An American Story That Used To Be Commonplace

In January 1967, my father, a 52 year-old self-employed carpenter, had no health insurance and had to have neck surgery. I can’t recall the amount he owed, but my parents did have to remortgage our house.

I had wanted to quit college for a while and saw my chance to do that in order to help my dad. Of course, I notified the draft board and was classified as 1A. Exactly two years later, I was drafted and inducted in to the US Army.

The last thing my Republican father would have thought of doing was to have anyone-especially the government-help him out of that situation. We just did what we had to do and that was it. No complaining.

Twelve years later, he had to have an emergency bowel resection and was a year shy of qualifying for MediCare. Only this time there was a pre-exisiting condition on his insurance policy for diverticulitis. Our family had never been notified by any doctor or insurance company that my dad had this condition. He had two surgeries for hernias in Illinois, prior to moving to Tennessee. Quite possibly, this is when the diverticulitis was diagnosed.

Somehow his new doctor in Tennessee was unaware of this pre-exisiting condition. Instead, my dad was advised to consult a psychiatrist (it was all in his head) for his excruciating abdominal pain-the origin of which led to peritonitis, a bowel resection and a temporary colostomy.

Again, my father and mother were forced to remortgage their house.

My parent complained to the insurance company and to the doctors, but to no avail.

There was nothing left to do except pay the medical bills and just suck it up-which they did.

My wife and I have worked very hard. Our first living room furniture was what we picked up on a street curb. We both come from working class backgrounds and had parents that stressed the importance of hard work. After almost 30 years of marriage, we own a modest, comfortable 1,500 square foot home on a 10 acre farm in East Tennessee. We soon will have it paid.

No one gave anything to us.

We have heard many sad stories of people losing their homes or going bankrupt due to medical expenses.

I have also heard tales of irresponsible people who have money for "the good things in life" yet, somehow, never can seem to find money enough for a down payment on a house or to pay for their own health insurance. I ask, why should I be forced to pay for other people’s failure to practice thrift?
My greatest fear is that more people are going to be taxed off of their farms and out of their homes because those who have a different sense of values will always be among us, dragging us down and making us all equally miserable.

My people came to America from Germany and Sicily in the early part of the 20th Century. I am proud that I come from peasant stock and will be forever grateful to my grandparents who came this country because they saw opportunity. Ihave a few aunts and uncles who achieved great success. Their accomplishments resulted from going to "night school", after working all day, in order to earn college degrees.

I have experienced attempts by others to create guilt when I mention that I am included on my wife’s insurance policy at the hospital where she works-($500 deductible and an 80-20 split). "You’re one of the lucky ones". There’s no luck involved.

Hard work creates self-respect.

My wife went back to school when we still had our youngest son at home in order to get her nursing degree. She is a Registered Nurse. A true calling. Words can’t describe how proud I am of her. Hard work and sacrifice.

I apologize to no one for our accomplishments. And I damned sure ain’t going to sit idly by while those in power try to take from me in order to give to someone else.