While in bed last night I was scrolling through twitter. Because I think problems of the world to be the last thing I should see before falling asleep. Gives me things to dream about.
One of the items in my feed was a link for this comic I used to do shows with in New York. We weren’t friends or anything. He probably wouldn’t even know my name. He was several rungs up the stand up ladder from me at the time. But I thought he was hilarious, and if we happened to be on a show together I would hang around and watch his set to try and figure out what he was doing right.
I clicked on the link, and it took me to a Go Fund Me page. Oh no, I thought to myself. If your name is attached to a Go Fund Me page, chances are you’ve been fucked.
Unfortunately, I was right. This comic was scheduled to have surgery for a brain tumor, and as luck would have it, his insurance ended a month ago. He was facing this procedure uninsured. Hence, Go Fund Me.
I started doing math in my head. I don’t know if brain surgery is more expensive than the surgery I had a couple of years ago, but that was $52,000. Because I had insurance, I paid a deductible of $6,000. And by “paid” I mean I send Emory a check for $25 each month, and will do so for time eternal. Not a bad deal considering the surgery saved my life.
I was lucky. I had insurance. I had it through the health exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act. I remember being annoyed as I signed up for it. The insurance through my old teaching job had just ended, and I was back to doing it all myself. I debated on whether or not to go a few months without it, but I knew it was the law, and I didn’t want to pay the fine at the end of the year. If I hadn’t made that decision, six months later I would have been ruined.
My good fortune hasn’t stopped there. Because of the Affordable Care Act, because I got sick in 2017 and not 2007, I cannot be denied coverage because of my pre-existing condition. Or have a lifetime cap placed on my care. This is crucial because that $52,000 dollars for surgery was just the start of it. Two years of chemotherapy has cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is not to mention the five PET scans, the three MRIS, the three CTs. Each one of those is five to ten thousand a pop. I haven’t seen the statement yet, but I think it’s safe to assume these ten minute zaps in the radiation machine aren’t exactly cheap.
These good fortunes didn’t fall from the sky. They were the results of public policy. Of laws that were debated on, written, voted through. They are the results of law suits and Supreme Court rulings. Barrels of newspaper ink have been spilled covering the details of the law. They have been the focus of lobbyists and think tanks and elections commercials. They have also survived a complete and total siege by one of our two major political parties. If it wasn’t for the ‘F You’ vote of John McCain they would all be gone.
I understand that health care is an incredibly difficult issue. I understand that it’s a scary. This is not deciding on whether or not to extend Daylight Savings Time. This is doctors and hospitals and insurance and sickness and death. But it’s an issue we have to grapple with. What do we owe each other? As a group of people who share this land and this country. What do we owe to the people we live our lives around. I know that well meaning people will say that we owe each other nothing, that we all make choices and those choices have consequences. But no one chooses to get sick. No one socks a way a million dollars on the off chance they might get cancer.
This comic with the Go Fund Me page has contributed to society. Think about all the bars and comedy clubs his work has helped sustain. All the restaurants and dinners and babysitters his art helped pay for. He’s been on television too, so think about how the advertisers and the networks have profited off of his ability to make people laugh. And because he had a month without insurance, now he has to crowd source his brain surgery.
How is anyone ok with that?
Health Care is going to be a major issue in the 2020 election. Trump is a joke and has zero answer. His party will say leave it to the free market, but the free market depends on choice. When the doctor told me I had a tumor busting the wall of my colon and that I needed to have emergency surgery, I didn’t tell him I needed to take some time to shop around. I was too busy screaming in pain. Can you imagine Whole Foods selling us apples that way? Having us hooked up to IV drips, pumping us full of morphine, telling us that we needed to buy these Galas or we might die. Of course I would buy the Galas then and there! I wouldn’t pull out my phone to see if Publix had a cheaper option. And all humans are consumers of medical products because we are all human. Eventually everyone needs it. We can opt out of having a cell phone or a computer or cable TV. I can move to the city and not have a car. I can choose Target over Walmart, I can choose Chips A Hoy over Oreos but I cannot choose to opt out of the medical industry. And if you are reading this thinking, “Yes I can!” to that I say bullshit. When the chips are down you’re going to take the medical care and you are lying if you say anything else
Because this might be a political problem, but it’s a moral question. People should not have to turn to crowd sourcing because cell in their brain decided to mutate. Or because they have been struck by rare diseases. Or because their baby was born prematurely and needs to spend time in intensive care. Families shouldn’t go broke because their kid was born with cystic fibrosis or a heart disease.
I know that is not an easy question. Moral ones never are. I just know we need to stop forcing people to crowd sourcing fucking brain surgeries. And I would say charging companies like Amazon more than 0 in taxes is a good place to start.