When insurance runs out on us


To the editor:

(re: “No one better steal my health insurance,” Oct. 31)

Mr. Sweeney, you’re right: “Whoever pays the piper calls the tune.” Today, for-profit health insurance “calls the tune,” dictating to doctors, undermining American health care.

Recently, Medical Economics described physicians “in a tug-of-war between what is right for their patients” and corporate-run insurance: “I or my staff members spend the majority of our weeks on the phone and doing paperwork (often denied, and re-sent, having to do again) on our patients’ behalf.”

It’s not “baloney.”

For-profit insurance devours half the doctor’s week. The advocates you decry want our medical practitioners — internists, dentists, ENTs, therapists, etc. — to give (and get) evidence-based health care without interfering middlemen stealing time, increasing costs, and harming our health.

Someday, you’ll be eligible for Medicare. Will you refuse it because it socializes risk of medical catastrophe? Will you refuse firefighters — socialized risk of our home burning? Do you refuse police assistance — socialized risk against crime?

You may love your corporate-run health insurance. It doesn’t love you. (Hint: Corporations love only shareholders.)

I speak from experience, as do many advocates for single-payer financing. Being smug about for-profit insurance is foolhardy.

I was a respected executive, profiled on The Wall Street Journal’s front page, until I was victimized by an out-of-control vehicle. St. Vincent trauma doctors saved my life with a dozen surgeries and a year of hospitalizations. Needless to say, I couldn’t work.

My Cadillac insurance ran out. Then my savings.

Fighting it every step of the way, embarrassed and shamed, I went bankrupt. I’m now disabled and on Medicaid. What did I do wrong? I crossed a quiet New York City street on a Sunday morning.

Tragically, I’m not alone. Medical bills cause two-thirds of American bankruptcies. Words cannot express how terrifying and humiliating and painful bankruptcy is.

After a very long decade, I finally appreciate how “private” insurance endangers Americans. We get worse health outcomes, despite spending twice as much as peer countries. They all prevent medical bankruptcy with universal health care, achieving healthier citizens.

If anyone’s stealing, it’s corporate insurance. Single-payer’s not “pottage.”

Countries with great health care have healthy citizens. But we don’t. But we could — with the New York Health Act.

Farris Thomas Jr.

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Farris Thomas Jr.,