The Human Cost of Being Uninsured

The Human Cost of Being Uninsured

A health care crisis hit my family three weeks ago.  It wasn’t my 80-year-old father or 77-year-old mother.  My 49-year-old kid brother had a stroke.

Jon has had a tough time in recent years.  He was let go from a job in his journalism field after 18 years.  He started working as a cook in a restaurant, a job he loved despite the long days, hard work, and low pay.

A thoughtful, compassionate man, Jon rarely talked about his financial struggles.  Always frugal, he somehow kept current on his mortgage payments and other bills even when the restaurant closed for several months every winter.

A few years ago, the restaurant stopped offering health insurance to their employees.  Instead, they gave Jon $100 per month towards his premium.  But, as you well know, health insurance costs many times that.  So my brother became one of the 45.7 million Americans without health insurance.  And eventually the restaurant stopped being able to afford even the $100 per month. 

Completely strapped, my brother cut back further.  One of the cost-saving measures he chose was to stop taking his blood pressure medicine.  And then, a month ago, the restaurant closed. 

After driving back late one night from helping our mother in Delaware, Jon woke up feeling very dizzy, light-headed and unsteady on his feet.  He had no money to see a doctor, so he tried to go back to sleep.  As his condition got worse and worse, he finally drove himself 18 miles to the hospital late that night. 

Due to the lack of money for inexpensive blood pressure medicine, my loving, funny, caring brother has spent the last three weeks lying in a hospital bed.  His whole right side is numb, his speech is slurred, he can’t write, and he can’t walk.  My heart is breaking. 

There are no villains in this story.  The Easton Memorial Hospital has taken excellent care of my brother and he’s getting steadily better every day.  But Jon’s experience shows the incredibly-high human cost of a health care system that excludes 17% of all non-elderly Americans from access to affordable health care.  Godspeed to President Obama to fix it.

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