Monday, July 16, 2012

Health Insurance and My Self-Employed Parents

When my parents moved to the beach in 1969, they could not have foreseen the issues they’d face with health insurance in 2012. This month they shelled out $3,120 for their quarterly bill (that has an $8,000 deductible and covers almost nothing). It reminds me how broken our system still is. This was the first July 4th I actually thought, “What exactly are we celebrating?”

My parents come from hardworking fathers who ran small businesses. (The American Dream, right?) My maternal grandfather ran a janitorial service. When he died in 2005 in a nursing home in Anaheim, he did not own a house or have money to leave to my mother. My paternal grandfather ran a service station after serving in the Navy in WWII. When the property was sold on which his gas station resided, he worked as a mechanic nearby, and labored well into his 70s. He and my grandmother bought their house when my father was in middle school for less than my current Honda, and they both still live there. At 88 and 86, they now live on a meager income from Social Security and a minimum IRA payment, and can’t afford to renovate their 19th century home that is in dire need.

My father graduated from CSULB the day I was born. He then started his career as an architectural illustrator and fine art painter. In times when the housing market is booming, my dad works every day, including weekends. He is excellent at what he does, and has had some of his architecture clients for more than 30 years.

My mom, also college educated, became a court reporter, but after tendinitis kept her from doing her job, she changed careers and now has a professional photography business and provides household tech support.

They became self-employed to be home while my sister and I grew up, which I have always appreciated. In addition, they have had time to exercise, make nutritious meals, and read the daily newspaper. 

I can’t fathom how my parents are punished for being self-employed and over 60. They have never milked the system. They are diligent and talented, but since they are on their own, the older they get, the more they can’t afford to pay for anything else aside from health insurance (the American Dream?).

My parents rented their first house in Dana Point for $100 a month; now the area is an expensive metropolis. They have owned our house since 1978, and today, it is in need of significant repairs. Since the economy tanked, my dad’s business has suffered, and my parents, like my grandparents, can’t afford to fix up their house—mainly because they are always searching for the source of their next health insurance payment, which sometimes comes from their home equity line.

Politics has become so divisive that no one seems to be working together to solve problems anymore. I’m struggling to recall leadership that wasn’t about corporate power, money at the top, and winning elections. I didn’t understand the Occupy movement, which appeared to lack direction and left a huge mess from abandoned camp sites. Conversely, the Tea Party baffles me, and the focus on issues such as gay marriage, to me, should not be issues at all. What confuses me most is why people are so angry about trying to fix the health care system, when we have spent more than a trillion dollars on warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 (so far), nearly $16 billion in Orange County alone (, which no one seems to be talking about anymore. The retired CEO at Aetna made $72 million in 2010 ( In what world is this okay?

In 2010, a Commonwealth Fund study claimed Americans fall dead last in health care compared to Britain, Canada, Germany, The Netherlands, Australia, and New Zealand. According to Reuters, the study says Americans spend twice as much as residents of these other developed countries, and we have lower quality, less efficiency, and the most inequitable system. I have often joked, “I’m moving to Canada!” but I love Southern California. America is home, and I’m not leaving. I just wish the endless political bickering would cease, the 24-hour “news” channels would focus on facts, and both sides would work together to make this a better place for all Americans to live.


  1. Clearly, this isn't how most people envision the "American Dream". Health care should be the top priority of the government. After all, it’s the public's welfare that they should be concerned about. I applaud you for such a very meaningful post. Let's just hope for the best, and that eventually, everything will be alright. :)

    -Elnora Cowger

  2. The government has so many problems that they still have to resolve but still, healthcare must not be thrown under the pile. The government must think of a solution of how the public is going to deal with it, as medical costs nowadays are too expensive and many citizens don’t have their own health insurance plan.

    Barry Bates