I oscillate between hopeful and despondent.
Is it a bad sign that I feel health care reform is going to be the thing that reverses my family's fortunes? That this one thing will finally shifts the tides?
Two and a half years ago my wife was newly pregnant. Our fortunes seemed to be going okay. Not great. But okay. Our debt was pretty low. Our credit, great. We were making more than we made in 2006, by a little. In 2006 we made more than we made in 2005, by a little. We had one modest car. A modest house in a nice neighborhood. We were making payments on our student loans. We had reached the Median Household Income for the Muskegon area. Finally. We felt safe having another child.
Then my wife's employer got dropped from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan when my wife was 5 months pregnant. Why? Because the business would die just a few months later and simply couldn't make the payments to BCBS.
That's when we began a persistent, two year descent in our financial well being.
Mind you, we didn't have any sort of cushion. Our financial situation was never fat. Always lean. We had streamlined. Budgeted. Lived within our means. We had almost no credit card debt.
We opted to pay down student loans rather than buy a newer car, which we easily could have done.
So when our employer was dropped and we had to scramble to individually continue the policy, in short, taking a cut in work compensation, the payments for that came out of.....the only place we had left. Credit cards.
When faced with the option of having no insurance or accruing credit card debt to keep my pregnant wife and unborn child insured, I opted for the latter. Between the monthly costs and thousands in doctors bills that weren't covered by the weak insurance we had, we accrued over $9,000 in medical debt. And when we finally met our huge deductible, our insurance only covered a tiny fraction of the vaccinations and Well Baby visits necessary for an infant's first year of life.
And then my wife's job simply died after 121 years in business.
The $9000 in debt, which was previously a steel ball around our modest living, became the thing threatening our home, even our continued ability to pay for the health insurance itself.
It was one thing to lose the job.
It was quite another to lose our job, saddled with almost ten thousand dollars in medical debt: hospitals, doctors, ultrasound labs, gynecologists calling us about payments that we simply had no way to make.
Because we briefly felt safe and wanted to bring another little person into our family.
And we're some of the lucky ones.
Our story ins't one of tragedy and illness. We're all healthy for now **knock on wood**
Our story is a basic one of a lower middle class family working hard and having a child just as our job and insurance is pulled away from us in an economy with no hope of finding replacement employment.
Now we watch ourselves move backward day by day. We pray for our car to hold out, and hope that the leak in the roof is caused only by an ice dam. We hold off on seeing our doctor because we already owe him thousands of dollars. Meanwhile our crappy private policy at Blue Cross Blue Shield is about to see a 44% rate increase because Blue Cross apparently can't make it on what it's getting...
well...neither can we.
Our health care system is breaking our backs. Our health care system may cost us our home.