Exposed

The Sacramento Bee this weekend told the very real story of counties stepping in to provide medical care when people find themselves without health insurance.

What struck me is the very palpable sense of vulnerability — that at any moment, you or someone you know could become uninsured and wait in this line. That at any moment, you or someone you know could be layed off and lose your benefits. Could lose all access to credit and a way to pay for medication and other necessary care.

“I think people have a misconception about who the medically indigent are,” Pitman said. (Dr. Dorothy Pitman is the medical director of the Sacramento County clinic branches).

On some days, cars circle the clinic’s parking lot.

Some patients arrive in beat-up Toyotas or late-model cars, others in SUVs and, occasionally, even a Lexus or an aging Mercedes.

“Folks lost the house, but kept their fancy cars,” said Fred Heacock, the clinic manager.

His point: Bad things can happen to anyone at anytime.

The sense vulnerability — of exposure — is also echoed in this LA Times story — about Wall Streeters having to tighten their belts. Most of the story is about how even the investment bankers on Wall Street earning $400,000 will have to scrimp some. But what jumped out at me, was this vignette:

A few weeks ago, a wife, six months pregnant and about to enter the operating room to have a masectomy for cancer, does not talk to her husband about her imminent surgery. Her husband worked at Lehman brothers. The discussion was about whether she would still have health coverage for *that day* if Lehman Bros. declared bankruptcy.

As an advocate, I see academic research coming across my desk that says higher income earners do worry about the *big event* that will eviscerate their savings. But it has never been spelled out as starkly as this…

And no one polled on the street would likely guess that a family with a $400,000-a-year income would also have to worry about how they will pay for medical care.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

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