Insured Shouldn't Take Coverage for Granted

Commentator John McCann has health coverage. But after a recent episode with his daughter, he's not taking that insurance for granted. McCann is a columnist for The Herald-Sun in Durham, N.C.

ED GORDON, host:

As we've been discussing, many believe that the problem of the uninsured and underinsured in the United States is going from bad to worse. Commentator John McCann has health coverage, but after a recent episode with his daughter, he's not taking that insurance for granted.


The other day, my baby girl was just straight-up evil. I tried to feed her some black-eyed peas and rice and the child slapped the bowl and strewed it all over the floor. I don't know if I was mad because she wasted good food or because she wasted good food on the kitchen floor I'd just mopped that day. Well, anyway, my wife sentenced Karis to four minutes in her crib. I cleaned up the peas and rice.

Oh, it was all good. It wasn't long before the baby and I kissed and made up and we palled around the rest of the day while my wife got some free time at the mall. Now maybe I overreacted but I let Pam out for some air around 4:00, and by the time she returned from the mall, it was dark outside. The crickets were chirping. But let me tell you about a mother's intuition. Pam comes in and instinctively checks the baby's temperature. Great day in the morning, 104 degrees. I called the doctor's hot line, and Pam had to tell me to do that. I was prepared to let the child sleep it off.

Well, the nurse instructs us to get Karis to the tub of water, but that didn't break the fever. My overheated baby just kept panting like a dog, breathing so hard her ribs were poking out, at which the phone nurse sent us to the emergency room. It turned out to be a $150 ear infection, and I'm glad that's all it was, but knowing we could have waited a while and avoided the expense of the emergency room unsettled everything that's cheap and frugal about me. Something told me to just let the baby sleep it off.

Yet worse than my penny-pinching is the fact that there are a lot of people who wouldn't even have considered taking their babies to the ER, and it has nothing to do with their parenting. It's because they're among the 45 million Americans who don't have health insurance, and these aren't the folk who refuse to hold down jobs. Many of the uninsured go to work, but they're stuck between earning too much money to qualify for government assistance and not making enough to comfortably handle paycheck deductions beyond Uncle Sam's. See, steep as it was, the $150 emergency room bill was a co-payment. The administrator handling the paperwork told me it would have cost hundreds of dollars had I not been insured.

With companies slicing into health insurance to shore up their bottom lines, I'm blessed that my wallet contains that little paper card tucked away alongside two or three wrinkled dollars. It means I'm covered. What I lack in salary in some respects is accounted for with good benefits. Otherwise, I wouldn't have taken my daughter to the doctor's office earlier that same week so the pediatrician could look at some spots on her teeth. My wife was worried that it was some kind of nutritional deficiency. Dr. Bailey said the baby's teeth looked good. Better safe than sorry, and the health insurance makes the former a whole lot easier. It's like that night at the emergency room. Because I have insurance, our doctor prescribed Amoxicillin. Without coverage, I'd have faced my baby's wrath a little longer, perhaps treating the girl with some cotton in her ears and mine.

GORDON: John McCann is a columnist for The Herald-Sun in Durham, North Carolina.

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