"Unless you're Warren Buffett, your family is just one serious illness away from bankruptcy."

That's the opinion of David Himmelstein, the lead author of a research study about bankruptcy done jointly by Harvard Law, Harvard Medical and Ohio University. The study found that more than 60 percent of individuals who declared bankruptcy did so for medical reasons. Most of those folks were middle-class people with homes and college educations.

It's one easy step from comfortable suburbia to the poorhouse, the study said.

In writing a story on this phenomenon, I met a couple who'd gone down that rocky and sadness-tinged road. They gave up their home and now live in a rundown rental. From their back patio, they watch drug deals going down at the apartment building behind them. They barbecue steaks on special occasions, but usually scramble to find food for the whole month. A generous friend stops by occasionally, claiming she was cleaning out her freezer.

Last week, one of our EO employees, in her mid-twenties and seemingly healthy, found herself convulsed in pain and ended up having emergency surgery. I dreaded asking if she'd been employed here long enough to have gotten on our insurance plan. Our system is so employer-based. Once a person worked one job and collected a gold watch upon retirement. Now, we change employment multiple times and sometimes get caught between jobs.

It's scary and unfair for those who fall into the deep cracks of our health care system.

Yikes, all I can say is I'll be eating my fruits and vegetables, exercising 30 minutes each day and saying my prayers. "There but for the grace of God go I."

-Kathy Aney

Weekenders are lighthearted comments on recent events provided by East Oregonian reporters and editors. They represent the views of the authors and are not necessarily those of the East Oregonian or its editorial board..

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