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Health Insurance Embarrassment
It's yet another story like that of the Baltimore guy with the woodcarving hobby instead of a job who didn't understand that his right to a fun career went out the window the day he didn't wear a condom. Susan Brink writes in the LA Times of a Dana Point family that considers themselves "priced out of the private health insurance market." Well, boofrigging hoo, let's hear a little more about them:

AMERICAN dream scene: a gorgeous Southern California day. A car-free cul-de-sac on a hilltop overlooking a canyon. A boy and his father, shooting hoops.

But stark reality intruded for a brief moment last summer when 40-year-old Wes Wirkkala tripped, stumbled and almost fell. "Dad, what are you doing? Be careful!" his son Nicholas shouted. "We don't have health insurance."

At 8, Nicholas knows his family cannot risk any visits to the emergency room. He's been told a hundred times, as he dashes out the door with his skateboard, to be careful, to fall on his butt if he has to fall at all because there's no money for broken arms.

Wes Wirkkala, father of three, heard his son's words in front of their Dana Point home and felt shot through with shame. He didn't want this particular family deficiency broadcast through the neighborhood. "It was embarrassing," Wes says. "It kind of makes me feel that I'm not providing everything I should be."

The Wirkkalas, with an income that for five years has hovered around $70,000 and a home they bought in 2004 for $535,000, are a family many would call middle class. But they have been priced out of the private health insurance market, and their circumstances illustrate the core of a political battle over how much a family can earn for their children to qualify for a federal-state partnership called the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP. If the outcome of Washington politics goes one way, the children could remain uninsured. If it goes the other way, the children might get health insurance.

Sophia and Wes Wirkkala decided, despite his embarrassment, that they should tell their story of how difficult it can be for a family of modest, middle-class means to maintain health insurance. Sophia is not ashamed, just fearful for her children and angry at a system that has pushed health insurance premiums out of reach.

She lies awake at night, worrying about the health of her three perfectly healthy children. "We're in the boat we're in because I'm a stay-at-home mom," she says. "We chose to have children, and we planned that I would stay home with them and home-school the kids. We want to raise kids that are going to grow up and be great adult citizens. We question that decision all the time. You look at your children sleeping, and you say, 'I'm not providing healthcare for these kids.' "

The Wirkkalas are, by most definitions, doing all right. They live in a four-bedroom house in Dana Point that was starting to sag toward the canyon depths when they bought it three years ago. Because Wes knows what to do with a power saw and a nail gun, the house has been shored up and improved with beamed ceilings, antiques incorporated into bathroom vanities, and a granite-countered modern kitchen. An independent contractor, he says: "This home is my business card."

From the patio that fronts the canyon, one can catch a glimpse of the Pacific. "You look at our home," Sophia says, "and you think, 'They probably have everything.' "

Yeah, everything but ethics and brains. You know what's "embarrassing"? It's a couple that earns $70,000 a year but can't find $450 a month to put into health insurance for their family:

When the monthly premium reached $450 last year, the couple decided that the payments were unsustainable.

...If Congress fails to act, or even if funding is held to present levels, or increased to administration-recommended levels, the California HealthCare Foundation estimates that up to 600,000 children in California could lose their health insurance beginning in 2008. Because of healthcare inflation, California and many other states would have to begin closing off new enrollments and disenrolling some insured children, according to the foundation's projections. "The funding wouldn't allow California to maintain its present caseload, and keep up with inflation," Finocchio says.

With Washington at a stalemate, the program, which expired in September, is being extended at current funding levels, month by month, with the latest program expiration deadline set at Dec. 14. Until politicians sort it out, a California family of five, under the SCHIP program called Healthy Families, can still earn up to $60,325.

The Wirkkalas make too much money.

But if the Democrats' plan passes, and the governor's and state's legislative proposals are enacted, benefits could extend to children in California households earning up to 300% of poverty levels, or $72,390 for a family of five.

The Wirkkalas would squeak in under the wire.

Why should I pay for them? Lose the ocean view, send the kids to public school, have Mommy get a job, and get Kaiser, mooches.

By the way, where's my taxpayer-funded $535,000-plus home? I mean, if I don't have to pay for health insurance because other people are paying my way, there are a lot of luxuries I can afford!

