I pride myself of being a political Independent. I actually lean very Libertarian, as most northern New Englanders do. It’s that whole Henry David Thoreau thing. Just give me an axe and I’ll go into the woods and fend for myself, thank you very much.
My conservative Rush Limbaugh Tea Party friends all think Obamacare is the worst thing that could ever happen to our nation. It’s the death of small business, the beginning of the end of the free economy.
My liberal Bernie Sanders-supporting friends all think it’s a good start but it doesn’t go far enough. Health care should be free and funded entirely by the government.
I signed up for Obamacare because I have no time for politics right now. At the end of the month, the health insurance from my ex-job will end, leaving us exposed to the elements. Going without insurance is not an option. It’s not the fine I’m worried about, it’s the whole break-a-leg-lose-a-building thing. We didn’t spend the last eight years building up this rental real estate portfolio to have one trip to the emergency room take it out! And if you’re buying health insurance on your own in 2016, you go through www.healthcare.gov.
Say what you want about it. Nothing will start an argument over the holiday dinner table faster than mentioning Obamacare, unless your entire extended family is of the same political bent. I get it, it’s controversial. Passions run hot on either side of the issue. But I have no time for political debate. I have a family and a business to protect. So I am looking at the Obamacare issue strictly from a practical standpoint. And so far… I love it!
I love it because I’ve had to self-insure before Obamacare, and I remember the gut-wrenching experience that was. Let me tell you about it!
The year was 2012, not so long ago. The position I held for eleven years had just been eliminated. The company was kind enough to let me stay on their insurance for a full month, which was a good thing because I needed every minute of that time to make other arrangements!
My husband was completely self-employed by then, so the insurance through my job was taking care of all of us. Truth be told, the insurance was the main reason I was remaining in that job! I wonder how many other would-be entrepreneurs feel trapped by that circumstance?
No matter, that circumstance was now gone, and I had no choice but to replace that insurance on my own or risk one accident toppling our fledgling real estate empire. So I called up the Chamber of Commerce to see about signing up for insurance as a small business. They put me in touch with a broker.
The broker priced out some options – none of which were remotely affordable. And they were HMOs with limited networks to boot! He thought we might have better luck on the individual market, seeing we were really just a family and not a business with unrelated employees. After some extensive internet research, which I did on my own, I found Blue Cross of NEPA had the most affordable insurance. The broker e-mailed me over some paperwork to fill out.
When I say “some paperwork” I mean literally a 40-hour work week of bureaucratic Hell. I was set up on my dining room table, sheaths of paper sprawled in front of me. I had to fill in 5 years’ worth of medical details on each one of us. They wanted to know what doctors we saw, for any reason, what the diagnosis was, what medicines were prescribed. Did I have that sinus infection in 2006 or was that 2007? I had to remember every pharmacy we ever had anything filled at and get records.
I was grateful for two things: 1- Savannah was only two so I didn’t have to go back five years on her, and
2- I had a case of Sam Adams in the fridge – a gift I bought for myself with my “generous” two months’ severance package after eleven years of service.
I was in danger of developing an alcohol problem by the time that week of paperwork was over.
The paperwork submitted, I waited about a week for my answer. Then the letters came, via snail mail, from Blue Cross. I was approved but because of my hypothyroid I would have to pay a higher rate, not the one quoted on the website. It was about $30/month more. OK, whatever. The same thing for Savannah, because she was treated for croupe at age 17 months. I thought that wasn’t fair – she’s a baby for Godssake, they say she’ll grow out of it, but whatever. My husband was DENIED. They would not cover him, due to scoliosis and another condition he’d had since childhood – these are conditions he never even sees a doctor for, they’re just there and he goes about his life.
After I picked myself off the porch and recovered from my minor freak-out, I grabbed another Sam Adams and read the fine print on my husband’s denial letter. It said he could apply for insurance through something called PA Fair Care. I looked into that and they sent me a whole bunch of new forms to fill out for him, and he was approved for an insurance that cost three times as much. I remember laughing when they sent the enrollment packet – there was a picture of a gray-haired old man on the cover!
CHIP – a great plan, but there’s a big hole in it. I went down to pay the premiums in person at the Blue Cross office in Wilkes-Barre. They said Savannah might qualify for CHIP – the state Children’s Health Insurance Plan. It covered everything with no deductible – Steve and I were paying a very high deductible on the plans we picked. Sounded great, but I figured with self-employment it would be hard to qualify. With our rental income, we looked like billionaires. No one takes the expenses into consideration. They urged me to apply anyway. Another weeks’ worth of paperwork to fill out, plus they wanted to see the last two years of tax returns! I remember the ream of paper I handed over the counter to them.
Here’s the real kick in the pants – if approved - and we wouldn’t know for at least two weeks – Savannah’s coverage would begin on September 1st. By law, she would have to be uninsured for a month before CHIP would accept her. What kind of responsible mother would let her baby go uninsured? They told me if they found out I bought insurance for her anyway during the free-fall month CHIP would drop her! I almost walked out with my tax returns.
But then I remembered my past: http://thisgingerjustsnapped.weebly.com/blog/bootstrappin Sometimes you have to bend the rules to get out of an impossible situation.
I had already applied for Savannah’s insurance and was approved. I had the card. I just hadn’t paid for it yet. They give you 30 days to pay the premium before they drop your coverage. I let them put the CHIP application through. If something happened to Savannah during the interim, I would simply pay the premium.
That day I just paid for Steve’s and my premiums – which came to right around $700. I would pay that $700 every month while we were self-insured. Ouch! When I was offered my last job, the first question I asked was, “Do you offer health insurance?” That’s the main reason I decided to take another “day job” rather than go full-on as a real estate entrepreneur a few years ago.
Applying for insurance on your own with Obamacare. I understand when Healthcare.gov first launched for 2014 coverage it was a nightmare. Problems with the website, busy signals on help lines. Rush Limbaugh screaming “SOCIALISM!” at the top of his voice. But by the time I signed up last Wednesday night all of that had apparently been worked out. Except for Rush Limbaugh’s screaming. But I respect a guy who had a mediocre career as a Top 40 DJ and parlayed it into the EIB network!
I applied for Obamacare after supper, on my laptop on my couch while Savannah watched Polar Express on Sprout. I shopped for a family health plan based on a few questions the website asked me, and ended up with Blue Cross again. Then I answered a few questions about our projected income in 2016. It’s hard when you’re self-employed, but I took my best guess based on our past tax return and what I thought I’d get from unemployment plus the part-time job I still have with Cumulus Broadcasting. We were still solidly middle-class, so no CHIP this time, but we did qualify for a small premium reduction. If we end up making more that I guessed, we’ll have to pay that back, but right now that knocked our premiums down to about $480/month, including dental. We didn’t have dental last time!
Sure it’s a high-deductible plan, but so was the one I had through my former job. I fail to see the issue.
No reams of paperwork this time, because pre-existing conditions are no longer an issue. I am going to have to upload more information to Healthcare.gov in the next 90 days. I’m not sure what they want to see – maybe my financial determination from unemployment? Maybe our quarterly estimated taxes? I’ll let you know. All I know is, it’s done and my family is covered by Blue Cross when my former job’s health insurance drops us on February 1st. Both Blue Cross and the Dominion dental plan have already contacted me – they’re processing our applications and will be invoicing me shortly. I can pay the bills online before the first of the month. ID cards will be coming in the mail.
I’m OK with Obamacare. I’d even be ok without the tax subsidy – I’d pay full freight for this convenience. It would be $700 instead of $480. I paid $700 last time, without dental!
Right now, this Independent Libertarian thinks Obamacare is pretty good for entrepreneurs.