my dad was a lifetime member of the american federation of musicians local 47. health insurance through the union is awarded based on meeting a minimum number of union hours worked or union dollars earned the previous fiscal year. some of you may already be ahead of me here: when he fell ill with bone-marrow cancer—or indeed when anyone falls ill to a debilitating or chronic disease—it was on some days difficult to show up for work. further, if you find yourself in such a scenario you cannot pay the difference to the union insurer out of pocket, ‘because it is set up like a trust fund’ a woman assured me over the phone. when pressed about the ethics of this, she said ‘look, if i don’t show up for work i would lose my insurance too,’ to which i replied, ‘yes, but you’re salaried, not freelance.’
my dad having lost his insurance, my moms work provided primary care. between jobs they bought cobra insurance which was 400% more expensive. she was forced to stay at a job where she was overworked, underpaid, and not respected because it provided insurance which would cover my dad’s now pre-existing condition. she stayed there for over ten years.
the psychological toll on our family was not visible to me until after he passed.
now that her mom is sick, my mom has had to take from her own retirement money to subsidize nursing care, because in the eyes of my grandmas insurance it isn’t ‘necessary care’ (spoiler: it is).
this story isn’t remotely unique. it happens to thousands of families every year, and while many cancers are not yet preventable, the financial, social, psychological, emotional, and medical trauma of our insurance system is. we have the data from over two dozen other countries who have already run this experiment. we know the pros outweigh the cons in every metric but one: profit margins (insurance, hospital groups, and drug companies). tacitly forcing people to choose between medical treatments and bills or food can and must be made a relic of the past.
Trumps $12/yr cost, Chaffetz’ iPhone analogy, and the old war horses of ‘don’t buy your fancy coffee/avocado toast everyday’ or ‘just get a better job’ are nonsense, and they all turn on one false belief: the idea that money is a neutral indicator of the value of a thing. that is, rich people deserve to be rich and, crucially, poor people deserve to be poor. ‘gosh i’d love to help you, but if you would just try harder you could afford that cancer treatment, that hepatitis c cure, that epi-pen,’ the modern republican party seems to say. this is a carnival mirror misreading of both the bible and Ayn Rand, defended by the cognitive dissonance required take either at face value.
at time of posting, local 47 has not returned a request for comment on whether they will publicly support medicare-for-all a the national level, or medicaid for all at the state level.
i made a very different sort of song. for me at least.