I'm with this commenter on the LAT story:

10. They have a choice. Every kid does not need thier own bedroom. I shared a bedroom with my sister and 1 bathroom with 3 other siblings. Live in a less expensive palce, other state or even another city. The father work for a company that provides insurance. He is being very selfish wanting his own business that does not provide for the family. He says he wants time with his family, but he works 6 days a week. The mother put your kids in public school and get a job during the day. You want that lifestyle with 3-kids, its your responsibility to PLAN for it! It's not right to ask me or anyone else to feel sorry for them. Submitted by: Leza 11:24 AM PST, November 25, 2007

Yeah, you know what? You can keep Universal Health Care. What I really want is Universal Beachfront Homes. Pony up, taxpayers! Ocean view, here I come!

thanks, Kate

Posted by aalkon at November 27, 2007 1:05 PM


OK, I make more than this punk, I have no kids, and I bought a house for under 200 grand.

How the fuck can he afford the mortgage payment on a house three times as expensive? I know I couldn't afford a $4500/mo mortgage!

The problem with this country is that pissants like this family have not grown up. They feel entitled to everything they want, regardless of who has to pay for it.

I guess the concept of living within one's means is officially dead. I'll wait over here in the corner for the fall of civilization.

Posted by: brian at November 27, 2007 5:00 AM

I guess the concept of living within one's means is officially dead.

I practice it. Couldn't imagine living any other way. Then again, I consider the notion that other people would pay for me the atheist version of a mortal sin.

I just went shopping for the first time in a long time this weekend. Bought an evening dress. Glamorous, full-length, slinky-drapey Greek goddess number. Vintage Halston, in fact.


Well, $32-something with tax.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 27, 2007 5:07 AM

On $70,000 a year, they bought a $535,000 home? And at that, it was apparently a fixer . . . . And I don't buy the "my home is my card" bit, because why would clients ever see his home?

No sympathy for these people whatsoever.

Posted by: jenl1625 at November 27, 2007 5:09 AM

Ya know what? I make around $50K/year, and I rent my house! But, I also pay around $120/month for health insurance for my girls and I, through my work. It's going to go up a little next year, and I am so willing to pay it, because not having it would be so totally irresponsible on my part that I don't think I could live with myself if I didn't.

Posted by: Flynne at November 27, 2007 5:16 AM

This one is a no-brainer for me. Of course I agree with Amy.

But it makes me wonder...

Can't the LA Times come up with an example that would evoke sympathy instead of disgust? Or am I so far outside of mainstream thinking that I'm missing that it does actually evoke sympathy from some people?

Posted by: Shawn at November 27, 2007 5:22 AM

Shawn -

This is a problem with the bi-coastal elites. In LA, $535,000 for a house is cheap. If you scooped up my 1,034 sq. ft. ranch on about 1/3 acre in central CT and put it in Westchester (one of the richest counties in New York) it would double in value. Put it in any of the high-rent districts in California, and it'll quadruple.

What I don't get is how someone feels entitled to live in a house that expensive. Punko and his wife shouldn't be mad at the price of insurance, they should be mad at the politicians and realtors that have conspired to drive home prices in California through the roof.

Or they could, I don't know, MOVE TO A CHEAPER STATE.

Posted by: brian at November 27, 2007 5:32 AM

P.S. I e-mailed the woman to see if she'd give her side:

Dear Mrs. Wirkkala, I've written about this and I'd like to ask you about your story: Can you please explain why you think it's right for others to fund your choices? I live very frugally so I can afford health care and pay my way in life. I don't live in a beachview home or homeschool children. What about not homeschooling your children and getting a job so I and others don't have to pay for your family's healthcare? -Amy Alkon

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 27, 2007 5:32 AM

In LA, $535,000 for a house is cheap.

I love living here, so I rent. And I'm very, very nice to my landlord, and never pay late.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 27, 2007 5:35 AM

$450/month for five people, including two 40 year olds...doesn't that seem CHEAP?!

I just got off the phone w/ my mother. She's a nurse and when she was working part time she was paying $1,200/month for Harvard Pilgrim for the family. Realizing this was crap she started working full time and the monthly cost for our family of five dropped to $500/month (still high - I pay like $70/month for myself right now).

These people get NO sympathy. I just told my mother about this article (as she's driving to her twelve hour shift) and she was outraged (and my mom doesn't get outraged). "You go blog that she needs to work at Home Depot at night or Starbucks! I worked 3pm-11pm so I could be with my kids during the day. She can do it too!" Oh snap, mom. I hope she never meets Mrs. Wirkkala.

