In October 2011, I got laid off. It was a department-wide layoff, and I was definitely the most excited person in the room. I was doing math while HR spoke to us about not coming back to the office drunk and kicking over desks. By the end of the HR director’s Office Space routine, I’d figured out that I’d get 12 weeks of severance — plenty of money to start up my own business, which is what I’d been wanting to do for at least two years.
Even better, I’d get COBRA for 18 months, starting at the end of my severance. My health insurance was pretty spectacular, and I wanted to hang onto it as long as possible. If I’d known then when I know now, I would have clung to it even more tightly.
Fast forward to May, 2013. My COBRA, I knew, would come to an end as of July 31. Being a thorough type of person, I decided to start researching right away, to make sure that I’d have the best possible coverage by the time my old insurance was through.
It turns out, in 2013, there is not such thing as good coverage for a sole proprietor. There is either shitty coverage, for a lot of money each month, and a medium-sized deductible, or OK coverage, for a lot of money each month, and a gigantic deductible. There are other options, where I believe they just come over to your house, take all your old stereo equipment and your wedding rings, have sex with your spouse, break your knees, and leave, but you can usually avoid that, as long as you’re not overweight.
I’m mostly kidding.
My actual options were:
1. Health insurance plan A, the HMO version of my awesome coverage from my old company. This would be through Adam’s student association, and seemed pretty great — except that he’d have to switch to it, too, and we’d have to pay up front for the rest of the year, to the tune of about $3,000. Pass.
2. Health insurance plan B, through the same company that insures NYC teachers, firemen, cops, and sanitation workers. Accepted by no one, because fuck all those useless people, right? Who do they think they are? This one was reasonably priced, meaning that it only cost as much as my rent each month.
3. Health insurance plan C. High deductible, just about the same rate as plan B, accepted by all my doctors. Available through one of my professional associations. I went with this one, for obvious reasons. By the time I work through the deductible, though, it’ll be 2014, and I’ll have to start over again. But at least if I get really sick, I’ll be covered.
I filed my paperwork and sent in my binder check, and waited. And waited. And waited. Two weeks before my insurance was due to start, I realized I might want to figure out if I’d been accepted. I called the office, instigating a massive search for my paperwork. While they looked, I went through the following scenarios in my head:
1. They’ve lost the paperwork for good, which means that my check and tax documents are just … out there, somewhere, waiting for someone to steal my identity.
2. They have my paperwork, but I’m being rejected for having used my old health insurance too much, and everyone at the insurance office is fighting over who has to be the person to tell me.
3. Option No. 2, plus all the other health insurance companies will reject me, and I won’t be able to get any health insurance, and I’ll wind up on NY1 telling everyone my sad story. Or more likely, I’ll set up an interview with NY1, and then get hit by a bus on the way over. While I’m flattened on the road, the emergency services people will lean over and whisper gently in my ear, “What insurance do you have?” And I will immediately expire from rage and frustration.
Shortly after my heart rate hit 150 and I started feeling lightheaded, the insurance office wrote to say my application was processing and everything looked good. I lay down on the rug and started doing Lamaze, although I am not pregnant and can’t afford to have a baby, even with health insurance.
Anyway, I’m telling you all this so that you’ll understand what it’s like in my head at all times, and also what it’s like to try to get insurance right now. I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about what’s going to happen to us when Obamacare goes through, and maybe it’ll be a nightmare hellscape, but I have to say, trying anything at this point is better than trying nothing. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed that things get better, not worse.