This week, Gov. Schwarznegger described his new plan to overhaul California\’s healthcare and health insurance system. In the talk, the Governator said that he wants to reform the healthcare system by requiring all Californians to have health insurance. He also wants insurance companies to guarantee coverage (so that a person’s health insurance can’t be dropped due to illness) and he plans to offer low income families and individuals affordable coverage. Schwarznegger said that reforming health care makes sense fiscally. As he said during his speech, “More than 60 emergency rooms have closed over the past decade because they didn\’t want to keep treating people without insurance. Unpaid medical bills mean billions of dollars in hidden taxes for the rest of us because those services all have to be paid for. So we pay higher deductibles, costs for treatment, premiums and co-pays.\”
Ironically, the governor’s talk on health care was telecast from Los Angeles because a broken femur prevented him from flying to Sacramento. As he gave his speech (still recovering from recent surgery), perhaps the politician had a more immediate connection to the issue at hand and increased compassion for the state’s uninsured, sick and injured. It’s possible that his leg even throbbed in pain while he spoke, causing him to take a deep breath to recover.
Schwarznegger broke his femur during a skiing accident in Idaho. (The injury was clearly karmic payback for not supporting the California skiing industry.) Imagine poor Arnie tumbling through the powder, the sharp crack of his massive femur ringing like fireworks against the mountain peaks. What was he thinking in those moments awaiting rescue? Did he worry that his government healthcare plan might not cover procedures at an out-of state-hospital? Was he thinking about Californians and the state of health care? Or did the injury trigger an adrenaline-induced flashback from one of the fight scenes in Terminator? We will probably never know. All we know is that, just days after his own catastrophic accident, Schwarznegger stood before the proud people of the Golden State proclaiming the need for improved health care for Californians.
As our Austrian-American leader now knows, a broken femur is no small injury. The femur is the largest bone in the human body and, when broken, the femur (buried deep in the thigh) can puncture the femoral artery, becoming life threatening. But even breaking a femur is not as dangerous, for one’s body or bank account, as living without health care in California. According to the governor’s office, “6.5 million people – more than any other state –have no medical insurance for all or part of the year.”
In Ventura County, that translates into thousands of uninsured children and adults and millions of healthcare dollars not buffered by insurance money. To illustrate what the financial reality of being uninsured in Ventura means, let’s pretend that Schwarznegger was uninsured and living here when he broke his femur. According to Admitting Supervisor Patsy Montesdeoca at Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura, the surgery and hospital stay alone would have cost Schwarznegger approximately $5,911 (although the total hospital fees are $24,880). That cost does not even cover lost time at work, physical therapy and the many other fees associated with such a serious injury.
Perhaps the governor’s broken bone was a blessing in disguise. Hopefully it will help Schwarznegger feel intimately connected to the issue of health care reform. But let’s hope that the new policies provide financial relief for all Californians and especially the low-income, uninsured inhabitants of Ventura County, and that his healthcare reform promises are as strong as his healed femur, never to be broken again.