Phil801’s Daughter Has Cancer And What Else Is Wrong With Healthcare

I met Phil801 a couple of years ago, and we’ve bumped into one another a number of times over the two years. He’s a short, stocky wrestler-type. I met him when he was employed, but just a few months later he had started his own company, and has since worked for himself.

He’s a software guy, and a visionary. He loves the mountains, has a large family, and used to have goats and chickens (not sure if he still does). Phil801 is a blogger, in fact, one of the bloggers who got me started blogging.

Of course Phil801 is on Twitter. And that is how I found out his daughter has cancer.

My heart goes out to Phil801 and his family. Not to sound sappy, but I cried yesterday as I read through his recent blog posts, where he is sharing the experience, and pictures. As a father, I can’t imagine the pain he is going through. Here is a picture of Phil and Serenity, in the hospital bed:

From her dad’s blog post this morning:

Serenity – Go, Fight, WIN!!!

While Phil801 says he hasn’t really thought about the money part of this ordeal, it is something that has terrified me for over two years.

Phil801’s experience reminds me of the time I cut my hand open two years ago. I had been unemployed for a while, had no health insurance, and was long-past the time when the money ran out (or at least it felt that way).

I was also in the low part of my job search where there was significant despair… I *should have* landed my job by then, but no one was even looking at my resume!!

One evening, as I was trying to separate two frozen hamburger patties with a very sharp knife (dumb, I know), it happened.

I found myself leaning over the sink, washing my wound, wondering how I would explain how dumb I was. I was nauseaous, and wondered if it was because of the blood and gore (okay, it wasn’t that bad, but I was getting lite-headed), or because of the money.

As an unemployed chump, with no money in sight, and no insurance, it made me sick to think about how much this was going to cost.

That’s why I chose to use super glue instead of going to the doctor. I finally dragged myself to our doctor a few days later when I was sure it was infected (it wasn’t). He said to keep up the super glue treatment. And he didn’t charge me for the visit.

Otherwise that would have been a $80 visit. Stitches would have probably been a few hundred dollars. But what if something worse happened?

When my then-three-year-old fell off the bed and broke her arm, it was an excruciating $500+ bill.

What if there were something else? A skateboard accident for my son? Cancer, or some other very expensive health condition for any of us?

Accidents and illnesses have been a major concern since I got laid off, since we didn’t have that insurance safety net.

Luckily the government was kind enough to have come up with COBRA, but seriously, that is an absolute joke. How would I pay $700+ each month for sucky insurance coverage? I have heard others say they have paid over $1,000 per month for crappy COBRA coverage.

What do you do, declare medical bankruptcy?

What is an unemployed family supposed to do to get healthcare so they don’t become a burden on society? Heck, what is an employed family supposed to do?

It is scary. I’m not a pessimist but this is a huge issue that I don’t see a good resolution for anytime soon.

And for that, I’ll continue to live in fear.

12 thoughts on “Phil801’s Daughter Has Cancer And What Else Is Wrong With Healthcare”

  1. Jason,

    I know the fear that you talk about, living without health insurance. I’ve been self employed for over 22 years and many of those years I lived without insurance.

    We had two of the our three boys without insurance. The middle boy gave us a scare when they thought he was not fully developed. Everything worked out ok, he will be 19 next week, 6’2″ and over 200 lbs.

    After we bought our house in 1994, life and health insurance were next on the list. I started out paying 265 a month and next month it goes up to $1141 a month. The house payment is only $950. Kinda screwy and scarey.

    However, with a wife and 3 boys, I felt that I could not live without insurance. Many times over the years it has been a struggle to pay the $$$. We always paid it though… and here is why:

    I never wanted to have to make the decision to go to the doctor or to have a test done because of money. I never wanted to make that kind of choice.

    So, has it been worth it…. some years yes, some years no….

    Last year: 13 yr old son hits head while tubing. Someone says he was unconscious and calls paramedics, trip to the hospital by ambulance, cat scan, test, – results no problems just a cut on the head . Total cost $10,000. My cost, less than $2000.

    April 07 – Wife has knee replacement surgery $28000, 10 weeks later, knee replacement replacement, they put in the wrong parts and billed me to fix it $29000. My total outlay $2000.

    Jason, and everyone else, if you don’t have health insurance, find a way to get it. It ain’t cheap, but the peace of mind it give you is worth it.


  2. Jason, thanks for posting this and supporting Serenity. As you know, I’m kind of a hard man, but I’ve been crying a lot over the last few days. Even though I was there when it happened, I started crying again last night when I first saw the picture we had taken of her rash outbreak (the one i put on my blog). She just looks so sick and in so much pain, it breaks my heart everytime I stop to think about everything that’s happening.

  3. This is the kind of story that breaks my heart. You had me sending my donation right away and if there is anything I can do to help, please let me know. Everyday when I look at my two rambunctious kids running around and wrecking havoc on the house, the car and the poor cat, I have to smile and be appreciative that they are happy and healthy. I count my blessing everyday. Phil and his family are in my thoughts and prayers. Thank you for sharing and allowing us to help.

