Like many Americans, I have gone bankrupt because of our for-profit health insurance system. Unlike most Americans, I am leaving the system altogether, and coming to Costa Rica. International moves are expensive, but the cost of repatriation dwarfs the risk of becoming financially crippled for simply getting sick.
My daughter has a pre-existing condition. She is four years old. There is a cyst on her heel that will, we are told, go away naturally in a few years. We made the mistake of going to a doctor, and having this bump examined, so it now resides in her permanent medical records.
Because of this benign abnormality, we can purchase medical insurance for her at $1800 per month, which is more than our mortgage payment. This insurance plan has so many copays and deductibles that we would have to spend thousands of dollars per week to see any real cost savings from it.
As I tell my friends about our upcoming move, with two kids and two parents in tow, I am amazed at how many people confide in me that they, too, cannot afford health insurance. These are not layabouts. They are parents, professionals who wear ties to work, and own their own homes. But they cannot afford to go to the doctor.
A bad diagnosis, an unexpected injury, or an unexplained symptom affects much more than our health. These bodily setbacks could cause our financial ruin.
I used to be a licensed insurance agent. I got into the industry with some noble ideals about “changing things from the inside.” What I came to realize is that the rise of American health care costs is not due to greedy doctors, or malpractice lawsuits, or expensive diagnostic equipment, but to the ever-expanding bureaucracy that slices the responsibility of payment between the patient and the insurer. It is inevitable that when a company has to put its profits first, it will go to excessive lengths to protect it; even to the point of tripling its size and losing efficiency, so long as those additional costs can be passed on to the customer.
Health care in America is obscenely lucrative, and if some of our health-care insurers were publicly held and had to report their profits, they would be counted among the largest and most profitable in the world. This may not change until after the Baby Boomers, the largest generation in America that is now about to retire, work their way through this unique system that enables companies to profit, literally, off our blood.
When my daughter was born, we had health insurance. Really good health insurance. It was so good, in fact, that the for-profit hospital where she was born decided she needed to stay in the Intensive Care Unit for a week, despite the absence of any unfavorable symptoms only 24 hours after the birth.
We were trapped, kept away from our home, our beds, and our family, because the hospital saw an opportunity to milk our insurance for a few hundred thousand dollars. We almost had to kidnap our own child to escape.
Despite being insured, our portion of the unnecessary and lengthy hospital stay amounted to more than sixty thousand dollars. (Copays, deductibles, coinsurance, etc.) We declared bankruptcy, caught in the gears of the body-profit machine.
Now we risk destitution anytime we catch a cold, trip over a curb, or find a strange spot on our skin. We hide from doctors and the medical bureaucracy for fear that they will tell the insurance companies, and penalize us for life for having a body that gets sick and injured sometimes.
This isn’t the way to take care of people, and thankfully, there are other countries that recognize that.