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This One’s Personal
Carl Thress | Sunday, February 21, 2016
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about healthcare. A few weeks ago, I wrote about Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All proposal and its potential ramifications for families like mine. As recently as yesterday, I’ve been sharing articles on the subject in my newsfeed.
For me, this is a very personal issue. I believe with all my heart that access to affordable healthcare is a basic human right. Growing up, I learned that human life is precious. I was taught to love my neighbor as myself and to treat the least of these with the same dignity, respect, and care as everybody else.
My parents instilled in me a passion for social justice, rooted in their own experiences and in their strong Christian faith. They taught me that, as a society, we have a moral obligation to provide a safety net for those who slip between the cracks and need a hand up to get back on their feet.
And so, I believe in single-payer healthcare for all. But beyond my religious and spiritual considerations, I have another, more personal reason for supporting it: my own history.
In January of 1994, I turned 24. Out of college for more than two years and just under one year at my first professional job, I was making $15,000 per year.
My employer offered health insurance and even paid for single coverage. However, family coverage would have left me with barely enough to cover rent and bills, let alone groceries and living expenses. That was even with my wife also working.
So, with no alternatives in sight, we did without health insurance, rolling the dice that our youth would work to our advantage until we could afford health coverage.
Then my wife got sick. Her gallbladder went bad. One surgery and more than a week in the hospital later, due to complications from pancreatitis, we were suddenly looking at a bill in excess of $18,000.
We tried setting up a payment plan, but the hospital didn’t want to stretch payments past a year. The debt went into collection, and harassing phone calls ensued. One particularly memorable agent suggested that if we had a boat, we should sell it to pay the debt. If I had a damn boat, do you really think I would be going without health insurance? I wasn’t living like a king. I had an older, secondhand, totalled-out car and lived in a modest, one-bedroom apartment.
Anyway, after much consternation, we declared bankruptcy. I felt like a complete and utter failure.
But my story is hardly unique.
Now, more than two decades later, I want my tax dollars to go toward making sure no one else ever has to go through what I did just for getting sick.
Label me selfish, socialist, or a bleeding heart. I can take it. But no name-calling or baseless scare tactics about rationing and death panels are going to change my mind.
Stepping down from my soapbox and depositing two pennies in the jar...Tweet