On a separate note, I asked my mom how much she's been saving now that I'm no longer on the family health insurance. "None, you pay for "the family" not by number of people." Wow, wake up call - didn't know it worked that way. I could have lived ignorantly of the fact that my health insurance might be cheaper if people actually had to pay extra for additional dependents. AKA, people had to pay for their own kids. Blasphemy!

Posted by: Gretchen at November 27, 2007 6:01 AM

These jokers can afford thousands of dollars worth of granite countertops and oak beams but they can't afford a basic health insurance policy? It's enough to make me want to vote republican!

Posted by: JoJo at November 27, 2007 6:31 AM

Yeah, Gretchen, kids are pretty cheap to add to a policy. Once they are out of infancy, kids health costs are vanishingly low compared to the older set whose bodies are falling apart. I get dinged pretty good for a policy, but I can add one kid for $50 a month. After two, any more kids are no charge.

The Wirkkalas justifying not buying health insurance reminds of the short time I was a slumlord. People wouldn't pay their rent, and tell me how terrible their life was, but meanwhile they had a multitude of, ahem, "leisure" activities for which they seemed to find money. After awhile you just quit giving them and their stories any credibility.

Posted by: doombuggy at November 27, 2007 6:39 AM

"kids health costs are vanishingly low compared to the older set whose bodies are falling apart" yeah that's what my mom said - kids are cheap "maybe two or three office visits a year and one broken bone per childhood."

The expensive people are the diabetics and smokers.

Posted by: Gretchen at November 27, 2007 6:54 AM

P.S. I e-mailed the woman to see if she'd give her side

So, Amy, have you heard from her yet? Inquiring minds want to know...

Posted by: Flynne at November 27, 2007 7:10 AM

No word yet!

Posted by: Amy Alkon Author Profile Page at November 27, 2007 7:16 AM

That poor, poor eight-year-old. I'm serious. Eight-year-olds should not be worrying about whether their parents can afford to pay for broken arms. Kid should be doing his daredevil thing on the skateboard and having fun.

The Washington Post has a personal finance column, Michelle Singletary, who glories in being a tightwad (well, except when it comes to things such as her kids' college funds). Turn her loose on this family's finances and she could find $450/month easily...though "easily" might include a suggestion that the mom go work at Starbucks. Yes, homeschooling is wonderful and great and all that. One of my favorite bloggers homeschools even though her family doesn't make a hefty income. But she's a very active freelancer who can write at home. And she just has two kids. (And a husband who can apparently manage their personal finances very, very well.)

I am willing to grant that $70,000 in Southern Cal with three kids means that you're just scraping by. But $70,000 in Alabama or most of Texas means you're doing very well. Have they considered moving? Or has the dad considered putting his business on hold and getting a regular job? And I know I keep harping on Starbucks, don't even have to work 40 hours a week there to get insurance!

Sigh. You know what types of stories tug at my heartstrings? Stories of, say, 20something women who are trying to raise their twins conceived when they got knocked up by their cracksmoking mother's "boyfriend," support themselves, and get a college degree at the same time. If you can prove to me that those people need this extension, I'll listen. So far I feel as though I'm being asked to fund people's desire to avoid working for The Man. Sorry, guys - I'm doing my best to join The Man for several decades so that I can have a comfortable life. And I don't even have any kids.

Posted by: marion at November 27, 2007 7:24 AM

Not very good parents either. Why is he worrying an 8-year-old kid with this!

Posted by: Donna at November 27, 2007 7:30 AM

Maybe he's hoping to be in the next round of Democratic advertisements. That must be it - he's a Republican plant!!!!


Posted by: brian at November 27, 2007 7:44 AM

Gretchen, your mom story made my day. I hope you thanked her this past Thursday.

Posted by: snakeman99 at November 27, 2007 8:04 AM

70k in So Cal for an independent contractor means he's probably freaking inept. Unless private contractor is some new code word for American Day laborer. Also how the hell are you paying for a 535k mortgage on 70 thousand? How many federal programs are they sitting on to get this paid? Maybe a 50 year fixed rate mortgage, which is completely insane unless your flipping.

As far as the price of houses in Cal. it has nothing to do with the brokers, bankers and what not. Blaming them is total bullshit and shows a lack of understanding the finer points of supply and demand. The houses in Cal are that expensive because people are buying them. Why are house prices so low in many places? There are lots of houses for sale and not many buyers.

Basic point if you can't afford a 500k home don't buy one and expect us to pay your other bills.

