Friendly Advice: Sell The Boat

Health care is a growing political issue in the U.S., and for good reason. Nobody is happy with the system we have and no one can agree how to fix it, either. There are too many competing interests with loads of money at stake. This week I heard a story that illustrates the problem.

A person I know - male, mid-twenties - developed a condition that is very painful. The pain comes and goes. A few days it ago it became so severe he went to the emergency room. The doctor there said he needed to see a specialist, gave him some pain medication and sent him home.

This gentleman is a self-employed craftsman and appears to have a decent income. I know he recently bought a very expensive boat. He does not, however, have health insurance. He also doesn't have the $250 it takes to see the specialist who treats problems like his. How someone can afford a boat but not be able to come up with the cash to get himself out of excruciating pain, I don't know. It makes no sense. But he spent a couple of days at home in agony before his girlfriend finally took him back to the ER again. This time they gave him morphine, again advised him to see the specialist pronto, and told him his life might depend on it.

So what did he do? He went back home and relaxed until the morphine wore off. Then the pain started up again. They finally went to the ER of a much larger hospital which had the necessary specialist on staff. It appears he is bleeding internally and is now scheduled for surgery. It is unclear what this will cost and who is paying for it. Depending what the surgeon finds inside, he may need a lot more treatment.

I tell this story for two reasons. First, this man needs your prayers for healing. Second, it illustrates that the so-called health care crisis in the U.S. isn't always the fault of "the system." This guy isn't poor. He could have afforded health insurance, but like a lot of people his age he goes without because he thinks he is indestructible. He gambled and lost. He figured "somebody" would always be there to take care of him. "Somebody" means all the rest of us who buy health insurance and pay taxes.

This doesn't mean he will be off the hook. With this condition in his medical history, he will probably be uninsurable for the rest of his life. He works in a field where most people are self-employed and group medical coverage is hard to find. He'll need insurance if he decides to marry and start a family, yet he'll be too "rich" to qualify for Medicaid and still unable to get insurance privately. His best bet will be to change careers and go to work for a big company or a governmental agency. That will be a shame because he's very good at what he does.

I believe we all have a moral obligation to help the sick. What do we do, though, with people who have the ability to take care of themselves and simply don't? This guy made a mistake by not insuring himself when he had a chance. He knows that now - or at least he will very soon when he starts getting the bills. Multiply this story by a few thousand times every day throughout the U.S. and you start to see the magnitude of the problem. I don't have a good answer. I think an excellent start would be to do something about the trial lawyers whose frivolous lawsuits drive up the cost of health care for everyone. Beyond that, I don't know.

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