Face in the Crowd: One of the Uninsured Millions
Tuesday, September 22, 2009 5:51 am
For those of us who live in a world of accessible health care, the phrase "30 million uninsured Americans" does not really compute.
Virginia and Malcolm Cook in 1985. (Photo: Family file photo)
It's fairly easy to assign that statistic to the same space in the brain that holds the amount of the federal deficit, the number of Iraq war casualties or the current lotto jackpot award. If we think about it much at all, it's usually to say to ourselves: "Haven't we been lucky?"
Unless we actually know an uninsured American.
I have known, and do know, several. I run in a particularly well-funded crowd, but guess what? Even hard-working, money-in-the-bank people sometimes find themselves in an unfunded health-care crisis.
My father was one of those.
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He worked hard his entire life – blazing new trails in the banking industry, providing for a family of five women, rising to the top of the pile in his field of expertise. Then, in his 50s, he found himself with a comfortable life, a solid bank account and a dusted-off resume. The company he'd founded was sold and merged and morphed, and he was looking for a job.
He also had a pre-existing condition. He'd had his first heart attack at 53.
At 58, he died in a Houston hospital after 10 days in cardiac ICU. He had no health insurance.
While the tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills left after his early death did not bankrupt my mother, they did make us all grateful for life insurance.
Still, it's not really the bill-paying that haunts the memory.
It's knowing that someone I loved did not seek medical attention as early as he should have because he knew the bill would be high and there would be no resource to cover the cost other than his savings account. The savings account was supposed to fund his retirement, not his hospitalization.
My father died before he could retire.
The anniversary of Dad's birth was Sept. 17. He would have been, perhaps could have been, 78.
My father was not a number. He was a real person.
There are at least 30,000,000 just like him in America today.
Just so you know.
Jan Chapman is a former broadcast journalist, a storyteller and a blogger. She is a member of Church of the Savior, a UCC congregation with Baptist roots in Austin, Texas. She blogs at Thinking in Peaces.