Morning Show touting the irresponsibility of this couple sure doesn't help things.