We have met Obamacare, and I’m here to tell you about our ghastly experience.
When I was working full time for a large corporation, health insurance for my husband and me cost about $120 a month. The deductibles were low, and everything was covered, from dental to vision to psychiatric care. Plus, the company had its own on-site clinic, which was cheaper and more convenient than going to a private clinic or physician.
When the firm ran into problems, I was offered early retirement. The early retirement program was generous, and included 18 months on COBRA at a cost of about $1200 a month. This was a 10X increase, but the coverage was still great.
Of course, 18 months passed like no time at all, and we were faced with the necessity of finding health insurance on our own. My husband and I were working out of our house as freelancers–he as a website developer, I as a writer. At the time we were both 62 years old, so Medicare wasn’t an option yet. I set about trying to find private health insurance. After reciting the brief list of medications we take, I was met with complete rejection and indifference on every side. (Pre-Obamacare, remember, insurance companies could turn down anyone they wanted on the basis of pre-existing conditions. So if you needed health insurance, obviously they would not want to cover you.)
Finally, I connected with a wonderful insurance broker who gave us several options for obtaining private insurance. The one that made the most sense was for us to start a business partnership. As a business, the insurance companies would not turn us down for pre-existing conditions.
So that is what we did. And we got insurance. For $1200 a month, our deductible was $4000 a year. Prescriptions were not covered. No dental or vision coverage. Given how infrequently we visit doctors, we never met the deductible, but at least we knew if something horrible happened, we had coverage. As for dental, it seemed cheaper to pay for bi-annual cleanings out of pocket than to spend the extra money it cost to get dental insurance at something like $120 a month in addition to the basic health coverage.
Then Obamacare struck. It appeared that under the new rules, husband-and-wife businesses were excluded, so again, I hit the insurance-buying trail. On the advice of the same amazing broker, I went to coveredcalifornia.com. I evaluated the plans, selected one that would cost about $600 a month, and filled out an application to see if we qualified for a subsidy.
I waited and waited. Then I went back to the site. I could find no way to track the progress of my application. I knew that Covered California had received it because I mailed it with return receipt requested. After cruising around the site fruitlessly for a while, it went down for maintenance. I called them. The woman who took my call said that yes, we did qualify for a subsidy. And as I couldn’t see all the options on the site because it was down, she mentioned a plan that would provide the basic coverage we were receiving, but with no deductibles and the addition of coverage for prescriptions. There were small co-pays for doctor’s visits and medication. There was no dental or vision care because these were not included under Obamacare. And I would not be able to keep my primary physician, who is a woman worth her weight in rubies and diamonds.
But our premium would be $4.00 per month. For covering both of us.
Yes, you read that right: four dollars a month to cover two adults. Suddenly, I was not at all concerned about losing my primary physician. I forgave coverdcalifornia.com for being hard to deal with. I was no longer irritated with Obamacare for excluding husband-and-wife businesses.
The one thing I did not forgive was the insurance companies for being such jerks in the first place.