If you did not have health insurance, wouldn’t you try to figure out a way to get it? Wouldn’t you try to figure out how to fix medicare and medicaid costs long-term?

Perhaps the House and Senate should live without insurance for a while? Perhaps then they would do something.

I have spent the last few days face to face with health care in the United States. See, my dad (80) is dying of mesothelioma (he acquired asbestos working for Johns Manville while working his way through college in the early 50’s) and he underwent surgery yesterday, nearly dying on the operating table. Late today I left him joking with the nurses in a private room (arranged because the Hospital is asking me to serve on the Foundation Board) after spending the night in ICU.

My dad is dying. My dad is scared – as is my mom. But, he is getting extraordinary care because he has great insurance and a rich son. He is not thinking about paying for his health care while he struggles with death. My mom is not worried about going bankrupt because of my dad’s bills as she realizes the 57 years of life with her husband is ending.

My dad will hopefully go home soon to die on his farm. He will have everything he needs – all paid for by insurance.

Like my dad and mom, Congress has good health insurance. House and Senate members are allowed to purchase private health insurance (paid for by taxpayers) offered through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP). According to the Congressional Research Service, the FEHBP offers about 300 different private health care plans, including five government-wide, fee-for-service plans and many regional health maintenance organization (HMO) plans, plus high-deductible, tax-advantaged plans. All plans cover hospital, surgical and physician services, and mental health services, prescription drugs and "catastrophic" coverage against very large medical expenses. There are no waiting periods for coverage when new employees are hired, and there are no exclusions for preexisting conditions. In addition, members of Congress also qualify for some medical benefits that ordinary federal workers do not. They (but not their families) are eligible to receive limited medical services from the Office of the Attending Physician of the U.S. Capitol. House and Senate members (but not their families) also are eligible to receive care at military hospitals.

So, what if the House and Senate were facing what my dad and mom are facing, but doing it without insurance?  That is a far too easy of an answer.

  • Larry Andrew

    Bill….Karen and I want to extend our deepest sympathies to you and your family as you journey through one of the most difficult of life’s challenges. We both have traveled that path and know how emotionally wrenching it can be.

  • When uninsured people make these proclamations, people say we’re acting in our own self-interest, so I appreciate this. Your dad should be proud – of being able to joke with nurses, and of you.

  • cheryl berenson RN, MS-MPH student OHSU

    Bill-Your dad is also fortunate that he can go home for his last days- my favorite aunt died on Thursday and she had insurance and the ability to have competent and caring caregivers and hospice at home for her last days. Most American families are facing the task of caring for their aging family members without help while raising their own children and working 2 jobs.The lack of health insurance covering sick and preventive care for the lifespan is immoral- those who are smug enough to think that they will never have to go without may luck out, then again they may not….enjoy your time with your dad!

  • Bix

    I’m sorry to hear about your dad, Bill.
    I so wish we could fix health care in this country. It’s not impossible, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to get better any time soon.

  • Sorry to read about your dad, my friend. Thanks for sharing your story and speaking out on this important issue. Your dad is fortunate to have insurance, but more fortunate to have you as a son.

  • Paul Nunes

    Strong point. Our thoughts are with you and your family, Bill.
    Paul and Liz

  • Marymary

    I’m so sorry to hear about your dad. My family and my dad had a similarly experience in the six weeks before my father’s death about two and a half years ago. Thankfully, insurance troules were not making an already wrenching situation worse.
    My thoughts and prayers are with your dad and your family.