Posted by: vlad at November 27, 2007 8:05 AM

They could insure just the kids, but I wonder if there's a pre-existing condition or something that jacks up their rates. After my WGA and DGA benefits ran out, we got Kaiser. It's not fabulous, but it's there. We don't have dental, but we go to USC's dental school and pay about half what private practice costs.

But who lets a baby get behind on vaccinations? And worst case--Dad could set up a barter with a pediatrician.

Posted by: KateCoe at November 27, 2007 8:09 AM

"The expensive people are the diabetics and smokers." Yeah but don't they usually have higher premiums.

Posted by: vlad at November 27, 2007 8:10 AM

Don't worry Snakeman, I thank my mom all the time by doing as much for her as possible (like making dinner a few times a week and picking up the house b/c I get home from work first). My mom does kick ass...

Posted by: Gretchen at November 27, 2007 8:21 AM

"But $70,000 in Alabama or most of Texas means you're doing very well. " - Marion.

That's a good idea, in theory, but not usually how it works.

If they moved to another state where "it's cheaper" it almost always brings an income adjustment. His customers are also living and working there - and will most likely have less cash to spend. It's not a safe bet that if they moved he'd be able to get enough work in a given area to support the family.

...If it didn't work that way my boyfriend would sell his tiny (like, 700 sq. foot) three bedroom and cash in down south...but then his income would fall b/c there aren't as many old rich people as there are in Boston (esp. since the winter-ers down south keep their money business in order back here in Boston). Someone has to write their wills and keep their cash generating unearned income.

That said, even considering that 500k doesn't go very far in some areas, I'm SURE there is something more affordable...but maybe they'd have to serve their babies' food on Formica counters, not granite. The world is a harsh, harsh place when you can't have granite and an ocean view AND have taxpayers pay your kids' health care expenses.

This is *all about* these people needing to get a reality check - can't have it all folks, and adjust their living expenses accordingly.

Posted by: Gretchen at November 27, 2007 8:31 AM

"Yeah but don't they usually have higher premiums." I wonder if they're high enough to fully offset the cost of benefits they incur. Doubtful...

Posted by: Gretchen at November 27, 2007 8:40 AM

My Dad and I built our house. We moved in when I was in fifth grade. My mom worked. All we had was a tin roof, no ceiling, tar paper walls, an out house and cold water in the bath room. My mom cooked on a camp stove. Now I am what would be classified as rich and I still don’t have a $535,000 house.
These folks are ass holes. I am sick and tired of this discrimitory socialism. If the country is going to give something away, then everyone should get it.

Posted by: rusty wilson at November 27, 2007 9:08 AM

What troubles me most is this quote, from Mrs. H: "We want to raise kids that are going to grow up and be great adult citizens."

One of the most important traits of a "great adult citizen" is ACCOUNTABILITY.

...and we teach our children their first vital lessons in Accountability by holding ourselves accountable for them.

Posted by: sofar at November 27, 2007 9:12 AM

Great point about teaching accountability. As I wrote in my e-mail to her: "Can you please explain why you think it's right for others to fund your choices?"

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 27, 2007 9:55 AM

My mother is a stroke victim, her insurance premiums are $15,000 a year. (On a very good policy, however in the very CHEAP state of Missouri.) She could easily live another 20 years (she was 54 whens he had the stroke) during which time she will not be able to switch insurance carriers or go uninsured or she will never get re insured. This means that the company will make somewhere between 150k and 300k from her post stroke. If anything else major happens I am sure her premiums will go up as well. They will probably break even on her medical care eventually.

However, if my parents were not very wealthy this would be a much more difficult prospect. If they were still above the line for government insurance but unable to afford 15k a year she would have to go uninsured because there is no safety net for people like that. (Not that I think they should get it for free, but perhaps, subsidized.)

Frankly though I find the idea of someone homeschooling their kids on 70k a year repellent. If you cannot afford something you GET A JOB. I bet if they couldn't afford their mortgage, food, electric bills, big screen tv etc she would get a job. But she can't get one that makes 450/month for health care?

Being a stay at home mom is only an option if you can afford it.

Though, this is a revolutionary idea, I don't want to send my dog to daycare, so I'm goign to quit my job and stay home with him all the time. Surely there are government programs that will help me pay my rent.

Posted by: Shinobi at November 27, 2007 10:35 AM

There is absolutely no reason they can't get insurance for the kids alone. Way back when I was doing the sex, drugs and rock & roll (pretty much nothing else) I fathered a child. I was required to provide health insurance, along with the child support. I got him insurance that was just as good as that which the state provided, for little more than fifty a month. His mom and her husband (who adopted him when they got married) actually kept him on it, because it was better than hubbie's insurance from work.

