- DON'T FUCKING LISTEN TO THESE PEOPLE: Sign up for health care by Monday!
As you hopefully know, Monday is the last day to enroll for health coverage through the Affordable Care Act. That's three days from now, people. If you don't do it by then, you'll likely have to wait until next year unless you experience a "life event," such as getting married, having or adopting a baby, moving to a new address, or losing other health insurance.
As a Type 1 diabetic since the age of 20, I've been a full-bore supporter of health care reform for nearly two decades. Eight years ago, when I was a lowly bartender, and when Washington state's Basic Health program was still a viable option, it was determined after a time that I had too much income to qualify for it anymore. This left me with only the considerably more expensive WSHIP option. Soon enough I couldn't afford both rent and the WSHIP premium, and my insurance lapsed. Long story short, I eventually ended up in the hospital. I was there for three days, and when I was discharged I walked from the hospital straight to my bartending shift, because, you know, rent was due.
There were options out there for me at the time—I just didn't know about them, and no one was going out of their way to fill me in. Later I learned about Country Doctor and benefited from that noble organization until I finally acquired healthcare through a full-time job.
Two months ago I paid off the last of my debt from that hospital visit, by putting it on a zero-interest credit card. The reality is, though, that most people in my situation don't pay their debts, and mostly, like I did, they wait until the problem is bad enough to necessitate an ER visit, so those debts are hefty. And then the cost is absorbed not by the insurance industry, but by taxpayers. That bill is currently estimated at $41 billion, nearly double since 2000. You can argue that taxpayers are still absorbing these costs under the ACA, and you'd be right, but you can't argue that a little preventative care is more expensive than an ER visit, or than, say, emergency surgery. So until you can trot out some numbers that demonstrate such an assertion, kindly shut the fuck up.
This week I bought insurance at Washington Healthplanfinder. It's going to cost $200 a month after a $98 tax benefit that I qualified for based on my income. (Friends have reported total compensation based on theirs.) The site is still a little buggy, and it's often been down at night, but I was able to navigate the process during the day without too much effort. The biggest hangup was choosing a plan, and for that there are built-in resources. You can consult a navigator or broker at no extra charge. (There are links plastered all over the Washington Healthplanfinder site as well.) The site is designed to prompt you through the process with ease, but should you encounter problems, there's a 1-800 number and an e-mail address. The poor workers on the other end of those lines are likely going to be swamped for the next eon or so, but there are also a host of enrollment events this Saturday.
Since I'm a patient at Swedish, I got the number of some helpful folks there that guided me through the process and laid out the criteria for what it takes to qualify for financial assistance. The tax credit, which you can apply to your premium on a monthly basis or take as a lump sum with your tax return, is based on your income.
Memo to anti-ACA whiners: Don't worry, I'm still paying more than you; the average person with a chronic disease spends about five times as much on health care throughout their lives as their healthier counterparts. There's little to suggest that's likely to change significantly under the ACA, what with copays (which as far as I can tell won't change much), the necessary frequency of doctor visits and tests, and the inevitable complications. The ACA isn't single payer, like many want, but it's a start, and I for one am ecstatic to have guaranteed health insurance for the first time in my adult life. If you're still railing against it, I can't help but assume you'd rather have me dead. I also can't help but assume that you're terrible at math.