Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Health Insurance and Cruising

I don't use this blog as a soapbox to promote my personal views about politics, religion, or anything else not boating related.   I have my views and you have yours.  I'm going to make an exception today.   Please bear with me.  This is a hot political topic but cruising related.  It's about health insurance, something that those of us who retire early to go off cruising can find problematic.

I've done a bit of research over the years about the state of health care in the US and I have to say that I'm disappointed.   WHO ranks the US only #37 in the world, not because of the quality of care here but because of the lack of availability of it to all citizens.  One in four Americans has no health insurance. 

We pay for Pamela's health insurance at almost $600 a month.  I cannot buy insurance at any price.  I'm 61 and have high blood pressure and so have had coverage declined (the portion of the health care reform act that prevents that hasn't been implemented yet).   Once you've been declined coverage by one company, no other will insure you.  Thanks to "Obamacare", I could buy insurance through the  federal government, but paying for two individual health insurance policies rather than a family plan is prohibitively expensive. 

Some people will say that health care is available to anyone who needs it at any hospital emergency room.   That might be true for a broken bone, but does little good for anyone with a debilitating illness such as cancer.

What brings all this up now is that yesterday was Memorial Day, a day to remember those who died in service to this country and to honor those who have served.   A fellow liveaboard here at Isle of Hope Marina is a Vietnam veteran.  He also has no health insurance, and he has a hernia.  The best price he could negotiate at the local hospitals was $10,000 to $14,000 to get it fixed, which is a 65% discount from their standard charges (can you imagine?).  He tried the VA hospital and they refused to do it, saying he made too much money last year when he was working.  So today Gene is flying to Nevada where he found a surgeon that agreed to do it for $5,000.

Basic health care  is a right in most advanced countries, but it is a for-profit business here.  Everyone from insurance companies to hospitals to those employed in the health industry profits, and in many cases profit handsomely.  According to the American Journal of Medicine, 8% of bankruptcies were due to medical bills in 1981.  In 2007, that number increased to a staggering 62% and three quarters of those had health insurance.

Here comes the soapbox part.  I don't think this is right.  A Vietnam veteran shouldn't have to fly three quarters of the way across the country to get a hernia fixed.  Americans shouldn't be flying to Europe, Asia, Canada, and Mexico to get affordable health care.  Hard working middle class Americans shouldn't become bankrupt because of a catastrophic illness.

The Affordable Health Care for America Act was a nice effort, but requiring people to purchase costly insurance from for-profit corporations isn't the answer.   The Supreme Court will soon determine the constitutionality of AHCAA.  Maybe it will be a good thing if it's stuck down.   Maybe congress will then do it right and come up with something better. Yeah, I know, and maybe pigs will fly.

So, if you're thinking about casting off the dock lines, consider your health insurance coverage.  For me, it didn't matter because the company I worked for dropped its health insurance policies due to a sharp spike in cost, mainly due to me.  In Connecticut, it is legal for insurance companies to base premiums on age and pre-existing conditions and when I turned 60 my premium doubled to $1,300 a month.  I had nothing to lose in casting off my dock lines.

Off my soapbox now. 

In other news, Dirty Gertie the cat is at the vet's office.  She's going downhill fast, unable to breathe right and losing weight.  All tests have come back normal, but there is some kind of mass in her stomach.  It's time to open her up to see what's going on.

LI Sound Boater asked what the status of the Whaler is.  Well, we've taken it out four times and have been towed back three.   Although I've been assured that it's fixed now, I'm hesitant to take it out unless we have a buddy boat.   Maybe we'll try this weekend as it's forecast to be really nice here.


  1. Understood David, my entire family is uninsured. We live day to day, hoping none of us gets sick or hurt.

    Nothing will change until we stop allowing lobbyists to write legislation. It is that simple.

  2. Prayers for Gertie. Hope Gene is home soon to mend in IOH.

  3. As a Canadian I find what you say about health care costs in the US to be almost unfathomable. I'm not saying our system of socialized health care is better, it has some serious drawbacks, but at least I know an illness, which we've had a few serious ones lately, won't take us into bankruptsy.

    Just for example, Lori's been off work for almost 6 weeks now. Started with pneumonia then some issues with her heart. ER visits, specialists, PET scans etc. My out of pocket expenses? $0.00 Well maybe a few bucks for prescription dispensing fees but that's about it.