And even if the children don't qualify for s-chip, there are low income alternatives in most states. If things had been different with the first child I contributed my genetics to, I could have gotten him on a plan that cost only fifteen dollars a month. A plan that was designed for families that don't make enough for regular insurance, but make too much for state coverage.

But it's much easier to whine about the situation, instead of seeking alternatives.

As an aside, it also makes me wonder about whether he carries liability and workman's comp. These are not cheap, indeed, they suck down a significant percentage of what I charge. It would be a huge boon, if I just let them lapse - until the worse happens on the job. A lot and I mean a lot, lot, of contractors don't keep it up. You'll never guess who pays if they don't and they get hurt. Hint; it first word starts with a T, second starts with a P. The total sit of it is, that a lot of them don't pay into SSI, or don't declare their whole income. A great way to get something for nothing.

Posted by: DuWayne at November 27, 2007 11:47 AM

I am for national catastrophic health insurance. Then costs are capped. With the upper limit capped, health insurance becomes affordable.
My logic is that in major health cases, think cancer, aids and etcetera, we all benefit from the experimental care of these folks. Science still goes on, families, or in your case Amy individuals, lives are not ruined.
Of course, it has to be available to everyone. There should be a fee.
Screw this qualify for BS.

Posted by: rusty wilson at November 27, 2007 12:02 PM

rusty wilson -

HSA's are basically that. The premiums are extremely manageable, they just carry a very high deductible. You don't have any tax liability for the money you put into the account, unless you take it out to spend on something not related to health care.

I don't remember who had the plan (slightly different from bush's), but it pretty much went along the lines of using the EITC to cover the deductible for those who qualify. At the very bottom end, the state would cover the cost of the premiums as well.

This is keeping in mind that I, a smoker, will be paying right around sixty dollars a month for my whole family, with a fifteen hundred dollar deductible. I can get it in under fifty, when I increase the deductible to twenty-five hundred. When I quit smoking (the insurance company will cover much of the cost of smoking cessation drugs), my premium will drop eight dollars a month.

The great thing is that the plan covers dental and vision. While most of it will come out of my pocket, the money that I am paying carries no tax liability and may even qualify me for a deduction.

Posted by: DuWayne at November 27, 2007 12:12 PM

Last night in my Microeconomics class my professor actually made a comment that in the state of California the poverty level was $50,000/year and the "break-even" level was $75,000/year (both amounts for households - or a family of four). Now I wish that I had asked where the figures came from.

However, these people are crazy! We live in the SF Bay Area, are paying a mortgage on our home, have 4 boys, make do with one vehicle, and pay for me to go to night school. I'll be a SAHM/secretary for my husband's business until my youngest enters school (2 more years) at which time I will rejoin the workforce. At this point in time we don't make that much more than the Wirkkala's, but we make sure that we send off $800 to Kaiser every month to stay insured!

They should at least insure the children. Good grief, she could work part-time at Starbucks and get insurance for the whole family. Homeschooling doesn't take up the entire day!

Posted by: Kristen at November 27, 2007 12:17 PM

I'm an alumnus of alternative education myself. I think that homeschooling is a fantastic option that really does benefit kids far more than a traditional education. (Feel free to disagree with me. I'm speaking only from personal experience and am aware that the plural of anecdote is not data). Personally I think if a family has the resources, ability, and willingness to teach their own kids, they should. I can absolutely see how someone would consider homeschooling a 'need' as opposed to a luxury.

But godDAMMIT this lady needs to get a clue. She doesn't even have to send her kids to school to get a job. One of the joys of homeschooling is the flexibility. Let them goof off with dad while you go put in the few hours a week you'd need to make that $500 a month. It doesn't matter if the learning gets done in the morning or at night. It's still the same knowledge. Or heaven forfend, let dad take over some of the teaching responsibility while you put in your time at the salt mines.

I mean come one, if you've got the common sense to pour piss out of a boot (as my mom would say) then you can figure out how to juggle a homeschoolng schedule. ESPECIALLY in a two parent home.

Posted by: Elle at November 27, 2007 12:34 PM

Kristen, you're one of my heroes.

Being a stay at home mom is only an option if you can afford it.

