Healthcare Insurance: Thanks for the Memories

A funny thing happened on the way to healthcare reform.


  • My father went to the dentist, possibly for the first time in his life, in his early forties. Daddy couldn’t afford to have the badly needed work done, so he opted to have all his teeth pulled and got a set of false ones. Problem solved. For us kids, there was a university’s school of dentistry where the students practiced by filling our cavities. Other than that, the remedy for pain from a cavity was a cotton ball soaked in oil of cloves.


  • The only time I ever went to a doctor’s office as a kid, was when my parents took me to one of my father’s uncles for shots required to attend elementary school. He provided his services for free as a family member. Other than that, never. We couldn’t afford to go to doctors. We just got sick and, luckily, we got better.


  • As a young military air traffic controller I was officially given annual physical examinations by the base flight surgeon. Top notch. Unofficially, if you had a hangover, you could go to one of the friendly medics, usually another late teen or early 20s airman like you, and breathe pure oxygen from a tank. If you were really screwed up, you could get a vitamin B shot. Very, very unofficial.


  • The young military dentists (the young and very young run the military) found and filled several cavities. One told me that I would probably lose a lot of my teeth by the time I was thirty, because the gaps left where a couple had been pulled would cause the surrounding teeth to lean over. I believed him, but wasn’t worried. When you’re eighteen years old, being thirty seems very far away and when you’re in the service, you think maybe never.


  • I went to college and on to graduate school after getting out of the service. During this period I had a serious illness and resisted going to the hospital until my fever was well over one hundred degrees. I nearly died, but recovered. The health insurance provided to my wife, who worked at a bank, covered the expenses. I don’t know what would have happened otherwise.


  • After graduating I worked for a company with great health benefits, but of course, I stayed well for this period in my life. Then I moved to another state and was without healthcare insurance for a while. When you’re still young you do crazy things like that. I had a friend who had coverage but opted for the low cost plan and I remember him saying, “I’m young. I don’t need much.” Then he got a bad disease, which he survived, but he had to pay huge sums out of his own pocket and probably the pockets of his parents. After that his premiums were really high because of his pre-existing condition.


  • I founded a small business and decided to provide healthcare insurance to my employees. When you’re a small business you pay more for healthcare insurance for your employees than large corporations do. It was a really big deal for most of my employees, but one of them who received some sort of government assistance declined because she qualified for free healthcare for herself and her family, along with subsidized housing, etc.


  • After I sold the business and retired at a relatively young age, and my wife did the same, we had to get an individual policy for ourselves and two kids. It was very expensive. Worst of all, we could have been kicked off of it because when you’re on an individual policy you don’t have the protection of being on a group policy. My wife decided to return to work, in large part to get us on a group policy. Our monthly healthcare insurance costs, meaning the part we pay, actually dropped by 95%.


Okay, here’s the funny thing. After going down memory lane and seeing how healthcare has affected my life and decisions, you would think that I would have some ideas about what sort of healthcare reform would be best. The truth is, I’m still not sure – I’m torn. I don’t trust the government having too much power, but still… Is anybody else confused?



7 responses to “Healthcare Insurance: Thanks for the Memories

  1. I love your post! I’m confused by it all too. When I was between jobs last year (for 3 months), I declined COBRA, because we needed every penny of our savings to cover monthly living expenses. Granted, a medical emergency would have sunken us, but we were willing to take that chance since my husband and I are still young.

    It saddens me that paying for the treatment of illness is more worrisome than the illness itself.

    Medical pricing is so over-inflated, medical education is over-inflated, malpractice lawsuits & payouts are over-inflated. Medicine has become so overgrown that they had to pass the buck off to someone – the consumer.

    The optimist in me says the industry needs to stop being so greedy and refocus on what they’re supposed to be doing – caring for their fellow human beings. How we can get there is anyone’s guess.

  2. I have had great health benefits my entire life, thanks to my parents and my employers. So many people have been without health insurance either a large part of their lives or all of their lives. I find it reprehensible that we have allowed 50MM peole to go without insurance, many of them innocent children who are truly victims of their circumstances. It is time we stop playing world police and nation building and start taking care of our own. The leading cause of bankruptcy is due to health related causes. I’m not sure what the best system is either, but I do believe in Universal Health Care and am happy to pay extra taxes in order to provide it. I just want it to be managed efficiently and effectively, and this is where I am confused.

  3. Enjoyed your 5AM Thinking article on health care experiences. I do believe you should have added the final bullet that at age 65 you enrolled in Medicare, added Supplemental, and the uncertainties of your health care were gone.

    I am a big supporter for requiring and providing Universal Health Care for all Americans.

  4. I have no clue so I am no help here:), but I really enjoyed reading this post! I am a diabetic so health care is super important to me. As far as where it should go I have no idea. I enjoyed reading about your early years and your dad’s. The dentist and doctor though! Thanks

  5. This is classic Gordon… thoughtful, interesting and on the mark.

  6. I agree with Brad, you’re 5 am thinking is classic Gordon…thoughtful, interesting, and on the mark. Are we really cut from the same cloth? I’m none of those things:)

  7. I agree that Health Insurance is a mess. But an easy fix would be to have the gvmt. purchase commercial health insurance for those who can’t afford it at a fraction of the cost that congress is talking about and leave the rest of us alone. Forget about a universal system. Look at the mess they have made out of all the things they have gotten into. Every one of their programs is bankrupt and has cost 1000% more than first estimated.

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