I saw a rather disturbing movie this past week. From the library I checked out Michael Moore’s “Sicko.” Now anyone who knows me would ask, “Why would you watch that liberal garbage?” Jokingly I’ll tell you that I like to read my Bible and get my media from liberal sources so I know what both sides (good and evil) are up to. But between you and I, I’ll admit that I actually enjoy hearing points of view that go directly against my personal beliefs and outlooks. Not that I’m looking for a fight or a reason to get mad at “the other side,” but because the opposite view points stretch and grow me as a person. The information I seek out either reinforces my existing point of view or it shifts me to take a more balanced approach when looking at the world.
Moore’s Sicko definitely challenged me. In its essence Moore suggests that because of the human inevitable need for healthcare, that the for-profit aspect of the healthcare industry should be stripped away so that all people have equal access to healthcare services. Moore looked at two examples in the film for socialized healthcare: the UK and France. Compared directly to my life, if my wife and I earned the same US equivalent income in France, our federal income tax rate would go from 25% in the US to 41% in France and 40% in the UK. In exchange for the increase in federal taxes, just about all major medical costs (as Moore conveys) are paid for by the state. No deductibles and no co-payments.
Seeing between the lines though I argue that your deductible, co-payments and medical costs are all being pre-paid to the state in the form of taxes. In our household, to live and work in France or the UK would cost us roughly $14,550 more in annual taxes for the privilege of living in a system that has universal healthcare. Of course you know I’ll run the numbers. $14,550 invested annually at 12% over 20 years generates $1.2 million dollars that can be earmarked specifically for medical costs.
But Moore raises a point that hit me right between the eyes: In the event of a (financially) major medical disaster that was unavoidable, should I have to make the choice between becoming grossly indebted to a medical institution for a chance to live or die at home without medical care. Yes I believe that if services are provided that I should have to pay for them. But Moore painted some pretty convincing “what if” scenarios. What if I am diagnosed with a disease that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to treat, my insurance denies coverage and I have not had 20 years time to accumulate $1.2 million dollars?
In my dream world those that have had a total money makeover build wealth at unprecedented levels and give, serve and help those in need at such a level that we put the government out of business. People, not the government, should help people. But we don’t live in that world (yet). We live in a world where, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, 70% of working Americans live paycheck to paycheck, insurance companies scan through documentation of paying clients in efforts to deny coverage and the most destitute among us look to an inept government for their well being. Something has to change. We the people need to get on a budget, destroy our personal debt and live below our means. As a nationwide movement this would give us the financial muscle to be in a position to help others.
Obviously I do not have, nor would I contend to have the answers to solve our national health care dilemma. If I were to get smacked with a multi-million dollar medical bill without insurance coverage I would be sunk and either forced to choose between receiving medical care along with filing bankruptcy or going without medical care. The best advice I can give you is this: Make the best choices you can with the options we have available. I carry a 30 year term life insurance policy that is 10 times my income so that in the event of my death my wife can pay for funeral expenses and invest the remaining funds to replace my income. I do my best to stay healthy through my lifestyle choices and go once a year to a general practitioner for a routine medical checkup. As I do not have chronic illnesses, I carry a High Deductible PPO health care option to keep premiums low and carry an emergency fund of 6 months worth of expenses in the event of emergencies. I have short and long term disability insurance provided to me through my employer. This is my financial plan of attack against any medical disasters.
But yes, Michael Moore’s Sicko did its job. I am now looking over my shoulder, wondering if I have a major medical disaster, will my insurance provider comb through the details of my life and find a reason to deny me coverage? Moore’s right, maybe there is a better way…