And sometimes you can afford it if you make cuts elsewhere. Deep cuts, sometimes. No granite countertops. No cable. No landline phones. Maybe have only two children, instead of three. I've had friends who did the stay-at-home parent thing and made real sacrifices to ensure that they could do so and live within their means (and "living within their means" sure as hell meant ensuring that their kids had health insurance). When I see families like this who want to live Just As They Choose and get the state to cover little items such as insuring their kids, it burns me up. Gah.

Look, I am aware that there are some valid arguments for nationalizing health insurance. But so far, most of the anecdotes I see that are supposed to support this particular increase in the nationalization of health insurance just make me think that we should require people to get a license before they breed. And I notice that none of these people seem to be unhappy with the level of taxes that they're paying...and the journalists writing these "heart-tugging" pieces ever seem to mention that the funding for these programs come from tax dollars. The only thing I think when reading this article is that parents who not only fail to insure their children but also throw a huge amount of worry and uncertainty on their little shoulders solely so that the *parents* can do what they want are doing a really, really awful job.

Posted by: marion at November 27, 2007 12:37 PM

I was thinking along the lines of a policy that kicked in after ten thousand.....per incident
Personally, I don’t need it, but I think it is a better idea than socialized median. Currently I am providing insurance for about twenty employees.

Posted by: rusty wilson at November 27, 2007 12:39 PM

"Once they are out of infancy,"

Even in infancy many health plans do not cover 'well baby care'. You pay for your own vaccinations and circumcisions and checkups. The insurance risk seems to be in birth defects and autism treatment.

"Also how the hell are you paying for a 535k mortgage on 70 thousand?" - Equity from the previous home? There are a lot of people in this state sitting on a couple of hundred grand that they didn't earn through wages.

We definately have a case of managing expectations here. Your health insurance probably should cost more than your car payment. Life and liberty come before the pursuit of happiness.

Part of the problem is that we have built an economy that runs on the pursuit of happiness. My family has had to tighten our belt a bit latlely. I've put on hold the plans for a new car and we are still watching a patheticly small 20" TV. Going into conservative spending mode is great for me, but it hurts the rest of you who share this economy with me, at least in the short term. I see this push for socialized medicine as the same thing as Social Security, stabilize people's monthly economy so they can spend more of their earnings and keep the recesions at bay. I'm no economist so I take no position on whether that is the right way to run an economy.

Posted by: smurfy at November 27, 2007 1:02 PM

Thank you Marion. It's always nice to hear praise. It's damned hard to keep all the balls up in the air all the time. If I wasn't in school I WOULD be working evenings somewhere. The extra income would help tremendously, but we can scrimp and save for 2 more years.

The Wirrkalas need to be hit across the head with a clue-by-4. Hopefully it happens before one of them needs medical care.

Posted by: Kristen at November 27, 2007 1:03 PM

> You pay for your own vaccinations and circumcisions...

Well, there's an easy money-saver right there. Resist the temptation to engage in primitive ritual sexual mutilation of your children. Ka-CHIIINNNGGGGGGGG!

Posted by: Stu "El Inglés" Harris at November 27, 2007 1:10 PM

It's been almost 6 hours, Amy. Any word from the other camp?

Posted by: Flynne at November 27, 2007 1:39 PM

Where the hell did the American middle class go?

Posted by: Gog_Magog_Carpet_Reclaimers at November 27, 2007 2:13 PM

It got rich.

Posted by: brian at November 27, 2007 3:18 PM

Posted by: rusty wilson at November 27, 2007 3:36 PM

Flynne, the beauty of AOL to AOL e-mail -- the status report; in this case:

(not yet read)

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 27, 2007 4:39 PM

Rusty -

That's assuming you buy into the catastrophic climate change scenarios. There's better evidence for the existence of God.

What you're seeing is the good old UN Shakedown.

I'll start believing it's a crisis when the people who keep telling me it is start acting like it.

Posted by: brian at November 27, 2007 5:05 PM

Median income in all of WA state is $52,583. Bet its higher in Seattle and LA

Posted by: moe99 at November 27, 2007 5:06 PM

I'm with Flynne...I can't wait to see how she justifies herself to you. Give her hell, Amy!

Posted by: Sarah at November 27, 2007 6:38 PM

I'm guessing you haven't heard anything from Camp Wirkkala yet, eh, Amy? I'm so surprised. /sarc

Posted by: Flynne at November 28, 2007 9:52 AM

I absolutely agree with everyone here - these parents should be smacked around a little (I think this should be an addendum to my home-state's new anti-spanking law - can't spank the kids, but you can sure as hell spank adults who don't get health insurance for their kids. Then again, it’s now illegal NOT to have insurance in Massachusetts. I heart MA).

