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Columbia Missourian

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

By Angela Hamilton
October 16, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

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.

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.

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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."