This last week we spent a great deal of money to treat our sick cat. She's a little over 13 years old and has been our child for as long as we have been married. Her illness was serious and possibly life threatening.
After numerous tests, an ultrasound and cancer screening, x-rays, two tooth extractions and a major surgery, she's back home and is now fine.
Our vet is wonderful, but they did not keep us abreast of the mounting costs of her care. When confronted with the bill, we had to figure out what we wanted to do to cover it. Do we put it on the credit card and then pay the interest or do we dip into our savings.
Over the course of the last five years, we've been stashing money into an account for a trip to Peru, to climb to Machu Pichu. Rather than pay interest (we tend to keep a very low or zero balance on our card) we decided to simply take it from the Peru account.
Almost all of it.
Now, understand there was no question. You just do it. Peru isn't going anywhere, barring some major catastrophe, like a giant asteroid of a major volcanic eruption... in which case we have other things to worry about.
We paid it.
She is now at home, shaved belly and all. We couldn't be happier.
However, it got me thinking. At the Vet was a brochure for pet insurance.
If we'd had it, in some form, we'd have had certain things covered. But we didn't, so it all came out of pocket.
What if it were a child, instead of a pet?
What if we were one of the 40 million in this country who does not have health insurance? We'd have to dip into our savings to pay the bills. How long would that last?
Thankfully, we only dipped into one little savings account that had been set aside for a trip, but what if it were our "savings" and we had nothing else.
We are not people who abuse the system, we work, we pay our taxes, we contribute to the collective good. We could quickly have nothing.
It was suddenly easy for me to see how so many families get into trouble. They just can't make ends meet because of one hospital bill. It happens every day.
I promised this blog would not get into politics, but with this issue I think it's deeper than a political divide that it has become. It is about the lives of Americans. Americans who are suffering because we have chosen to make our health a commodity to be bought and sold on Wall Street.
It's wrong. We deserve better.
For everyone who pounds their chest and screams "America, love it or leave it!" or puffs up and defiantly proclaims "We're the greatest nation on earth" but has made the decision to fight against giving all American's access to health care - you should be ashamed. Your false patriotism is sickening and counter-productive. Your ignorance stands in the way of progress.
I had a moment of "What do I do?" with a cat. I can't imagine if it were my child. No one should have to make a decision between feeding their families and paying a medical bill. Between paying rent and paying for medicine. Not in America.
Thinking we, as a country, are the best we can ever be leaves no room for us to strive for better. It lets us all off far too easily. It means we have nothing to aspire to, to work for...
But perhaps that's what some people want.