With our newly-minted medical degrees, Kara and I yesterday diagnosed co-worker James with a sinus infection and suggested he go through the convoluted steps of making an appointment with a doctor who might have, somehow, better credentials. And prescribing power. His response: “I don’t have health insurance.”
I try. I try and try and try. That was the first thing I wanted to do at Pat’s, back in 2000, was provide health insurance for employees. It has never penciled out, which is my greatest frustration and failure. When the Affordable Care Act first came on the scene, I arranged for the one insurance company in town with knowledge of it to come talk to everyone. Every year since, I have encouraged employees to go talk insurance while on our company dime.
When one of my friends, a fit and active sort, passed out, hit his head and got airlifted to St. Mary’s in Grand Junction at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars that he didn’t have, I used him as an example for why insurance is a necessary evil.
But to the majority of my employees, there are always other, better, more urgent things to spend their money on: rent, food, credit cards, student loans, soccer shoes, video games, fancy coffee drinks. Getting them to grasp that there might be an affordable premium with a tax subsidy is too big an ask. So while I suggested, then urged, then pleaded late last year with everyone to set up appointments to see if health insurance was in reach, I was largely ignored.
And now James needs to see a doctor about the sinus infection he’s probably had for three weeks, and he wasn’t planning to go. Lucky for him, he lives in Colorado, where our governor (motto: I knew weeks ago that coronavirus could be passed asymptomatically) opened our health exchange back up — an action that over 5,000 people have taken advantage of so far.
I thought this would work out, because originally the governor opened it back up until today, with any policy purchased effective April 1. So we could get James signed up today and he would already be covered. But then our governor (motto: I already knew a contagion is contagious) extended open enrollment until the end of April, so now any policy James purchases will not go into effect until May 1.
Yesterday I found James 11 policy options (all of them from Anthem, the only company that offers coverage in Gunnison County), ranging from $33 per month for an $8,000 deductible to several out of his price range, but also a silver plan with an $800 deductible for $121. But none of them available until May 1.
This is why it’s important to remain humble: yesterday at Skype lunch several of my friends were complimenting my writing in this blog, which was very kind of them. By 6 p.m. my words had been completely misconstrued by James, who has now “agreed” with me that the $121 policy would be a waste of money.
What I really said was, “If you have no medical issues, it feels like a waste of money; if you blow your knee out on the basketball court you will be so happy you have it, even if you had a giant deductible like $6,000 [a $35/month option].”
What James appears to have heard is that since he isn’t planning to play basketball any time soon, this isn’t an immediate necessity and would simply be a waste.
Argh! Do you know how frustrating it is to not be able to control the world?
I want to shake James until his teeth rattle, which if he has a sinus infection wouldn’t be much shaking at all. I want — and there’s a chance it could happen — to lecture him about my accountant’s stepdaughter, who landed in emergency rooms four times late last year before Children’s Hospital in Aurora finally diagnosed a massive sinus infection that had penetrated her brain and probably still has her on antibiotics.
Even Lynn, who ignored a sinus infection because she knew in a couple of weeks she was going to be on antibiotics for her teeth, let one go, and now she’s on her third different antibiotic (this is the one that is at last doing the trick). Her intention in the first place was to avoid taking too many antibiotics, but that didn’t work out so well. At least she has insurance.
The reason our governor (motto: I am well aware there is a huge shortage of testing kits) opened the state’s health exchange back up is due to the virus. I was going to make a prognostication — you know how I excel at those — that this virus may finally be the thing that brings this country around on health care, when in the middle of drowning in joblessness and a possible coming food shortage (we don’t know it here in Colorado, where it snowed last night in places not Gunnison, but it’s harvest season in Georgia, and no migrant workers to manage the harvest and no farmers with any faith in a domestic workforce) — but not a recession, most definitely not a recession on the president’s watch — people are never going to be able to cover the hospital expenses for all these critically ill patients.
But then I remember that the governor of Georgia seemed rather proud of his new-found knowledge, gleaned only yesterday, that this virus can be spread by people showing no symptoms whatsoever, and that the president, who has just learned that contagions are contagious, apparently seemed to genuinely not know that there has been, and continues to be, an extreme shortage of test kits that would inform (not that we use that word) so many decisions and actions, and I think to myself, “What are you smoking?”
And so, rather than take on our entire fractured health system, I guess I will dial my current objective back to one small action: getting James to purchase some sort of health insurance before May 1. Wish me luck.