I am Scared…..Tremendously

I don’t work in the healthcare field. I’m not an expert in healthcare issues, but I am a person with health issues, and the way the healthcare system is set up in this country scares me – tremendously.

It was ten years ago when I became a “no longer healthy person”. Before that time, I went to doctors for mild reasons, in search of quick fixes to temporary, benign illnesses. I usually walked out of my doctor’s office with a prescription and 5-7 days later, I’d be back to normal. Healthy again. Living my life with the expectation I wouldn’t see my doctor again until another bug was caught, and another antibiotic prescribed.

Like many people who develop significant diseases spontaneously in the midst of their life, my pattern of going to doctors has changed. I no longer wait until my perfect health is temporarily hijacked by a nuisance bug to see a doctor. I am now on a schedule with my doctor. Every three to six months. Sooner, if I need. But no longer than six months. Got to be kept tabs on when your health is compromised in a, more than likely, permanent way.

Although I didn’t have much experience with doctors, and hospitals, and medical procedures when I was given my diagnosis, I was, however, very much aware of the term pre-existing conditions and its implication.

And it scared me – tremendously.

Luckily, I was working and had insurance. But I knew my disease was complicated enough that it may interfere with work. As doctors told me the treatment plan for my disease, the medications I must take, and all the procedures that were needed, I called my insurance company with a panicked heartbeat, praying everything I had to do was covered.

This scared me – tremendously.

Lucky for me, everything was covered. But that didn’t end my worry. What if I lost my job because I couldn’t do my work at the same level? I could never afford insurance on my own, and besides, no insurance would touch me because I now had a pre-existing condition.

I worried about  one day being without insurance, but having insurance didn’t stop my worry, either. Multiple hospital stays in the ICU for over two weeks each visit, racked up huge bills. My insurance paid everything minus the deductible, but I had a lifetime limit on my insurance of about five million dollars.

To a healthy person, that may seem like a lot. But when you’ve already spent over three hundred thousand dollars from hospital stays, and monthly treatment costs over twenty-thousand dollars, those millions go by fast. According to CNBC, in 2013 bankruptcies from unpaid medical bills was the number one cause of such filings. They also found “15 million people will deplete their savings to cover medical bills.” (CNBC) 

When Obamacare came out and ruled that insurance companies would no longer be able to discriminate against people with illnesses, and offer them coverage, I was morbidly relieved. I was assured that even if I lost my job for whatever reason, as well as the insurance benefits that came with it, I could be picked up by another insurer, despite my illness.

This was huge. I was no longer tremendously scared.

Not only did I no longer have to worry about being denied health coverage, thereby being left to die in the streets with no insurance, but President Obama also eliminated the lifetime limit. That was huge too, because hospitals charges are unfairly astronomical.

But now, insurance companies are pulling out of Obamacare because it seems covering sick people is just too darn expensive, and since the United States, the most powerful and developed country in the world, has a for-profit health industry, profit is the bottom line. Sick people be damned.

I’ve heard regular people, people who don’t work fancy jobs for insurance companies, talk about the situation as if it is perfectly normal. “Of course the insurance companies had to get out. They were losing hundreds of millions of dollars!”

Yes, let’s feel sorry for the insurance companies making billions of dollars in profit, as well as their CEO’s with their tens of millions in annual salary. These companies that are pulling out of Obamacare are still going to make billions of dollars in profit at the end of the year, but they may not make as much as they did back in the days when they only insured healthy people, while leaving the sick ones to fend for themselves or die.

For the first time insurance companies had to cover sick people and it cost them too much money, so now they’re out.

We should be outraged. Covering sick people in healthcare should be the norm. Where’s the healthcare in denying sick people coverage? The people at the top, filled with their greed, are laughing their asses off at the sheep we have become. Profit over people is a horribly immoral way to run a healthcare system.

I am, once again, scared – tremendously.

 

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Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Why Not Raise the Minimum Wage?

I was recently told by a friend who works at a register that she doesn’t think she deserves $15 an hour. She told me she knows too many people working “skilled” jobs who get paid $12 -$13 an hour. I told her I thought her “skilled” friends were grossly underpaid.

Is $15 an hour a lot of money? Does it put a person on easy street? Is it the kind of money that spoils a worker so much that those workers lose all ambition to get better paying jobs? When have people ever been discouraged from making more money?

A worker making $15 an hour, full-time, will bring home an annual salary of about $31,200 before taxes.

Is that a lot of money? Even for a person working an unskilled job. Is that a lot of money in today’s terms?

There has been a lot of talk and protests supporting the effort to raise the current minimum wage of $7.25 to $15 an hour. Of course, there has been tremendous push-back, too. Particularly from business owners.

There have been numerous strikes by fast-food workers demanding an hourly wage of $15. Almost immediately the cries of “Big Macs would cost $8.00!” or “A small fry will be $5.00!” rang out. Which are both untrue.

According to ABC News, the cost of a Big Mac will increase by .68 cents and everything on the McDonalds Dollar menu will shoot up a whopping .17 cents, if the company who makes over 2 billion dollars a year would be forced to pay their employees a living wage.

As it stands, the Federal minimum wage for 2015 is $7.25. An annual salary of $15,080. The Federal poverty level for a single person is $11,770 and for a family of two, $15,930. Even for a single person, a minimum wage job doesn’t give much leeway from falling into poverty levels. Especially since not all jobs guarantee a worker full-time hours, nor do they all provide sick days.

A gallon of gas costs about $2.49, but not long ago they were hovering around, and above, $4.00 a gallon.

According to The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, between 2011 and 2013, the median annual income in the US was $52,047.

A new car today averages about $31,000.

The average annual cost of college tuition at a 4-year institution is $23,600.

Depending on where you live, the average price of a home can cost $300,000 or more.

In 2015, the average cost of healthcare insurance for a single person is $5,615 and $15,745 for a family.

When we look at these expenses, does $31,000 a year really seem like a lot?

The Federal minimum wage in 1975 was $2.10. An annual salary of $4,368.

A gallon of gas in ’75 costs .57 cents.

The median annual income was $10,257.

A new car cost $3800.

The annual cost of college tuition at a 4-year institution was $2265.

The average two-bedroom home cost about $51,000.

Healthcare expenses were less than $1200 a person.

In 1975, the difference between a minimum wage job and the median annual income was $5,809.

In 2015, the difference is $36,967.

The difference between annual college tuition between 1975 and 2015 is $21,335.

The price of a car has risen by $27,200.

Homes have increased by almost $250,000.

The price of healthcare has rose astronomically and for people without insurance, according to CNBC, medical bills were the number one reason for bankruptcy filings in 2013, far outpacing credit card bills or unpaid mortgages.

Yet, with all these increases in expenses since 1975, the rate of minimum wage has risen a mere $5.15. In forty years.

This is sad. I know a minimum wage job is supposed to be a starting point, but it should provide a person a living that affords food, shelter, clothing, etc. A person working 40 hours a week, shouldn’t be a pay check away from living on the street because they can’t afford housing.

A few years ago, McDonalds was caught instructing their employees how to file for government help. This infuriated me because here is a company making billions of dollars a year, and even though they can afford to pay a higher wage, but choose not to because of greed, they force their employees on government help, and the US tax payers foot the bill.

There are many people, wealthy people, CEO people, making tens of millions of dollars a year, who love the attitude my friend expressed about not deserving $15 an hour. They love that because they want Americans happy to be working for less. More money for them. And these people won’t shy away from snagging that extra money. They’ll knock their grandmothers down getting to it first.

And they won’t ask if they deserve it. They’ll just take it.

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*The source for all my data was Kaiser Family Foundation.

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net