Looming above me were the steep gray flanks of 11,000-foot Lone Peak, vertical gorges plunging from its summit, bracketed by jagged granite outcroppings, challenged only by the best skiers and snowboarders.
Except many of those skiing or boarding these narrow alleys aren’t the best. They’re in their late 20s or early 30s and think they’re bulletproof, good enough to tackle this merciless terrain.
Fortunately, the ski patrol hangs around the bottom of the headwaters, where the chutes terminate, ready to pack up the next humbled buckaroo and sled him or her down to the emergency clinic.
This got me to thinking how important it was for young people to sign up for health insurance before the March 31 deadline, after which they’d be subject to a penalty under the Affordable Care Act.
Like so many sports beloved by young adults, skiing and snowboarding are inherently dangerous. So is mountain biking, scuba diving, motocross or weightlifting, as 28-year-old CrossFit athlete Kevin Ogar learned in January when he was paralyzed from the waist down after a freak accident.
Ogar, who will never walk again, had no health insurance. He has endured two surgeries, his medical bills topping $330,000. Thankfully, the close-knit CrossFit community raised more than that amount to cover his care.
But what about the skateboarder who bartends nights? What happens when he sustains a compound arm fracture requiring multiple orthopedic surgeries? Or the young man who crashes his Kawasaki “crotch rocket” and ends up at the Shepherd Center in Buckhead?
It happens every day, and if they lack health insurance, nobody is going to raise the money to pay for their hospitalization unless their families do.
Catastrophic injuries or illnesses often result in catastrophic medical costs with many families forced to sell their homes to meet them. Bankruptcies are common. And we haven’t even begun talking about long-term care.
Let’s be clear: Obamacare is here to stay.
Only desperate tea party panderers like U.S. Reps. Paul Broun and Jack Kingston are going to tell parents they can no longer keep their kids on their health insurance plans through age 26, or that preexisting conditions won’t be covered as mandated by the Affordable Care Act.
No politician who wants to get elected will demand health insurance companies return to the lifetime coverage limits they enjoyed before Obamacare.
For young adults — or perhaps moms and dads who might influence them — health insurance is a no-brainer. Why run the risk, especially if you’re active? And, of course, diseases like cancer or lupus can strike anyone anytime.
A 27-year-old living in Marietta and earning $25,000 annually can choose a Bronze Plan at Healthcare.gov starting at $105 per month. He may also qualify for a $60 per-month tax credit, bringing the premium down to $45 per month, or $1.50 per day, less than the price of a cup of coffee at Starbucks.
All plans under Obamacare include free preventative services such as immunization shots and cancer screenings.
These costs might be lower if there was a state health insurance exchange like those in Kentucky, New York and California. However, Gov. Nathan Deal and Republicans in the state Legislature want the Affordable Care Act to fail, not because it’s bad policy but because it was enacted by Democrats.
Georgians should keep GOP intransigence in mind when they vote in November.
Meantime, Fox News’ resident genius, Eric Bolling, told viewers it’s better for young people to pay the penalty than purchase health insurance, great advice until that 27-year-old falls while rock climbing in north Georgia and fractures his vertebrae.
Kevin Foley is an author, writer and public relations executive who lives in Kennesaw.