by Molly Macquire
America IS – still – the richest country in the world. Yet Americans cannot afford to live here. Let me share two brief stories with you of friends I have run into recently. Both friends are leaving America because they can’t do it any longer – they cannot afford to live here.
My first friend – he makes surfboards here in Ocean Beach. He and his family are leaving within a month to go live in a South American country. There he can make surfboards and live on a fraction of what it takes for him and his fam to live here. And it’s all about health care costs.
My friend recently had an incident while surfing. A large wave simply just whacked him on the side of his head. He tried to shake it off, but he was in trouble. Not from drowning, but he had lost his memory temporarily. He went up to the lifeguards and told them he knew his name and he knew where he was, but that was about it.
Medics were called, and my friend took a ride in the ambulance with bells and whistles and the whole kit and caboodle. He ended up in the ER and was treated somehow. He claims they really didn’t do much for him. He was sent home with a diagnosis of temporary amnesia caused by the wave whack – perhaps a slight concussion.
Then he got the bill: $21,000.
Now I haven’t seen the bill and maybe my friend is exaggerating. He is a contractor and hence does not have medical insurance from any employer. Bottom line – he didn’t have any medical insurance and he can’t afford to pay this outrageous amount for a brief hospital ride and stay. But he and his family are packing up. Down in South America, he can be seen by a doctor and pay $50, he says. “Can you believe,” he asked me incredulously, “that people here are opposed to health care reform?” We both shook our heads.
I was very shaken by this story. He’s been in OB for 30 years. I probably won’t see him again.
My second friend also does not have health insurance. But that’s not why he is traveling to go work in Saudi Arabia. It’s his mortgage and other costs of living that he and his wife can’t afford. He is willing to risk everything and make $3000 a month plus room and board, and of course travel expenses, over there.
This friend used to work in a shop – and he worked there for 30 years – give or take a couple. Yet he has no pension from the place, he can’t afford medical or dental help right now. So he’s flying out of here within the next couple of weeks for the Middle East. I begged him to watch the movie “The Kingdom” so he would have some idea of how Americans and Europeans live over there – in guarded walled communities separated out from the natives and the cities. His wife is freaking out – she was strong at first. Sure, he would send her money for the mortgage and their other bills, credit cards, etc. He even filed for bankruptcy not too long ago. But that wasn’t enough. He will be going to the Kingdom for a year to try it out. To make money so he can live in America.
I’m very saddened that he feels this desperate.
Both my friends are leaving America to go live in Third World countries so they can live in a First World one. There is something terribly wrong with this picture.