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The Sad Business of Dying

MedsMy family has always been exceptionally lucky when it comes to medical insurance.  Jim had a great job with a company that not only offered free healthcare benefits, they were the best healthcare benefits money could buy.  We never paid a copayment, deductible, or a percentage of treatment.  No money ever went out of our pocket for prescription drugs or durable medical equipment.  Everything was always covered, everywhere we went.

We no longer have that insurance, since Jim’s retirement due to disability from that awesome job.  However, we are lucky enough to still have health insurance coverage.  Gone are the days when everything medical was handed to us.  My last kidney surgery was not going to be performed unless I showed up at the surgical center with $500 to cover my percentage of the procedure.  The medications I needed following the multiple procedures cost us more than $100 out of pocket – a huge discount over what they would have cost if we had no insurance at all, but at the same time, that $100 is a big chunk of money to families struggling already to make ends meet.  Let’s not even speak of trying to come up with $500 to unblock a kidney – ridiculous.  What if a family doesn’t have that money?

I read an article today in the Philadelphia Inquirer about the family of Luis Rodriguez.  Diagnosed a year ago with acute myeloid leukemia, Luis and his family just made the bittersweet journey to Florida, where Luis will live out his final days surrounded by family after losing his home of 13 years due to the cost of his illness, combined with his inability to work and his wife’s need to cut her hours back to care for her dying husband.  This family went from being comfortable, able to provide things for their children, enjoying life to losing their home and barely scraping by – all due to illness.

I don’t claim to know the answer.  I’m not a huge fan of Obamacare, but this isn’t about politics.  There is a huge business in treating sick people – from the doctors and hospitals to the drug companies and pharmacies.

Maybe dying should be more about dignity and less about dollars.


It’s expensive to be dying.  It’s an expense so few of us are prepared to take on.  The bank doesn’t necessarily care that you have cancer and can’t go to work when your mortgage payment is due.  Walgreen’s doesn’t want to know that you have a life insurance policy that will more than cover your prescription medications when you die – you have to come up with the money now if you want to die comfortably.

Even if you can afford the medications you’ll need, Medicare and Medicaid aren’t going to cover the rest of your bills.  Sure, you might qualify for Social Security disability, but you’ll have to live at least three months to see it kick in, and by that time, many families are already drowning in debt.




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