Can health care insure a good death? | Insightful Investing

By Jeffrey Moormeier | Jul 05, 2017

This is a financial opinion column, so here is my opinion: Health insurance can be a nightmare or a dream come true.

Lately, I’ve been pondering this question: Who is the real boogeyman? I have an opinion, but I really don't know. That’s why I’m encouraging you, the reader, to write to me at jeff@jgmoormeier.com and share your thoughts. I may use your comments in future articles, so be polite.

Over the course of the next few months, I would like to devote this space to the subject of health care insurance, from my perspective. I also plan to introduce you to some experts in this field. The reason for multiple columns is that this subject is so complex. I am a consumer of health care, but not an expert.

Health care is a political hot potato, and I believe reasonable people are looking for common ground. I do not, however, believe government is the answer.

A very conservative friend of mine is making an argument to me that I find quite unsettling. Keep in mind, he has owned multiple businesses, has been the president of a large clothing company – not an owner – and is currently semi-retired and living in Sun Valley, Idaho.

He, his wife and his son are all on Obamacare. He pays around $1,200 per month for the basic care and has another $12,000 of deductibles before his insurance pays a nickel. That is about $25,000 per year for health care he doesn't even use. He believes we should go to a single-payer system, which I find unsettling.

My parents, both of whom have passed away in the last 10 years, spent way too much time in hospitals as they neared the end. My father had dementia. My mother was in the hospital at one point for three straight months. At the end of their lives, their health care expenses were close to zero. They had been members of Group Health since the early 1970s.

On the other hand, my brother passed away at the age of 64 because he didn’t have any insurance and let his health deteriorate to the point of getting a treatable form of cancer. He left it untreated and it became terminal. He only received treatment after he was dead broke and able to qualify for Medicaid. He died a few months later.

So on one hand, my parents took responsibility early and had plenty of care, and on the other my brother did not and ended up paying with his life. In the end, they all died – an eventuality for which we all have an appointment.

I am 63 and will qualify for Medicare in two years. My wife is employed by Snohomish County, so we have incredible health insurance. When I qualify for Medicare, I cannot be turned down for pre-existing conditions. The only question left will be what type of Medicare Gap insurance I want, if I need any at all.

Before I introduce a health insurance expert in my next column, I would like to set the philosophical tone for our discussion, so here goes.

Both of my parents came from the Midwest. All sets of my grandparents were self-employed farmers. One of my grandparents was killed in an accident, and the other three lived very long lives. One grandfather lived to the age of 104, and both of my grandmothers lived well into their 80s.

In 1984, I received a call from my mother telling me that her mother was ill, and that she was considering open-heart surgery at age 84. I remember asking, “Why would you put her through that to prolong her life just a few more years?” At that time, open-heart surgery was very different, and particularly hard on patients.

She decided not to go through with the surgery. Instead, her life ended a few years later, one morning when she told her husband she didn't feel well. She wanted to lay down and rest. She turned from the kitchen where she was standing and started walking to the sofa just a few feet away. Before she could take a seat, she fell to the floor.

As I write these words, I remember thinking this was a beautiful way to go: in your own home, in the early morning sun, exchanging your final words with your spouse of sixty-five years.

Some 25 years later, I watched my own mother die. Actually, that’s a lie; I couldn't watch it. She had been in and out of hospitals for about seven months, and eventually had a colonoscopy due to cancer. In the end, she said, “I would have rather died of cancer than go through seven months of hell.”

She was 80 years old. Her father, my grandfather, was 104. My mother had good insurance, but poor health. Her father had good health. I suppose I want both.

I eat well, exercise regularly, and have the goal of living past 100. My family has a history of longevity. I suppose you can say I am lucky to a degree, but I still have to take responsibility for my own health.

Well, there’s my opinion. What’s yours?

 

Jeffrey Moormeier of JG Moormeier Financial is a Mukilteo-based financial advisor affiliated with KMS Financial Services, an SEC registered investment adviser. His column does not represent the opinions of KMS Financial Services, nor is it an official prediction or recommendation of any kind. The opinions expressed in this column are generalizations. For advise catered to your specific financial circumstances, contact Jeff directly at jeff@jgmoormeier.com or 425-931-8898.

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