That being said - in some ways, isn't this a good argument FOR having the state pay for this couple's 3 kids to have healthcare? It isn't the kids' fault they have irresponsible parents - you can choose your friends but you can't choose your family (my family motto). Those kids should have health insurance, even if their parents are idiots. Studies have shown that, in the long run, children without health insurance have more health problems throughout adulthood. No matter what I think of the parents, I don't wish a lifetime of health problems on the children.

Posted by: lynz at November 28, 2007 11:39 AM

Still nothing, Flynne.

Posted by: Amy Alkon Author Profile Page at November 28, 2007 12:22 PM

What is the status of the email? Read or unread?

Posted by: kg at November 28, 2007 12:26 PM


Posted by: Amy Alkon Author Profile Page at November 28, 2007 12:30 PM

Lynz, normally, I'd agree with you, and it's true that it's not the kids' fault that they don't have insurance, but why enable the parents? Why not penalize them? "yes, we'll have the state insure your kids, but you forfeit whatever tax return you would have gotten." Or something along those lines. Lettling the parents off scot-free will only reinforce their irresponsibility, won't it? YMMV

Posted by: Flynne at November 28, 2007 1:14 PM

Flynne - true, and really, I think the whole system is broken and insurance (at least for children) should be required by law. Or we should have universal health insurance. But so far I'm not queen of the world, which I think is even more ridiculous.

BUT, while we don't have mandatory or universal insurance, you're going to have schlubby parents like these cutting corners and screwing with their childrens' futures. And this couple has already proved that they don't care about their childrens' health - whether we're enabling them or not. Ask them to forfeit their tax return? I'd bet they'd just choose to declare fewer deductions up front so there wouldn't be a return to be had anyway.

I used to work at a day camp for underprivlidged children. Some of the parents were working their fingers to the bone to make a better life for their kids. And some just didn't give a crap. Those were the parents who wouldn't come pick up their kids until nearly three hours after the camp closed in the evening. Was I enabling those parents by staying late to look after their children until they finally showed up? Yes. But was I going to go home and leave a 6-year-old alone to wait? Of course not.

Those parents suck and shouldn't be allowed to have children they won't support, but kids still deserve a chance at a healthy life. In a way it does enable the parents, but if they weren't going to be responsible individuals anyway, at least I'd feel better knowing their innocent kids are getting a fair shot at being healthy adults.

Posted by: Lynz at November 29, 2007 7:07 AM

not a single one of you people know the entire story about the wirkkalas, they are awesome parents, it makes me sick to read all the mean horrible things that are being written about this family. I dont remember reading one time in the article that they want a hand out, i think the main reason for the article is to show that even families of middle class are priced out of health care.

Posted by: leslie at November 29, 2007 10:10 PM

Nobody told these people to have children they couldn't afford to support. The mother could work and send the kids to public school. They could live in a rental or in a cheaper house. Saying they are "awesome parents" is ridiculous -- you give no rebuttals to anything posted about them or included in the article.

Furthermore, I e-mailed them and got no response. You know them? Ask them to respond.

The questions: How dare they extrude three children and live in a fancy community and think they have the luxury of home-schooling their kids and then expect the rest of us to pay their health insurance? How dare they burden their kids the way they did, telling them to not fall off their skateboards because there's no money for broken arms. How...disgusting.

I have always paid my way, including my healthcare costs. And sorry to mention it again for all you regular blog readers, but at one point, after I was forced to leave an NYC apartment share, I couldn't afford a bed. (I slept in a sleeping bag on an old door propped up on two milk crates.) But, even then, I paid my health insurance, because my health care is MY responsibility, nobody else's.

Go ahead, tell us "the entire story."

"Priced out of health care"? A family has three children it can't afford to take care of because they live in a fancy schmancy ocean-view house and would rather home-school their kids? Vile.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 29, 2007 11:47 PM

Ohh...I just clicked on your's actually a link to nothing. have the big true story about them...but you aren't willing to leave your actual name? Righhhht.

Not a surprise, considering you seem to be a friend or acquaintance of the family that thinks it's okay to have other people pay their way, that you would be the type to not stand behind your defense with an actual name.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 29, 2007 11:50 PM

that is my real name..your funny

Posted by: leslie at November 30, 2007 12:59 PM

And you're a liar, because even when I click on your name and wait to be "re-directed" "your" page still doesn't load. Try again?

