Wednesday, September 12, 2012


I’ve wanted for some time to write about healthcare, and our experiences navigating insurance/doctors/medical companies.  Not surprisingly, this is something close to my heart, and an issue that I’ve learned quite a lot about over the past 14 months.  I’ve not really written about politics on this blog before, and it’s not my intention to make this a regular occurrence, but I feel like, in this particular case, it’s appropriate.  A few caveats before I go on, though.  I recognize that some (or maybe even most) of you won’t agree with my thoughts on this.  I understand and respect that.  My goal is not necessarily to change minds, so much as share with you some of the experiences we have had.  I fully respect your right to disagree with my beliefs on this.  That being said, I’ll get on my soapbox....   

I support Obamacare (though I don’t think it goes far enough...change sometimes needs to be incremental) and, quite honestly, the issue of healthcare alone is important enough to determine who I will vote for in two months (albeit there are a lot of other reasons I’ll be voting for Obama).  This being said, very little of the healthcare act actually affects our family at this point.  We have excellent insurance and, unlike a lot of other people who have had to deal with serious injury or illness, we’ve not had any problems with our carrier denying claims.  We have savings and we have a great family support system that would have stepped in financially, had it been needed.  There is, though, one aspect of Obamacare that does affect us quite a lot: the end of lifetime limits on insurance policies.  

Prior to the AHA being passed, most policies had a limit on the amount of money an insurance company would pay out over their lifetime, an amount that, generally speaking, was in the million dollar range.  This sounds like a lot of money.  It IS a lot of money and, for most people, they’d never really come close to hitting this amount.  But to anyone dealing with “catastrophic injury” (the official insurance-jargony term for what we’re dealing with), one million dollars goes very, very quickly.  I don’t want to list out all of the bills we’ve gotten in the last 14 months, but I do want you to have some idea of what medical care costs...because I think that sometimes gets lost.  I read a CNN article about this a few months ago, and someone noted that, even with a serious illness, it would take decades to hit a lifetime cap.  Not true.  Not even close.  For one week in the ICU, our insurance company was charged $140,000.  One week.  Being airlifted off a mountain?  $30,000.  New wheelchair?  $6,000.  This is not even touching the other big expenses: neurosurgery, transportation to San Jose from Reno, four weeks of inpatient acute rehab, medicine to treat the infections he got while in said hospital, MRIs, CT Scans, physical therapy, braces of almost every conceivable variety, and on and on and on.  We could hit one million dollars quite fast...Jason is only 29, after all.  When the Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of Obamacare in June, I watched nervously, literally feeling as if I would be sick...because if it got overturned, it would be hard to keep doing the things that have helped with Jason’s recovery.  Not having to worry too much about medical bills has allowed us to pursue non-traditional therapies that insurance does not cover, namely SCI-FIT.  We’re the lucky ones, though.  We do have insurance and, if lifetime limits were re-instated, we’d be able to figure something out.  Not everyone has that luxury.  The average salary in the US is somewhere around $40,000.  How do you deal with several hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical bills without completely ruining your life?  What kind of payment plan do you work out with the hospital?  Which brings me to my next point...

For me, healthcare is an issue of compassion, of social justice, and simply taking care of people.  In this country, we should not have people terrified of going bankrupt after a serious injury, or making medical decisions based entirely on financial concerns.  I can assure you, that having a loved one in the ICU, or being told that they might die, or knowing that your world as you have known it is over, is enough.  You don’t need more to worry about than that.  You just don’t.

I recognize that there are those who will argue that the US can not afford this...can not afford for everyone to be insured.  My response to that is two-fold.  First, in 2010, the Congressional Budget Office projected that Obamacare would actually reduce the deficit by $124 billion over ten years (of course, this is a projection, and not perfect, but it is from a non-partisan source).  Second, I think funding healthcare should be a priority and, too often in debates about budgets and deficits, we forget that we’re ultimately talking about what our country’s priorities are.  Making sure our citizens are healthy should be a top priority:  it is something in which we should invest.           

Off of the soapbox now...back to your regularly-scheduled updates soon.


  1. Here is a good article on where the candidates stand on health care. I have found this site to be fact-based.

  2. Clarification - I did NOT mean in any way to suggest that Ashley's comments weren't fact-based. My comment re ProPublica was as compared to other news sources!!!

  3. I didn't think that at all, Susan. I really enjoyed reading around the different articles on ProPublica. Thanks for suggesting it!