Thank God for the Insurance I Hate

Resting in a hospital bed in the middle of the night gives one a chance to ponder many things. Due to multiple heart conditions over the years, I have had time to do the standard processing that may come with unexpected illness and the threat of death–the questions like, “What am I doing with my life?” This time, I was presented with the possibility of colon cancer, which has fortunately been all but ruled out, having to wear a colostomy bag for the rest of my life, which is still one of the possibilities, or having to have a surgery that will take care of my issue and let me move on with my life. Whichever it turns out to be, I will be helped by an incredible staff and the amazing developments of modern medicine.

I came in to the emergency room on Friday night due to intense abdominal pain and am still here Monday night. It will be at least until Thursday before I get to go home again. And I can’t even imagine how much this would be costing me if I didn’t have insurance through my workplace. It will cost me some, but most of it will be taken care of for me. I keep thinking about how in earlier times they wouldn’t be able to do the miracle surgeries that keep us alive these days and how fortunate we are to live in a society with such advanced medicine.

But I also think of what a horrible system we have in the United States, where having health insurance can be the difference between life and death or the difference between a procedure that can make life easier or not having that procedure at all. Because, like everything else in this country, it comes down to money–who has it, who doesn’t, who has the cost covered in another way and who does not. Even with insurance through work this is going to cost me money that I can’t really afford to spend.

If I didn’t have a job and I didn’t have insurance, I may not have had the luxury of sitting in this hospital room with nurses, doctors, surgeons, cleaning people and others assisting me with my every need. Imagine being homeless in this country, or working three part-time jobs where you don’t qualify for insurance, and then imagine a sudden catastrophic health issue. Some hospitals might turn you away. Others might take you because they have to, but then you would not get the top-quality care that those with money and insurance qualify to receive, and you would owe the hospital for years. There are also those who have minimum coverage who actually end up paying far more out of their own pockets than those insurance plans can cover.

We need to completely redo the system. Insurance companies are gamblers who make money or lose money depending on how much they have to pay or how little they can get away with paying. They create plans that protect them from big losses while paying out as little as possible. They are not there to assist us with our bills. They are there, like everything else in this society, to make money for their shareholders.

The United States is really the only major industrialized country that does not provide universal health care as a basic right. As long as the insurance and medical lobby continues to buy politicians with campaign gifts they are protected from what the majority of Americans really want–public health care for all, without regard for financial standing. Health care should be a right. It is not right to determine who gets good health care and who does not based on how much money they do or do not have.

I will come out of this most recent medical experience a little poorer, but with my health intact. But if I lost my job and could not afford to replace my insurance, I would end up coming out of a similar situation poorer both financially and in health. This happens to people every day in this nation. It is not acceptable that any citizen in this country should face that.

About Callen Harty

Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of four books and numerous published essays, poems, and articles. His most recent book is The Stronger Pull, a memoir about coming out in a small town in Wisconsin. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, is a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His play, Invisible Boy, is a narrative with poetic elements and is also an autobiographical look as surviving child sex abuse. All are available on (and three of them on Kindle) or can be ordered through local bookstores, He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he started as an actor, writer, and director in 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History. He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive. Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events. In 2016, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault named him their annual Courage Award winner for his activism, writing, and speaking on sexual assault.
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