“Four hundred and thirty dollars.”
“How much was that again?”
“Four hundred and thirty dollars. Your insurance didn’t cover it.”
Although it’s easy for me to point out mistakes I’ve made as a father, I’ve always been able to provide for my family. I’ve kept a roof over our heads and food on the table along with the basic necessities of life. With each child we’ve brought into our family we’ve made adjustments to our budget and helped set expectations with our children on a realistic number of activities in which they can participate.
There are times I wish I could do more for them. Between church and school activities we’ve had to limited the number of sport leagues and music lessons we can handle in any one season. It’s as much a time commitment as it is a budget issue. But there are times when we don’t have the money to pay for camps or lessons so we must be creative in finding alternative outlets for our children’s energy and creativity.
Kim and I both grew up in middle class families. Her father worked as an IT administrator and my father spend over thirty years teaching and coaching at a high school. We both had what we needed, but didn’t grow up in families where the children were showered with expensive clothing and new cars waiting for them at age 16.
I don’t recall my father ever buying a new car until most of the kids were gone. My parents drove hand-me-down vehicles from grandparents or bought used cars. I recall looking through the blinds on our front window and watching my father pull a used station wagon into the carport when I was 13 or 14. My sisters and I ran outside and celebrated like my father had won a Ferrari.
As frugally as we lived, I never recall a time when we didn’t expect to receive the best health care possible. We didn’t postpone visits to the doctor or dentist. As a young boy, I required stiches over a dozen times. My father never tried to close a wound with Super Glue or apply a Butterfly bandage and call it good. I never heard, “Let’s avoid the high co-pay of the emergency room tonight and see our primary doctor in the morning.”
If we needed to see a doctor we made an appointment. If medication was available that could ease pain, we had it. We may have shaved a few dollars off our grocery bill by shopping for store brands, but didn’t shave pennies when it came to seeing the doctor.
This brings me to last weekend. More specifically, to the four hundred and thirty dollars.
That was the cost of one bottle of pills someone in our family needed. Although we pay over $500/month in health insurance premiums, our insurance didn’t cover a dime towards the pills. I’m certain this very situation plays itself out thousands of times a day in pharmacies around the US.
As Kim and I sat in our car at the drive-thru pharmacy, we didn’t spend more than five seconds making a decision to skip the meds. It wasn’t a difficult decision because we didn’t have the money.
I suppose we can debate the condition and affordability of health care in the United State all night. But that’s not why I decided to write this.
I decided to write this down tonight because this experience, at the drive-thru pharmacy, is the first time I’ve felt that maybe I can’t provide my family with the care they need.
And it feels just as strange to admit that.