Re-educating My Parents

Re-education — and its strong association with Communism — is not a term used lightly in my Vietnamese immigrant family. My parents escaped communist regimes twice — once in 1954 when Viet Nam split and they fled from Hanoi to Saigon, and a second time in 1975 when Saigon fell and they landed in the U.S.

As Vietnamese refugees and US citizens they have been devoted anti-Communists, anti-Jane Fonda Republicans. I can’t say that their recent health care woes have convinced otherwise, but what I can say is that it has started them thinking twice about health care and how it’s distributed in this country.

Both my parents worked as engineers for Honeywell for a long time. When they retired, they got retiree health benefits. One dear friend of my father’s was an independent used book seller, who my father visited often to talk about, and buy and exchange books. Self-employed, my father’s friend did not have health coverage.

This year, my father lost vision in his one of his eyes for three months due to diabetes. When that eyesight recovered, he lost vision in the other eye. Both times, he was hospitalized for a few days, at the cost of $40,000 each visit. (My parents actually paid XXX). Shortly after he recovered vision in both eyes, he discovered he needed a quadruple bypass — which he had last week — at the cost of XXXXX. Annoying as it was to have at least one non-working eyeball for six months this year, and to immediately get stuck in a hospital again, my father is now walking again (slowly) and recovering from his year of health care.

The total cost for my parents for my father’s health bills: $1,500 (?).

The uninsured bookseller, however, was not as lucky…..(story here).

The total cost for my father’s friend, the self-employed book-seller: death.

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