Back in 2006, I was working at bakery job that paid about $10/hour; I earned overtime nearly every week, but I had to work at least an extra 10 hours a week or so to see a comma in my take-home pay. I also did consulting work (proofreading and copyediting) to make ends meet with something closer to a little overlap.
Near the end of that year, as many other things were falling apart in my life, my not-quite-ex failed to pay the COBRA for the health insurance that covered both of us (I paid him for my share, I believe), and the policy was cancelled. I didn’t know this for several weeks, but the reality was that, unbeknownst to me, I was doing physical labor, in an environment where I could have gotten injured (and would thus have been unable to work at all), and I had no health insurance. It’s hard to describe the fear that engendered.
I found an insurance agency through a recommendation from a friend, and got catostrophic coverage right away. I then proceeded to try to purchase my own health insurance policy.
Well, you really don’t get to be in your late 40s without having something that counts as a “pre-existing condition,” especially for insurance companies that want to be able to deny you coverage if they can possibly argue that you failed to disclose something. I did eventually get coverage, at a fairly exorbitant rate, and the coverage did not actually cover anything that might result from the (not all that dire) pre-existing condition. That is, the coverage I was able to get did not actually cover health conditions that I was mostly likely to experience, AND I paid a pile of money, out of pocket, for this coverage, every single month. I suppose I could have rolled the dice and gone without any coverage–the catostrophic coverage typically had limits on how long you could get that coverage–but I could not bring myself to truly contemplate doing that. I don’t have kids, I didn’t have anyone else to support, so that was an easier decision than it might be with a different life.
Even though it’s ten years later–and the bakery owner now offers health insurance options to his employees, and I’m working office jobs that have employer-sponsored insurance (for which I pay $360 per month, pre-tax, so while it’s employer-sponsored, and it’s decent insurance, I’m certainly throwing in a pile of money too)–I still remember the fear of not having insurance.
On top of that, I currently work in an environment where many of the people my organization serves have become eligible for Medicaid, in part thanks to the Affordable Care Act and the Medicaid expansion that came along with it. I see what a difference this makes in people’s lives.
Thus, I would welcome the opportunity to ask the creators of this monstrosity of a tax cut for the rich masquerading as a health care bill (h/t Charles Pierce) how they can consider doing something this awful. It isn’t just bad, it’s mean. It’s nasty. It gives more money to rich people, while basically sending poor and middle class and old people off to die in a corner. You want to talk about “death panels”? This monstrosity is going to kill people. And all for the benefit of people who would regard my monthly premium from 2006 as pocket change–the premium for insurance that wouldn’t actually cover the things most likely to occur to me–that premium is their wine bill, or their taxi fare, or the rent they pay on the garage in D.C. for their extra car, or whatever the hell it is that rich people spend money on each month.
I’ll return to rhapsodies about food–the amazing pulled pork that I made this weekend; my attempts to make my own corned beef–eventually, but this was just too overwhelming to avoid.