Excuse the lag in blogs. My husband, Charley Gerard, and I have been working on some new songs together. Material from the Gerard/Weinstock songbook will be performed by vocalist Christine Adams, saxophonist Charley Gerard, violist Eva Gerard, plus guitar, bass and drums in Manhattan on Friday, September 2nd at 7:00 pm at Miles Cafe. I hope you will put the date down now on your calendar and come out and have some fun.
Like everyone else, I have been thinking a lot about insurance coverage lately. How could I not? I have been sharing a great deal of my earnings with insurance companies.
- As a physician, I pay malpractice insurance. I also carry disability coverage in case I have a medical problem that prevents me from working.
- As a small business owner, I pay health insurance for my employees. I pay for theft and liability to protect my place of work. And I am mandated to pay into the state’s worker’s compensation fund monthly.
- At home, I pay for theft, liability and weather damage to protect my house. My husband’s and daughter’s instruments are covered in a separate policy. Of course I carry car insurance on my vehicles. I also pay for comprehensive life insurance to make sure my family will be financially secure if anything happens to me. And until last month, I paid for my family’s health insurance.
I am not a mathematician, but it seems fairly obvious that a huge percent of my income goes to insurance companies. I probably should also carry long-term illness insurance, but there’s not a lot of money left to pick up an additional policy.
We Americans are paying a huge price for the right to sue for liability, for protection against illness and loss and to make sure some natural or unnatural disaster does not leave us bereft. We are all paying for the lacks in our social system, a system that does not provide a safety net for those down on their luck. If someone slips in your office or someone walks off with the car you use to get to work, insurance can be the difference between disaster and a piece of bad luck. It is no wonder we get sued anytime a baby is born with a problem. The finances of raising an impaired child can ruin a family. There is no bad-baby insurance policy currently being offered to parents. Families with babies needing expensive medical interventions can only collect through their doctor's malpractice coverage.
Health care has become so expensive in our country that even having insurance is no guarantee against weathering all storms. According to NPR radio, the second most common reason cited for bankruptcy in the USA is having a medical condition not covered by your insurance company. If you have insurance, it is not possible to get Medicaid to cover your emergency, even if your insurance will not pay for it and the price tag is exorbitant. That type of emergency Medicaid is available only to someone with a medical disaster who has no insurance. As the majority of Americans are covered by insurance policies picked by their employer (who is most likely just looking at the bottom line) many of us carry sub-standard policies with many loopholes. One only discovers these loopholes, unfortunately, when ill.
Paying for insurance and the fear of losing coverage is changing the fabric of peoples lives. Here are a few examples of people I know:
- A friend of mine, an Ob/Gyn living in California is almost sixty. She would like to slow down a little or retire, but these are out of the question. Ironically she comes from a well-off family, so what is the issue? Her husband has Type I diabetes and is going to need dialysis soon. If she leaves her job, he will not be able to get insurance thereafter. One of my friend’s medical partners has just developed breast cancer and has taken a six month leave of absence, so my friend is on call more now than she was previously. So, despite being well-off, my friend is forced to work long hours in order to keep her husband covered. Their lives would probably improve if they divorced, her husband picked up Medicaid, and she could work a part-time clinic job and take care of him the rest of the time. Sad, but true.
- A colleague who recovered from cancer a few years earlier would like to get a separation from her husband. Despite the fact that they lead separate parallel lives, she is just biding her time for now. She is afraid that if she loses her job, she will be unable to get new insurance coverage. She is basically married to her partner for insurance reasons and I don’t blame her. Life is precarious.
- A patient of mine,in her twenties, is on medication for ADD. She hates her job, but cannot leave. Although she lives at home with her parents and has low expenses, she needs the job in order to have insurance that will pay for her medication.
Every year our dollar stretches less and less and our standard of living erodes. Insurance costs are eating into our personal incomes and into those of our businesses. As time goes by, less and less of us will be able to maintain our middle class status, unless we wish to stop having children, buying cars, owning homes or starting our own businesses. We can all go back to being single, poor bohemians living day to day with no one to depend on and no one to depend on us. Welcome to the Sixties! Haight-Ashbury anyone?