Why Doesn’t Tara Subkoff Have Health Insurance?

Last week it was announced that Tara Subkoff, designer for the edgy, high-end brand Imitation of Christ, was diagnosed with a brain tumor and would be undergoing brain surgery. If she doesn’t get the surgery — which will require a year of recovery, during which she won’t be able to work — within two years, the tumor will be fatal. As a result, her friends — who include big time stars like “The Royal Tenenbaums” director Wes Anderson and actress Chloe Sevigny — are throwing her a silent auction art benefit (they’re asking for donations) tomorrow night in New York City to raise money to pay for the costly procedure.

Because Subkoff, it seems, does not have health insurance. My second response — after the initial, “Oh man, that’s sad” — was, “Umm, why the f**k not?” Nearly 46 million Americans are uninsured. Many are not covered by their employers — if they are not among the over 14 million who are unemployed — and are unable to afford the cost themselves. Others can afford some type of insurance, but don’t bother to apply for it, likely because the cost can seem like a waste if you don’t go to the doctor often. The cost of health insurance ranges, depending on whether you opt for across the board coverage, catastrophic coverage, or somewhere in between — and what individual insurance companies cover varies as well. The options are confusing, the costs are staggering, and it often seems like even when you do have insurance, the insurance companies will do just about anything they can to NOT pay for your medical bills. That said, if you can find a way to afford it, any coverage is better than no coverage, at least until our government decides to join the rest of the first world and provides universal health care.

Subkoff’s diagnosis is frightening. At only 36-years-old, she’s in for a rough ride and she’s lucky to have such supportive friends. But why on earth didn’t she have health insurance? She’s a successful fashion designer. Imitation of Christ was a high-end, niche brand that won her accolades and coverage in the best fashion mags. Her collaboration with mass market shoe purveyor Easy Spirit was extremely successful and made her some serious coin. She also an actress that has been in over a dozen movies. Plus, she hails from a wealthy suburb in Connecticut and is considered a “hipster socialite.” I mention all of this because Subkoff hardly represents the average American woman without insurance. Subkoff could afford to pay for her own insurance — and hopefully the people who worked for her company — but for some reason she didn’t.

Chances are, Subkoff is like a lot of thirtysomething professional women — she was, until her recent diagnosis, healthy. I’ve read she practiced yoga and pictures indicate that she had a fit physique. Did she not have insurance because she didn’t think she would need it for anything major? That paying out of pocket for the occasional doctor visit was a more reasonable expense than forking over a hefty monthly insurance premium she wouldn’t really “use”? I don’t know the answer to this question, but I hope Subkoff discusses it when she’s feeling up to it. Frankly, her story, which is making headlines on many sites targeted at women her age (like The Frisky) could be a very real reminder of why everyone who can afford insurance, should have it. Especially if they don’t have wealthy, connected artist friends who are able to throw them a fancy pants benefit auction when disaster strikes.