My first husband was 32 when he was diagnosed with cancer. Eighteen months later, he took his last breath. As sad as that is, it could have been worse. At the time, he worked for Packard Electric and was a GM employee. Thankfully, it was the old GM with great health benefits.
Looking back, I marvel that, although he didn’t survive, my family did. During his illness, the pharmaceutical bill was enormous. Each prescription only cost us $3. Even after his death, the bills kept coming. When the dust cleared from the insurance payments, there was little for me to pay. I was able to pick up and go on unencumbered by a mountain of medical debt.
Dick Williams of The Associated Collectors of Mississippi estimates that about 65 percent of debt placed with collection agencies in this state is the result of a medical issue. These are not deadbeats. These are folks with limited health coverage faced with a health crisis.
After I remarried, I lost that wonderful GM health plan. As self-employed people, my husband and I have struggled many years to find good coverage for ourselves and to provide coverage for our employees. Small business owners know how difficult it is to compete for employees when you can’t offer decent health coverage. We recognize that many small businesses are stifled before they even begin because would-be entrepreneurs can’t afford to take the risk on an idea without the safety net of quality health insurance.
Ultimately, the health care issue is an economic issue. Yes, uninsured people can go to the emergency room and get stabilizing care to allow them to limp through another day. The care is limited, and the hospital is left holding the bill. The costs get passed on to those of us with good coverage, and everybody loses, but for me, it goes beyond economics. It’s personal.
The Governor is a lifelong bureaucrat. He has been the beneficiary of generous health insurance courtesy of Mississippi taxpayers. It’s no wonder he is so unsympathetic. With his rigid mindset, he just doesn’t get that Mississippi’s economy is hampered by our lack of health coverage. With little personal experience, he can’t understand why this is such a big deal to families.
So we sit at an impasse. On one side is the possibility of decent coverage for individuals, relief for small businesses, a reduction in debt problems, and a boon for health care facilities caring for Mississippi citizens. On the other side is the Governor.
Personally, I’m offended.
Nancy Lottridge Anderson, Ph.D., CFA, is president of New Perspectives Inc. in Ridgeland — (601) 991-3158. She is also an assistant professor of finance at Mississippi College. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and her website is www.newper.com.