Wednesday, March 22, 2017

I worry about my friends, Bob

And I owe it all to Hanz and Franz

Health-wise I've always been pretty lucky.  I've been told I come from a pretty healthy gene pool as very little has ever gone wrong with me....until recently.  I don't smoke, drink only occasionally and in moderation, no drugs, and I was always in pretty good physical shape, even though I never crossed paths with Ah-nold at any gym.  (I did wander into a gym once by mistake, though.)  

I did, however, have several back-to-back detached retinas a dozen years ago, and I came semi-unglued at age 64 when they discovered I had an immune system condition as well as heart arrhythmia (my heart was beating too slowly), necessitating a pacemaker.  Fortunately, thanks to my wonderful wife K, who had a corporate job with insurance (with me added as a dependent), those pesky little boo-boo's cost me surprisingly little out of pocket.  Not everyone is as lucky as me, though.  Here are a few examples of people I know personally who are in truly bad shape, both physically and financially:

My masonry contractor, let's call him Bob, has suffered mightily from kidney stones for many years now.  He's had all the tests, tried multiple doctors....everything....but they haven't yet been able to fix him.  They've given him pain meds and just told him to suck it up.  As his private health insurance carrier eventually jacked his rate up to $1,600 per month he had to let it go.  It was either food for his family or insurance.  

Bob is an American of Mexican heritage and still has relatives back in the old country.  Out of desperation Bob recently became a "medical tourist" (people who travel to another country to have needed surgery because it is so much less expensive than in the US).  He said the doctors and his hospital in Monterrey, Mexico were surprisingly good, but still, his surgery was only partially successful.  He's still hurting and still has no insurance.  I worry about my friend Bob.


I once had a window washer, let's call him Bob, who came to my house regularly to make sure I could see out.  I didn't mind washing my own windows, but all I ended up doing was rearranging the dirt.  Anyway, Bob was in his early 20's at the time, and in conversation told me he worked 20 hours a week at Kroger's (grocery store) in order to have insurance, and then spent the rest of his time washing windows.

A few years later I visited with him again and he said he had to quit his Kroger job as his window washing job became a 40+ hour a week career he couldn't pass up.  I asked what he did for insurance and he said he was without.  He said if he got sick he was just going to go to the emergency room and hope for the best.  At his age I could tell "getting sick" was the last thing on his mind.  I heard some time later that he was involved in an accident (I believe there was a motorcycle involved) and could no longer work.  I don't know where he is today, but I still think about Bob.


The foreman at the custom cabinet shop we used, let's call him Bob, was in his 50's when he had a stroke.  Like many small businesses, Bob's boss couldn't afford insurance for his employees.  Bob was airlifted to a hospital in Plano, Tx where they stabilized him, but he was left semi-paralyzed.  After several weeks there (and knowing Bob was going to be a charity write-off) the hospital finally worked with Medicaid to find a rehab facility that would take him.  The last I heard Bob was little improved.  I worry about my friend Bob.


There are lots of "Bob's" in this country who are hurting and have no insurance.  Sometimes they have no insurance because they couldn't afford it, sometimes because they were foolish.  Notice I said all these people were working.  They weren't lazy bums who were looking for a handout, as many imagine uninsured people to be.  They just didn't have the good fortune of having a smart, hard working wife employed by a large, deep-pocketed corporation to carry them on their health insurance like I did.  Fate is too often fickle like that.

We have a lot of sick people here who compassionate Americans IMO shouldn't turn their backs on.  We're better than that.  But what to do?  I don't know the answer, but I'm confident that the Republican's Ryan/TrumpCare bill now making its way through Congress isn't it, nor is ObamaCare, which they say is now itself on life support.  To those who would rather have the Almighty Tax Cut a slimmed down healthcare bill promises so they can buy another shiny new gadget, I hope they'll think about my friends Bob when they're out toy shopping.


NOTE:  These are all absolutely real people I know.  If any of you reading this are actually named Bob, I suggest you stay inside today.  ;)


  1. Accurate representation. I also know a number of Bob's. What the Bob's of this country need is single payer. It really chaps me that those a**holes in Congress are well taken care of, but leave the rest of us "Bob's" to the mercy (or should I say the clutches?) of Big Insurance, Mega Pharma and Corporate Health Care. A**holes.

  2. Some day America might come to its senses and opt for a single-pay system like other countries. It's cheaper and provides better care. Here we pay the most and yet we're no way near the top when it comes to quality healthcare.

  3. Republicans profess to be the "Christian" party and all about "family values" and yet the only family they seem to care about are the 1%.

    You never know when you're going to get sick. My sister was only 36 when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Without Medicaid the bill for the chemo and radiation would have been more than $50,000. Hell, I was only 25 when I got a gall stone and had to have my gall bladder out. If I hadn't had insurance that would have been $9000. Forcing poor people to play Russian roulette with their lives shouldn't be an American value.

  4. I also have a friend, Bob, whose husband has a great job (cameraman for the NFL), but who went without health insurance until the ACA came along because her two breast cancer diagnoses "used up" all of her insurance - she hit the lifetime max. Now she's recovering from colon cancer - saved because of the ACA - but is pessimistic about her chances if she loses her coverage.

  5. I had a co-worker named Bob, too, back in South Carolina, before ACA. The mid-size company where I worked offered insurance, but 20-year old Bob turned it down. It would have been $90 per week, and - dammit - he had motorcycle payments. Plus Bob was very healthy and young. I don't know what happened to him, but young people in South Carolina ride their motorcycles without helmets because - dammit - the government can't tell them what to do.