The last several months have brought about a lot of harsh and bitterly opposed viewpoints on health care. There seem to be no end to the claims on both sides of the argument that their side is the better way to go, the better way “for the people” of the U.S. Unfortunately, I believe all this has led to a shutdown of reasonable discourse on the subject, resulting in an abstraction of the real problems and the inference of band-aid solutions (with apologies to the Band-Aid brand).

So what is the reasonable course? Is the system broken? Is it hard to get health care? Is there no access to health care? What happens if I need health care? I may not have all the answers, but my family has been using health care for some time.

Most recently, as evidenced by my last post, my family had to avail itself of the health care system in a major way. Sam spent nearly two weeks in the hospital and came home with a life changing operation. There is nothing like a direct experience to help a person understand what is at stake in the health care debate. This is my point of view, a first person perspective mingled with cautious thought. Personally, I don’t think our system is -that- broken.

I’ve always maintained a view that I’m okay paying for services that I know I’m paying for. You want to pick up my trash, okay, I’ll buy into that, just send me a bill every month that is commensurate with my level of garbage production. Same with electricity, water, sewage, etc. But you want to charge me a percentage of my homes estimated value to fund schools, snow plowing and other services without giving an accounting of where the money is going? I don’t think so. Or at least I can say I’m not comfortable with that; I would rather know what I’m paying for. With health care, there is a little bit of a difference in that a person can pay into an insurance program.

I have insurance on my house. I have insurance on my cars. I have insurance on my life and that of my family. I also have Health Insurance. Although some people might think of insurance as just another scam to get money from you that you’ll never get back, if you’ve ever had to use it, you’d probably think a little differently. Consider your car insurance for a moment.

The general bet is that you should never need your insurance; that you’ll never get into an accident, after all you’re a good driver. The premiums you pay could be enough to save up for a brand new car if you ended up paying them long enough without a need to file a claim. True enough, but what happens when somebody hits you? Sure, you can hope -they- have insurance and will pay out but what if they don’t? Yes, I’ve paid way more into auto insurance than I’ve ever had to pull out in the form of claims, but it’s nice to know it’s there if I need it. The same goes with homeowners insurance, it’s nice to know I have coverage, even if I may never need it. So I tend to look at health insurance in the same light.

I’m a lucky person. I have access to a good health care plan through my employer. Not everybody does. I remember being unemployed once and taking out individual health care, not cheap, but it was available to me. So I pay in on a regular basis to this insurance program. Like my car insurance, there are deductibles, levels of coverage and other terms. But it’s insurance, I hope I never need it but I’m sure glad it’s there in case I dot. In my case, I was also able to purchase coverage for my family. Yes, the rates go up, but there is a peace of mind my loved ones will have something if they need it.

And we recently needed it. The lengthy stay Sam had in the hospital added up to many thousands of dollars. If I didn’t have insurance, I’d be selling my home right now. As it is, there have been thoughts of selling other assets. Why? Because even though I have insurance coverage, there are deductibles and limits. Again, it’s a bit of a gamble, how much to pay up front or on the tail end. In this case, after coverage from insurance, we still owe a lot of money. And this is where both sides of the health care argument “engage.”

One side says if I had “better” health care I wouldn’t have to pay for any of it. The other side says if it was all paid for, it would be costing me more money in taxes, especially since I would be paying for -others- to be covered in addition to myself. Which side is right? Well, the way I see it, the first side has it all wrong, they are focusing on trying to make health care free to everyone, but at what cost, “to everyone?” In contrast to what I’ve paid into auto insurance versus what I have received, in the case of our health insurance we have paid so much less into it than what we have recently needed. Does that mean health care is overpriced? I have to ask myself if it’s really too expensive and my answer is maybe not.

In Sam’s case, we had access to brilliant surgeons, doctors and hospital staff. There was a nurse available to him 24 hours a day. The surgeon checked up on him once a day. The hospital doctor checked in once a day. The staff was always friendly, always answered our questions and in the end, they performed life saving procedures on my son. Some would ask what price you can put on a life, and I have no answer for that. I know that hospital and surgical care costs money. There are educations, experience, facilities, medication and a plethora of other things I probably don’t know about, in play here. Who am I to say it’s not worth the price of admission?

So I have insurance, it helps with the lion’s share of the costs, but I still have costs. Am I bitter? Not a chance, I simply feel lucky not to lose my house even though if it came to that, my son’s or my wife’s life are worth more than this house. We end up with a burden of cost and yes, it sometimes appears difficult to pay, not because we don’t want to, but because we have other things like food, utilities and a house payment to make.

I put a donate button on this site soon after Sam’s surgery. Our costs are only just beginning in this instance. Even though insurance covers a portion, there will be a lot more to pay in the coming year. Not only is there a constant stream of medical supplies now, but we’d like to see if we can get Sam through therapies that might lead to reversing the Iliostomy. If we can do that, it will be cheaper on him (and us) in the long run.

Even though we give to our local church, and provide goods and services to others, many times for free, there is still a part of me that hates to take charity. But in this case, my wife speaks better sense. There is a lot we do for others, in many cases asking for nothing in return. Unfortunately at some point that attitude will make me go broke. So it’s with a bit of trepidation that I’ve offered the opportunity to donate something for Sam; to help pay his medical bills. His life has really changed.

Before the surgery he would get bloated on a regular basis. Sam’s attitude was always difficult to figure out. He oftentimes would be distant and abusive to himself and others. Since the surgery he is a changed little boy. He always has a flat stomach; his attitude is more good than bad. During our last parent/teacher conference we were told there was a definite observable difference in Sam; he was now being a much better student…. even through all the Autism.

Sure, Sam will have Autism all his life, unless some miracle happens along the way. But now without the problem he’s had with his colon, he’s getting on with life. … And Mom and Dad are now dealing with a pretty normal (except for the Autism) six year old boy, so prayers would be helpful here too.

Health care for us is pretty much working the way it should, the way it was designed. I don’t see much broken in the system or the process. It’s accessible to us, we pay into insurance making it more affordable, we get great care when we need it. But mine is only one point of view. I’d like to think of myself as pretty open to discussing the pros and cons of our health care system. I’m not interested in arguing, that’s what’s going on now and getting us nowhere. I’m interested in talking things through and discovering the good and bad and how we might make it better.

I would simply encourage you to do the same.

Asa Jay

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Copyright 2014, Asa Jay Laughton