  4. There are many sources of ‘your own healthcare’ insurance, without breaking the bank. Two come immediately come to mind: (1) There an independent consultant’s org that charges 500$ to join and then you can buy a major medical insurance plan for like 1500 per year, 2k for a family plan. That is about 200$/month. (Better than the 800$/mo bluecross wanted for some level of coverage.) Yeah, I know apples and oranges. (2) There are high deductable major medical coverages out there. I know one lawyer who has a 25k deductable for under 500$/year. He keeps it around in addition to other coverages. His comment is “i am unlucky enough to win a negative lotto’. Those are just two quick thoughts.

    Prayers in the little girl’s direction.

    On to a political opinion, I KNOW that we don’t want ‘universal health care’ as proposed by the politicians. We are in this mess BECAUSE of them. All the junk they have thrown in — not the least of which is heathcare is deductible by your employer but not by you! They create the problem and then ride to our rescue causing more problems. Argh!


  5. The problem is that doctors are no longer making decisions, it is the insurance companies and how much they have to pay. I have a chronic illness that will never go away. I couldn’t have caused it. It isn’t something that, as McCain says, I could have prevented either. It is genetic. I have to live with it and maintain my health on drugs the rest of my life. My doctor wanted to put me on medication that would best suit my health and keep me most healthy and prevent problems in my condition. The drug companies made me wait four months and kept pushing my doctors requests back. I had to continue to go in and out of the hospital. I would not have had to go to the hospital at all if I had been given the prescription that my doctor prescriped in the first place.

    We are listening and paying for television advertising no longer doctors and actual research that can cure real illnesses. If that poor child was wealthy she would definitely get better care in the United States.

  6. @Marc – thank you for the story… this really is compelling. The question is, how does an unemployed person pay for that?

    @Phil801 – you have many people who are behind you on this. Go, fight, WIN!

    @heather – how easy it is to forget our blessings – thank you for sharing.

    @reinkefj – as usual, great comments. Do you know the name of the independent consultant’s organization?

    @karen – the system is broken, and I don’t know how to fix it. There is a lot of rhetoric on how to fix it, but really, what is the solution? Hopefully we can get it figured out.

  7. Jason,

    I am not sure if I can answer how an unemployed person pays for health insurance. I haven’t had a job in almost 25 years. As a solo entrepreneur, I am unemployed every morning.

    Thinking back, I am sure there have been times when I have had to hit a credit card to pay for my health insurance.

    @rienkefj suggested a consultants organization for getting a deal on health insurance. Though I have not done any research lately, I found that individual plans worked out better when I was looking for insurance. We have Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield, and they have many options.

    Health insurance is my biggest expense, business, or family. With the increase next month I will be paying $200 a month more for health insurance than I do for my house. If it came down to it, I think that I would pay for the health insurance and risk losing the house. I can live anywhere if it came down to it. I never again want to make a decision about going to the doctor because of money.

    I’d like to challenge all you blog readers to donate an amount equal to their last meal out to help phil801. Lunch the other day with you was $30 bucks and I will add to that and make my donation.


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  9. Jason, thanks for your heartfelt post. I, too read about this on Twitter. I can’t sop thinking about Serenity and Phil’s family. The anguish must be like physical pain. I donated right away, I’m praying, I feel so helpless to help.

    And Serenity is one beautiful child among millions — millions of children and families around the world who are suffering, the unimaginable loss of life in the recent cyclone and earthquake — millions of children who suffer unimaginable poverty and disease — millions of orphans who fruitlessly seek their parents after wars, genocide, or natural disasters. It’s heartbreaking.

    We can donate to relief organizations, we can pray, we can fight to create political change, we can fight for better living conditions. We can invest in helping new business via micro-loans. Here at home we can fight for better health insurance (which I think is one of the most critical challenges we face as a country). But sometimes the sadness of reality is just overwhelming.

    I think Serenity’s illness gives a face to children’s devastating world problems–we are unbearably saddened by her struggle for itself, and as a reminder of all else we wish we could change. Yet, the power of communication, of community, of people pulling together to help Serenity, to help a family we CAN impact is like a light in the darkness.

    So now Serenity has a huge new extended family who are lifting her up, lifting up her parents and siblings, and contributing energy to her fight through prayers, donations, and messages of caring. Let’s hope that all we (and others) do allows Phil’s family to table financial worries and concentrate on what Serenity needs to fight and WIN.

  10. That was a very touching piece. You shouldn’t have to live in fear in the richest country in the world.

    Doctors also want a new healthcare system. It pains me and my collegues to hear stories like this. Don’t give up hope. It truly believe that our health care system will improve over the coming years so that everyone can afford to medical care. This isn’t a democratic nor republican issue – its an American one.

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