Just about ten years ago, in spring 2001, a friend of mine fell and broke her wrist. It wasn't an especially bad break; a relatively simple fracture, trip to the ER, x-ray, cast, appointment in a week and another in six weeks, cast off, done 'n' done. Except it wasn't quite that simple.
Denise was in her mid-forties and had been divorced for a couple years. She had no children. In the divorce she lost her medical insurance, and since she had no dependents was not entitled to any kind of 'maintenance support' or alimony. Her job - which paid far less income than the ex-husband's - had few benefits. She had tried to find a better job with a package that included medical coverage, but without success.
So now she found herself unable to work (her job was doing data entry for a bank and she couldn't type while the cast was on) and with a hefty new bill to pay: she was responsible for the entire cost of her broken wrist.
She had some income from the state's workmen's comp or disability or something. (I've been away from this for too long to remember exactly which disbursement she was entitled to.) It wasn't as much as her pittance of a salary - which in turn was nowhere near what her six-figure-per-year ex was earning - and the payments would just barely tide her over until she could go back to work and start earning her regular salary.
She tried to talk to the billing department at the hospital, to work out some kind of compromise on the bill. No dice. Finally she went in and met with someone in the 'delinquent accounts' office. They worked out a deal wherein Denise would pay $20 / month to work off the cost, with the first payment due after she was back at her job and had received her first full pay.
Now, that's not unreasonable, in one sense. She wasn't looking for a handout, and she was more than willing to pay her way. Denise was very conscientious and worked hard to clear up her debts. She was good at budgeting and watching her personal accounts, and living within her means.
The problem was the total cost of $2500.
Denise was lucky in some ways. The hospital agreed to suspend finance charges, so there was no interest or other fees accruing on the original bill - her $20 / month would be applied directly to the principal and in a little over ten years (this year, in fact) it would be paid off.
Ten years for a broken arm. She was also lucky it wasn't a complicated break and she didn't need surgery...
As it turned out Denise was able to pay it off a little earlier than that. She found a better-paying job and could pay more than the agreed $20, so she was able to chip away at it a little faster. But it still took a couple years, and it kept her from getting ahead or being able to put money into any kind of savings, as any 'spare' income went to the hospital bill.
I've long since lost touch with Denise, but her story stayed with me, because I had been in that exact same situation myself. Oh, I didn't have a broken arm, but I had no medical insurance, no coverage, and not a hope in Hades of being able to afford COBRA or any private insurance, even a very minimal, basic policy. And my income at the time was barely sufficient to keep a roof over my head and the car running - I certainly didn't have any extra to build up a 'rainy day fund' against possible future medical bills.
The reason all that came to mind today is because I had an appointment with an NHS clinician to talk to me about signing up for the Reach-for-Life program, which designs a fitness plan for people with conditions such as diabetes. As it happened, this clinician - Lorraine - was one of the moderators of the Healthy Lifestyle* course I took in late 2009 - the one that prompted me to come back to SparkPeople and get serious about becoming more healthy.
*I had referred to this class in the 'Year in the Life' blog; those of you who have been reading my recent posts know I'm just about to finish up the NHS's 'Advanced Course on Diabetes,' which I have found not very valuable. But to be fair, I believe not all classes and workshops are created equal... some presenters are more suited to teaching than others... and most of all, if there's anything positive to be found in such courses, then the time and effort is not totally wasted. Thinks me.
I perhaps have been unfair to the diabetes class I'm in and to its presenters - not that they need to know that, lol. While it's true enough that not all moderators are equal - we've all had teachers we liked and learned from better than others - I found out from Lorraine that this round is only the second time out this course has been offered in this format, and the presenters had to fill in at the last minute for someone else. I know I've said that most of the meetings seem to break up early, but now I'm wondering - is part of that due to the short notice they were given to take on the classes, and they have not had sufficient time to go through and organize them?
Be that as it may, the end result of all this is I had a moment of gratitude.
In my own divorce I ended up with the house, but it was mortgaged to the hilt. In a way, just owning it worked against me: I didn't qualify for a lot of the social services that I might have been able to collect if I hadn't 'owned property.' I used to live in fear that I would need an operation, or that I would break a bone. It was bad enough when it was time to get new glasses. And as for the dentist - for the first time in my life, I missed regular 'clean and checks,' because there was no way I could afford them.
I think I forgot to count my blessings. While I have contributed to the public coffers in the UK - I did work for several years, both at part-time and at full-time jobs - as retirees neither Himself nor I are paying taxes now. (We'd have to be pretty wealthy to be in that bracket post-retirement, lol!) These classes and meetings and exercise programs and so on are all provided through the NHS, at no additional cost to me or mine. If I had to pay for them, I would have to forego them, so I'm very fortunate to have them available. And if I needed surgery, or if I broke a bone, I'd have access to the services I'd need, without having to sacrifice everything.
That's why I thought about Denise today, and realized how lucky I am.
Arrange the following words into a well-known phrase or saying:
gift mouth a horse the never in look
Goodnight, Sparklers, wherever you are!