Hello.My name is Paige Worthy, and I'm a statistic. I'm a casualty of the U.S. healthcare system.
I got a letter from COBRAsource, my former employer's provider, last night saying my health coverage had been terminated. One very, very short week after I found out it had been reinstated. Terminated for nonpayment. (Even though, as of Tuesday, November 2, I had sent them nearly $1,200 for three months' coverage.) Apparently my former employer did open enrollment for some new plans, which were sent my way but never explained to me, and no one told me that my premium had gone up. In fact, I was told it had gone down. I had a jubilant conversation with a sweet — and, in retrospect, ill-informed — woman just last week about how it never happens that rates actually decrease after open enrollment. I thought I was the exception. Turns out I'm the rule. And I have been broken.
But let's rewind. To a month before my last day on the job. That's when I started looking for a health insurance plan for myself. I worked with Gizmo Health to help me wade through the process — before my first call with Michael, my agent, I didn't even understand what a deductible was; no lie — and was quickly denied by not one but two major insurers: Aetna and Assurant. I was told not even to bother with Blue Cross Blue Shield, my group provider, because they are notoriously tough on patients with pre-existing conditions. It would seem those conditions, two health factors that made me a normal paying customer under my previous group policy, have magically transformed me into a high-risk case now that I'm seeking an individual policy. This is just…ridiculous. My yearly well-woman exam came back with irregular results earlier this year. The biopsies showed no cancerous cells. My doctor cleared me for another year. It was good enough for her. Why isn't it good enough for them? I'm living with mild depression, for which I take 10 milligrams of an SSRI every morning. So I can, you know, contribute to society with more energy and fewer grumbles. I also go to therapy once a week — which I've dropped back to twice a month now that I can barely afford a box of Macaroni and Cheese, let alone an hour in a cushy doctor's office.
Both companies knew about these conditions because I'd described them in detail on my application's health history form. Still, Aetna and Assurant both called me at odd hours. A woman whose English I could barely discern through a thick Middle Eastern accent called me to have me explain again, in detail, what was wrong with me, so she could recommend in person to her superiors not to insure me. I knew when I spoke with her I didn't stand a chance: If she couldn't even understand the words I was saying, how could I expect her to read between the lines and find the nuances — that my lady parts are clean and healthy despite a bad test; that I'm of sound mental health even though I'm seeing a psychologist? She couldn't. No one could. Because that's not what health insurance companies do. They aren't actually out there to ensure good health. I'm not really sure what they do besides make money. So, that happened.
There's also a state-supported plan called ICHIP (Illinois Comprehensive Health Insurance Program), which is essentially subsidized under Blue Cross Blue Shield for high-risk patients who can afford health insurance but have been otherwise unable to get it. Sounds great. Except that "state-run" ends up meaning "miles of red tape" and "labyrinthine bureaucratic nightmare." After a six-week ordeal of back-and-forth snail mail — because God forbid anyone with the government should do things efficiently and electronically, see also: voting —many, many copies of my personal health information sent and resent, and a trip to the DMV to update my physical drivers license with my current address (which isn't required by the state to drive legally but, go figure, apparently is to get health insurance), I found out that I'd have a six-month waiting period for any coverage of my pre-existing conditions. Which is why I was trying to get insured in the first place. So I could go to therapy and get my prescriptions refilled. I turned down that tempting offer and sucked it up. COBRA it was.
For about $400 a month. Fourrrrrrr hundred.
My first payment, by cashier's check — because obviously everyone who loses their job must be a deadbeat who can't be trusted to write a personal check — was $807.64. Seriously. For two months of coverage. And it took them until the last week of October to reinstate my benefits. Because they do everything via snail mail, too. And a feather pen. Math with an abacus. When I was finally switched back on, I started the long process of getting reimbursed for the prescriptions I'd paid for out of pocket: $120 for my crazy drugs and $45 for a necessary lady medication that prevents me from becoming a "proud breastfeeding momma" before I'm ready for that. Which, obviously, is a long way off. So keep the meds coming.
So I've given them almost $1,200 based on the statements they've sent me. And now my premium has gone up instead of down, and I'm being punished for their mistake. They tell me I'll be re-reinstated after my payment comes in. But seriously. The system is down. And I am enraged.
Imagine if I'd lost my job instead of leaving it by choice. Talk about cast out in the cold. I shouldn't have to take a job that doesn't make me happy just to have benefits. If thinking it's right that people should have reliable insurance regardless of income or employment makes me a Socialist… I guess I'm redder than all those assholes who just got elected in part because of their platform to block it.
Hell. I don't know.