Being a parent shouldn’t be reserved for the rich.
There are few things scarier in the United States at the moment than the state of our nation’s health care system.
I’m saying this as a middle-class white man who has had the benefit of employer-provided health care — well, provided if I contribute a nice chunk from my paycheck every two weeks — for most of my adult life.
The rising costs of health care in the U.S. have been a major concern for working Americans for a long time, but that anxiety has begun to reach a fever pitch due to recent front-page political drama surrounding health insurance.
As we prepare for the presidency of Donald Trump, it seems clear that the GOP-controlled legislature is set on repealing the Affordable Care Act. (Whether they have a replacement in mind is unclear at the moment.) Early in the morning on January 12, the Senate Republicans voted to, essentially, defund the ACA.
Initial reports that the pre-existing condition and coverage of children provisions were repealed turned out to be premature — the January 12th vote was only about budget issues — though the defunding certainly sets up everything the GOP needs to repeal (or, at the very least, drastically rewrite) the ACA.
Regardless of how you feel about Democratic or Republican policy, it would be hard to argue that the cost of health care is out of control.
It’s oppressive and terrifying. If you spend a few minutes on social media, reading stories of people who simply can’t afford the treatments they need to live, it’s heartbreaking.
It wasn’t always like this, was it?
I don’t recall hearing my grandfather tell stories about having to sell the family farm to pay for cancer treatments or being turned away from an emergency room because he didn’t have health insurance.
But the exponentially rising costs of health care and the massive debt it can inspire… I think it’s going to start changing American society in some very unsettling ways.
Case in point, if I didn’t have health insurance, I never, EVER would have had children.
And, if I had a family member who wanted to have kids, but didn’t have health coverage, I would advise them against it.
I’m not proud of having those opinions, but I stand by them. I think they make total sense.
It just seems unwise to me.
We live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world and yet, if I didn’t have health coverage from an employer, I would’ve talked myself out of having a kid.
I have a kid. She’s a ten-year-old girl. She’s the best. She’s the most important thing in the world to me. But I can’t imagine how I could’ve afforded her birth without solid health insurance.
I understand that, before you have a child, you need to sit down, work out a budget, and figure out if you can afford one. I get that. You need to pay for food, clothes. That’s normal.
However, there are millions of Americans who could definitely afford to raise a child, but not if they started their lives together with a $50,000 hospital bill for their delivery.
That’s a conservative estimate too. My daughter’s birth — an unexpected C-section due to complications — cost about $32,000 (and that was ten years ago). If you added together all of the doctor’s visits and screenings we did, the bill would’ve definitely eclipsed $50,000.
For all that, out of pocket, I had to pay around $2,000, plus office co-pays. (Well, that and the almost $200 a paycheck I paid for family-coverage health insurance.)
I can’t imagine, if I hadn’t had that insurance, how we could’ve survived with that giant $50,000 ball of debt on our shoulders. We would’ve worried about it every day, our anxiety would’ve gone off the charts. It would’ve affected our credit rating. We wouldn’t have been able to buy our house or our car. It would have irrevocably changed our life for the worse.
THAT is the choice that is facing so many Americans today who don’t have access to affordable health insurance — do I assume massive amounts of debt to be able to bring my child into the world OR do I choose to not have children?
This is not a choice our parents had to make. This is not a choice our grandparents had to make.
But today, in America, thanks to the spiraling, seemingly unregulated cost of health care, the act of reproduction has become a financial decision.
Not in a “Can I afford to send my kid to Harvard?” way.
But in an “Am I too poor to keep my child alive?” way.
Even if you're working. Even if you have a good job.
Because even if you have a home birth and forego some of the exorbitant hospital costs, you are still rolling the dice with the future health of your child. What if they break a leg? Or need breathing treatments? Or have cancer?
In those cases, any sane parent will do whatever they need to get their child medical care, but that might just mean going hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt.
So what are the choices for the uninsured?
Go into huge debt.
Deny their child medical care due to cost concerns.
Or… decide to NOT have children.
How many other potentially great parents out there have to make the same decision?
It breaks my heart to think that we live in a country where reproduction has become a privilege.
If you’re rich enough, you get to have kids.
But, if you’re poor, you technically CAN have children, but only if you bury yourself in debt and essentially make yourself an indentured servant to your creditors.
How is that America? How is that the future? This is 2017. I thought we had a few years until the truly dystopian stuff kicked in, but I guess I was wrong.
I don’t know what’s going to happen with the Affordable Care Act. Personally, I think it’s insane to repeal it without having a replacement in place and I hope that the GOP legislature agrees with me. If they can come up with something better than the ACA, more power to them. But a flawed plan seems inherently better than no plan, doesn’t it?
Regardless of their decision, I’m still worried about the state of health care in our country. I have no expectations that the costs will go down or that lawmakers will suddenly stop accepting money from insurance or pharmaceutical companies and start putting the quality of life of their constituents before the funding of their re-election campaigns.
More than anything, I can’t believe that we live in an America where people have to make these decisions.
I am so, SO grateful that I was able to afford to bring my daughter into the world. I was lucky. Very lucky.
But millions of Americans don’t have access to the health insurance that I did.
I want to live in an America where people don’t have to have to mortgage their futures to Chase, Wells Fargo, or Citibank just to have a child.
It feels wrong. It IS wrong. And, unless we figure out a way to provide affordable insurance coverage to Americans — every American — it is, unfortunately, where our country is headed.