    I guess the biggest difference here is everone's in on the plan. From the day you're born till the day you die you have health coverage. Major illnesses won't lead you into financial ruin. You may wait longer for proceedures or there may be some new options that aren't covered yet but they will come eventually (in time I hope). We can also avail ourselves of supplementary insurance, which I have through work and will carry into retirement which fills a lot of gaps in the Provincial coverage. But, and this is a big BUT, when you really need it, it's there for you, even when you're travelling outside of the country.

    Ok off the soapbox too!

    Best wishes for Gertie's speedy recovery! *purrrrrr*

  4. Health insurance has to be question 1,2 or 3 for those considering cruising, so it should be in your blog Dave. It's too bad it's become a political party point, that means not much is going to be improved for some time.

    I had a younger guy tell me yesterday he dropped his health insurance. He has a wife and 2 kids. He makes a good living(taking care of my mooring and many others, runs charters, ferrys people to islands etc owns his boat debt free), owns a modest home in town he's probably paid off by now.

    His health insurance was 11,000 per year. The median Maine household income is something like 42k. That just doesn't work even for the politically blinded.

    But what was most disturbing to me was his easy acceptance of his decision. He'd had a hospital emergency with one of his young kids and paid out of pocket and felt like he'd made the right decision.

    It just got me thinking that more and more "young" people may be forced to make this decision, and it is not, a good one for themselves or the rest of us.

  5. So why is this a debatable issue for close to 50% of the US population? Why the absolute hate and vitriol against first Hillary and now Obama? Tell me that.

  6. My BP spiked during a trip to Italy a few years back. 2:00 AM taxi ride to the hospital, and a few hours later, nitro and BP meds dispensed, I was on my way back to the hotel. The hospital wasn't all spiffy like ours, but the doctor actually took the time to TALK to me, and we walked out the door having spent $0.00. There's good and bad to everything, but I'm here to tell ya, our system is NOT all good.

  7. I have Health Insurance through my Wifes Employer,which is to say we pay for it out of her wages.I have a Pension and still work.I have had some serious Heart issues and other ailments.I am trying to pay off the med bills that I have after insurance has paid and it is breaking us.We make a good living and find it hard to cover these costs.My heart go's out to people that cannot afford it and are sickly and have no options.The last time I was in the hospital,the nurse asked me if one of the Drs from the group that I go to might stop to see how Im doing. Sure I say.Doc comes in says Im doing ok,eat right,lose weight,see ya later....Sends bill for $600.00. What?? I hope his stethescope gets jammed in his ears. Got a bunch of bills from people I did not know or remember treating me. Oh well. I think Canada has a better idea.

  8. Living in Spain has been an eye-opening experience, and we shake our heads at the disaster that the US Healthcare system is in. Members of our family struggle with the system, as well. The country has become so entrenched with a mentality of checking to make sure that you have "earned" your keep despite obvious inadequacies in opportunity, that basic human care is being ignored.

    Small steps like Obamacare and efforts that Hillary made are progress, though, so not all hope is lost. Trying to unroot a system that lines the pockets of insurance and drug companies to put something better in place is like trying to kill bermuda grass - it's going to take a lot of work.

    s/v Shearwater

  9. Agree Dave ... David turns 65 in Sept, up until now we've been covered under the company he retired from at $500 a month, most reasonable I'm finding out. Now he'll pay $99 a month for his part of Medicare Part B, plus he needs supplemental insurance for the 20% Medicare doesn't cover plus he needs something for drugs because his heart blockage doesn't make for cheap meds. So it seems to us that we're going to spend as much as we were spending just on his insurance on Medicare!

    And I have no insurance. We're afraid to look into that cost. So the bottom line is, a middle class hard working person goes on medicare and pays MORE out of his pocket than he did for his entire family under his corporate health care policy?

    I guess I should be grateful we've had health care all these years, but this just doesn't seem right and certainly isn't the answer for all of us retiring Americans.

    Unfortunately, my son's generation isn't interested in trying to fix it because they're sick and tired of all the corruption in the gov't. His friends are all bright U.S. service academy grads ... the very kids that should be our next generation of leaders ... but that's MY soapbox, so I'll sign off now... :(

  10. I don't understand the comment that that "corruption in the gov't" leads bright young people to be disinterested in fixing our problems. The Government is US and our neighbors, not some evil empire. Its to the moneyed insurance company interests to have the people disengaged and fighting a false bogeyman. Failure to tell our elected representatives to stop representative corporations and start representing US is the problem. I'm sick and tried of U.S Service Academy Grads being so silly.