One in 50 million: Moore doesn't see need for coverage

Who are the roughly 50 million Americans without health insurance, and why don't they have it? The Missourian gives voice to the stories of Boone County residents who live without the safety net of insurance. This is the story of Fergus P. Moore.
Friday, October 16, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 12:12 a.m. CDT, Friday, October 16, 2009
Fergus Moore, working from his remote office at Lakota Coffee Company, grades test papers from the art history class he teaches at Moberly Area Community College. He chooses not to carry health insurance.

COLUMBIA — Fergus P. Moore has good reason to be wary of health insurance providers.

A nine-year resident of Columbia, Moore, 46, has been all over the country. Aside from Missouri, he's lived and worked in West Virginia, Massachusetts, Texas, Colorado, California and Kentucky. He has a bachelor's degree in psychology, has worked as a potter, teaches art history and studio art at Moberly Area Community College, and plays bucket bass in a neighborhood band. He's even in the process of building a wood-fueled firing oven in his backyard. He's been married, divorced and is a father of two.

The one constant, despite Moore's years of gainful employment, is having no health insurance.

"I don't consider myself poor," Moore said, "but I cut costs where I can. The kids and I have old-time fun. You know, go out in the yard and kick a ball around."

The prohibitive cost of out-of-pocket unsubsidized health care is just one of the problems with insurance coverage. There is also a "power inequity," Moore said, which gives corporations the freedom to deny coverage to clients with pre-existing conditions. It's his view that insurance companies are entities that can hide behind a corporate logo, and patients have no recourse when there is a breach in the agreement.

"(Insurance companies) get so driven by the bottom line," Moore said, "and anything can be written into the small print. I'm not against people making profits, or even corporations making profits, but it's just gotten out of hand." 

It's a point of view that comes from personal experience. When Moore was 27, he underwent a surgical procedure to correct an umbilical hernia, a condition he'd had from birth. Although it isn't life-threatening, the condition can lead to complications later in life if left untreated.

Moore's insurance company at the time indicated it would pay for the surgery. Moore had the surgery. Problem solved.

Two years later, Moore had moved on to a new city and a new job when he received a letter from a collection agency demanding payment for the surgery. The insurance company had not only failed to pay for the surgery but had also neglected to let Moore know that the company's plan to cover his surgery had changed.

So Moore found himself on the hook for a $3,600 medical bill, due immediately. He had no way to pay it on such short notice, so he borrowed money from friends to cover the past-due balance.

Moore has been living without insurance for 15 years and has no plans to remedy the situation anytime soon. He doesn't see why he should pay exorbitant insurance premiums for coverage that won't cover everything.

These days, he would like the security of health insurance. He doesn't really have a plan in place, should he have an accident or get sick, to pay medical bills.

"I don't know," he said good-naturedly. "I don't know what I can plan for."

But he does a lot to stay healthy — eating well and exercising are top priorities. He also said he thinks the country needs to make the public option a priority.

"Socialized medicine shouldn't be a dirty word," Moore said, adding that socializing medicine wouldn't affect private practice "any more than socialized transportation killed the auto industry, or socialized libraries killed the bookstore. I kind of like having socialized roads, police and firefighters — these things, I'm kind of in favor of."

Moore currently works as an adjunct professor at MACC. This position, which he has held for five years, does not offer any health coverage. His daughter, Olivia, and son, Sage, ages 7 and 10 respectively, are covered by his ex-wife's insurance policy.

Moore finds it problematic that insurance companies seem to work so hard to find reasons and excuses not to cover patients for illnesses and accidents.

"The two times I've tried to figure out an insurance plan on my own, it's very complicated," Moore said. "And then they don't cover the things that I need covered. It's almost like the pre-existing condition that disqualifies you is that you're human and you're alive."


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Layton Light October 16, 2009 | 8:29 p.m.

I'm sorry Fergus, but I have to call you on this one. I can't imagine that MACC is happy about the fact that you are advertising that they have hired such an irresponsible excuse for a man such as yourself. You don't see the need for it? Really? How convenient that your ex-wife is responsible enough to work a job that provides insurance for your progeny. And what happens if you are in an accident on your way to your double latte at Lakota? Or what should we do if you fall out from a heart attack brought on by one too many high fat desserts that you treated your smug self to after working so hard at your part time job grading those papers? Should we let you die in the street? I would say, yes, but because we are a decent society, you won’t be refused treatment at the local hospitals, and then you’ll leave them on the hook for the bill, leaving all of us who are responsible enough to actually pay for our health care, to foot the bill in higher premiums and higher health care costs. I’m so sorry you had your feelings hurt by your bad experience with your health care carrier. Welcome to the real world. It’s an amazingly infantile response for an educated, capable person to go without health insurance, and this from a man who has the gall to call himself a father. You should be ashamed of this article.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking October 16, 2009 | 8:45 p.m.

Layton Light wrote:

"And what happens if you are in an accident on your way to your double latte at Lakota? Or what should we do if you fall out from a heart attack brought on by one too many high fat desserts that you treated your smug self to after working so hard at your part time job grading those papers?"

You obviously know nothing about Fergus other than the prejudice that you read into this article. I do know something about Fergus, and he is a responsible, loving father that takes quite good care of himself and his children. He lives very simply, also. And if you actually read the article, he DID pay his medical bill (as he pays all the rest of his bills).

Judge ye not, Layton...


(Report Comment)
Layton Light October 16, 2009 | 10:11 p.m.

Mark Foecking wrote: "Judge ye not, Layton..."

Mark, that only strikes fear into someone who doesn't wish to be judged. Go ahead, I could care less if you want to see how I stack up against others. I know I carry my own weight and don't expect others to pay my way. Besides, Fergus decided to put himself out there, so he can take his lumps.

You say he is a "loving father." How does someone described as that, not provide (In the truest sense of that word!) for his family? How will he be able to contibute to the education and welfare and future of his children, if he is $25K to $50K (or MUCH more) in debt to a hospital because he required surgery due to illness or accident?

And I did read the article, thoroughly, because I was amazed that it was put forth as an example of why we need health care reform, when it's clearly a case of Fergus needing some sort of reform. Unless it's to point out the need for mandates.

Yes, with the help of friends, he paid a measly $3600.00 bill. Have you checked the price of placing a stent in a clogged heart vessel? Or major trauma sugery due to an accident? I've seen it bankrupt people who didn't have insurance, and had more means than Fergus. With the change in bankruptcy laws, he may not even have that option. Then what?

If you want to attack opinion as prejudice, go ahead, but it's a straight up fact, as plain as day, that Fergus and his ilk live off of the good grace of other more responsible people. Because I doubt he'll pay for any catastrophic health bills as an "Adjunct Professor" at MACC, no matter how "simply" he lives, or what kind of payment plan they put him on. I will, when my insurance rates and health care costs go up. I stand by my "judgement."

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