Is GoFundMe Our New Health Insurance?

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This article was published in the October 2017 edition of Blue Skies Magazine.

Is GoFundMe Our New Health Insurance?

We’ve got a problem in our sport. Everyone’s thinking it, but few are talking about it because so many of our friends are doing it – jumping without insurance.

Each month, my social news feed includes a plea for help from a panicked spouse or family member and a link to a GoFundMe page. It pains me to see this as I feel caught between feeling sad and irritated.

Over the last few years, I have contributed to several fundraisers, but my new attitude is
to stop giving. That sounds like a horrible thing to say and I don’t feel good saying it, but it’s how I truly feel. This issue has become far too common. They say, if you’re going to be stupid, you better be tough. I’d add, you better be wealthy.

I no longer feel like opening my wallet for friends who choose to be irresponsible. If jumping without an AAD is frowned upon, so should jumping without insurance. Call me calloused, but if you make the conscious decision to jump uninsured, please respect my conscious decision to not contribute my hard earned money. My compassion runs cold.

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Let’s Open The Conversation

Insurance is not a conversation anyone wants to discuss; it’s like talking about politics and religion; topics for private conversations. We don’t want to seem judgmental by asking someone if they’re insured. We’re just here to skydive and have a good time.

But here’s the thing, we have to talk about this because the consequences are dire for everyone. Today, skydivers have to weigh the cost of insurance versus the risk they’re willing to take and the well-being of our family and friends. I don’t think skydivers are examining these realities because deep down, we don’t truly believe it can happen to us. We’re conservative and ‘safe’ in our approach as opposed to those guys that are pushing real hard. Great thinking until it happens to us.

Here are the tough questions that need to be looked at before we shrug off insurance:

If you choose to skydive without insurance and you’re injured, what does the rest of your life look like financially?

If you are injured, how will your subsequent medical costs affect your family and friends?

It’s Too Expensive

Don’t say insurance is too expensive. It’s cheap compared to the bills you’ll be faced with for the rest of your life or until you win the lottery. The cost of getting injured is so ridiculous that I’m not aware of a single jumper who ever got hurt that felt good about their decision to jump without insurance. They only felt remorseful and guilty for having to depend on others.

In 2012, I tore my ACL on a routine landing. After paying my hefty $5,000 deductible, my insurance company was billed $35,000 for my 45-minute, outpatient surgery. Tack on another $10,000 for rehabbing the knee post surgery. Just getting moderatly injured is crazy- expensive.

I have some friends who have been airlifted out having femured ($15K helicopter ride) and broken their backs and now have medical bills north of $1 million dollars and can’t work because of their injuries.

I hate to say it, but the truth is if you can’t afford insurance, you can’t afford to skydive.

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Family and Friends

The biggest fear I ever had about jumping without insurance was the affect it would have financially on the people that cared for me, especially my parents. Most parents would do anything for their kids if they’ve been injured. If I were to become seriously injured, what would happen to my family’s finances? If married, what kind of financial stress are we placing on our spouses and kids?

At what point do we weigh our desire for jumping versus our selfishness?

Insurance is a Racket

Do I think insurance is a racket? Hell yes. I despise having to shell out $375 per month for mediocre health care with an outrageous deductible that really only helps me if I’m in a catastrophic accident.

But what choice do I have?

I feel like the curmudgeon parent wagging my finger saying, “you’ll shoot your eye out,” but the reality is we’re already shooting our eyes out.

If you jump without insurance and this article makes you think twice, then I’ll own being the curmudgeon. I’m tired of seeing my friends suffer the lifelong consequence of being perpetually broke.

Be safe out there. Much love.


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About James La Barrie

James La Barrie is passionate about marketing and changing a company's service culture. Originally from the Caribbean island of Antigua, James melds his approach of marketing and delivering elite service together as one. James has injected his 'service marketing' approach throughout his career to transform companies from good to great.

4 thoughts on “Is GoFundMe Our New Health Insurance?”

  1. Hi James,

    Excellent heads up for all those jumpers that think it’s going to happen to the “other guy”.

    Your article is timely and written with passion, love and caring for all our great friends who share your passion for the sport.

    It had to be said.

    Bravo!

  2. Good article James. Certainly a concern that some people cannot apparently afford insurance when they can afford to jump. We are at least fortunate in Australia to have the APF insure all jumpers with general indemnity Pubic Liability cover as part of their membership and to have an option (through our Insurers) for Personal Accident Insurance. This is in addition to our free public hospital system (Medicare) and optional health insurance schemes (free except for the government taxes that fund them, but I am not complaining). All up, these supplementary costs here of our pastime are not prohibitive.

    1. John, without question, Australian skydivers are much more fortunate. As we go through the process of purchasing insurance for 2018, premiums continue to skyrocket. It’s getting a little insane…

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