Yesterday I called my friend Richard to get an update on his medical condition. At his routine medical exam earlier this year, his doctor found a lump on his chest. The doctor told him that he needed to get some lab work done to see whether or not the lump was malignant. It turns out it was not cancerous, but he was told he should have it removed. I asked if he'd done that yet and he told me, "no, I can't afford it right now. I'm going to be paying for the lab tests for the next 3 months."
65 is the age at which one can receive Medicare, the Federal government's senior health plan. Richard is self-employed with no corporation to help pay for his health care, and not quite old enough for Medicare yet. With his private insurer, he's responsible for the deductible of $5,000.00. And his bill for the tests was almost up to that level. At least the tumor is benign.
Then he shared the tragic tale of one of his clients. She and her husband had been dealing with his virulent cancer for years, and he was finally diagnosed as a fatal case. She was hoping to have him spend his remaining days with her, which he was able to do with the help of home care. He eventually passed in the confines of his own home with his wife.
But it wasn't over. Soon after he died, she was besieged by bills from the medical organizations and home care companies. The bills were exorbidant. Paying them was not an option for her. Her adult children apparently were no help either. I'm not sure at what point banruptcy was declared, but her home was foreclosed on and all her property taken.
Richard went over to check up on her and found the house empty. He spoke with some of her former neighbors who informed him that she was living on the street.
This story is all too common in the US, with most bankruptcies here being attributable to usurious health care policies. In the country that produces more wealth than any country in the history of the world, is it too much to ask that we, as a nation, help take care of those who cannot take care of themselves.