Health Insurance Stressors

Before our COBRA coverage ended last month, Hart and I spent months scrambling to find health insurance to cover us until the pre-existing condition coverage of the Affordable Care Act goes into effect in January 2014. Our experience was even more complicated than expected and brought home just how faulty the current health care system is.

Having been denied coverage by every health insurance company in Arizona, private health insurance isn’t an option. We couldn’t even get a high-deductible plan.

After tons of research, it looked like we were down to two options: joining a small business organization’s group plan and spending more than $1,000 a month for a plan with a $10,000 deductible per person and high co-pays or enrolling in classes at a community college and paying for student health insurance.

The first option tied our stomachs in knots. That’s a major financial burden even if we are both perfectly healthy for the next six months. And spending that much money for mediocre coverage wasn’t palatable.

The student health insurance is far more appealing, but coverage doesn’t begin until August. Hart and I both like to have our ducks in tidy rows when it comes to this sort of thing. The thought of going even a month without insurance would have us both losing sleep. Even though the chances of getting injured in an accident, having a stroke, or having a heart attack are small, they risk is enough to worry both of us.

More distressing is that the plan is being rewritten to comply with the Affordable Care Act and details have yet to be released. We have no idea how many credit hours we’d have to take, what the coverage would be, or how much it will cost. All we know is that it will look different than previous years’ plans.

Then an entrepreneur Hart knows mentioned that she had short-term health insurance that didn’t cover pre-existing conditions, but does cover new diagnoses or accidents. We didn’t qualify for some plans, but did find one company that would provide us six months of coverage at less than $250 a month. Migraine’s not covered for either of us, of course, but we’re less likely to go bankrupt if one of us has a catastrophic health problem in the next six months. It isn’t an ideal solution, but it is way less expensive than the alternatives (and than what we paid for COBRA) and, fortunately, Hart and I both currently have prescriptions for only generic drugs.

We’re now on the short-term insurance, so we’re covered until four days before Obamacare goes into effect — assuming politics don’t derail it. (We’re planning to spend the last four days of the cooped up at home, doing nothing so dangerous as using a ladder.) Some sort of health coverage is guaranteed come January, though we won’t know until October what our coverage options will be or how much we will have to spend.

Last June, Hart and I both fretted while we waited for the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act. Then we worried that if Romney won the presidential election and succeeded in repealing Obamacare, we’d have to abandon TheraSpecs so Hart could get a corporate job with health insurance. Whatever your politics, its undeniable that a system that won’t provide health coverage to people who are willing to pay through the nose for it is defective. Especially considering that, while we aren’t in perfect health, neither of us has a disease that’s particular expensive to treat. Triptans aren’t cheap, but they cost pennies compared to chemotherapy or $15,000-a-month injections for MS.

The costs and benefits of the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare won’t truly be known for years. It may not be an ideal solution, but the system that’s concentrated in for-profit companies and ties health coverage to employment is way out of whack. The next few years — or even decades — could be rocky, but I’m hopeful we’re on the way toward improving the impoverished approach we currently have.

And I’m grateful that Obamacare’s existence means we can keep TheraSpecs, a company that seeks to improve the lives of people in pain, going.