Posted by: Flynne at December 1, 2007 7:25 AM

You give your first name as Leslie, but only direct via the link to a fake/non-existent page. Why don't you stand behind what you post with a real name? And why do you say they're "awesome" parents, then not give a shred of evidence to dispute what's being said here about them -- I'm guessing because we're all correct in our appraisals. Is that the case? If it's not the case, come on, show us. Prove us wrong.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at December 1, 2007 7:50 AM

some how whatever i filled out to resond must make you all think that i have a web page, i dont, but i am leslie and i am a friend of the wirkkalas and NO im not falling for the reverse psychology of "tell me the real story if its true. Come on...i wouldnt give you people the pleasure of really knowing the wirkkalas, you see what you want to this all you people have to do all day is judge and bash others? you have heard about 1 % of what their life is like,i sure hope none of you have to deal with hardship...its a sad thing....

Posted by: leslie at December 1, 2007 9:12 PM

Look, you can't say they have hardship - which was not revealed in an article about them and their health insurance situation -- and then not reveal it. It's just not acceptable.

As for "the pleasure of knowing the Wirkkala's," I don't find it a pleasure to be around such people -- people who burden their kids with telling them not to fall when they're skateboarding rather than doing the parental thing and paying for their health insurance.

What seems clear is that all you have to defend them with is your weak little they're "awesome." Sorry, anonymous Leslie, that doesn't fly here. What's your last name, and why don't you stand behind your posts with it?

Perhaps you're kind of dim, but wanting to know the facts behind your contention that they're "awesome" parents and the suggestion that they have "hardship" (which somehow escaped the LA Times reporter in the story that went down to the nitty gritty of the dad telling the kid not to fall off the skateboard)...well, wanting to know the real story is not "reverse psychology."

Posted by: Amy Alkon at December 1, 2007 10:07 PM

Forget about her, Amy, she's a useless liar. We'll never get the real story, because there isn't one. How much you wanna bet the Wirkkalas called that reporter to give him their "story", only to have it backfire in their faces?

Posted by: Flynne at December 2, 2007 8:49 AM

We make $80,000, COMBINED income, which shows the value the US gives to educators. If I quit work, our pay would drop to $45,000. Our insurance right now is generously paid for through my work, costing only $220 per month with no deductible. I work for a private college in the south. My husband works for a large public university. If he carries our insurance it is $550 per month, with a $2000 deductible, and only 80% coverage. We bought a house that cost $159,000, with 1500 sq. feet. We have a toddler and are expecting number two in April.

While I agree that there is NO RIGHT to healthcare in America, I do have a problem paying high taxes for folks like this family, that are doing exactly what I desperately want to do but have seriously ethical problems actually doing it.

Ultimately, to steer this dialogue away from the family in question, healthcare in this country has priced itself out for most families, but MAINLY because of idiots that expect the government to cover their emergency room visit for a damn cold.

Posted by: mossrenie at December 2, 2007 6:11 PM

idiots that expect the government to cover their emergency room visit for a damn cold.

This could, perhaps, be an answer to that:

Posted by: Amy Alkon at December 2, 2007 6:32 PM

All you people saying that she should get a job and put the children in public school - you do understand that you pay for public school as well? CA spends around 10k/year on each child in school. They're saving you money keeping their children out. Mom just needs to work at the mall on Saturdays for that $450/mo.

It's a little eerie seeing people tell a woman she should get a job to pay for healthcare and not depend on the taxpayers, by putting her children in school at the expense of the taxpayers. You can make arguments that the state should pay for an educated citizenry but not for a vaccinated one that gets regular check-ups, but they're pretty lousy arguments. Please explain to me why health care is the sole financial responsibility of the parent, but education isn't? I'll be waiting.

The biggest middle class entitlement is public education. I don't want to pay for the childcare and education of anyone who isn't desperately poor, anymore than I want to pay for their healthcare. People didn't get the idea that the government should just magically pay for their healthcare out of nowhere. They got it from getting those free six hours of babysitting five days a week.

Posted by: Karen at December 7, 2007 3:09 PM

I've blogged about this before -- exactly what you say above about who should pay for public education. I'll pay for the very poor, but if you're middle-class, it should be on your dime, not the rest of ours. And if you aren't middle-class, and can't afford to pay for your progeny's health, welfare and education...what are you doing pumping out kids?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at December 7, 2007 3:32 PM

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