After college graduation, my student debt was not the major financial headache in my life; rather, it was how I was going to pay for my health insurance.
My college’s health insurance plan had been fairly cheap, but as soon as I graduated, that coverage disappeared.
That health insurance plan did not cover my wife, either, and our budget did not allow for her to purchase her own plan in the individual market.
CREDIT: David Moyer.
As a freelance journalist, I was going to need to find our own health insurance plan, and when I saw the costs last spring, I dreaded graduation. I knew that the health insurance marketplace would be opening in the Fall, but I honestly did not know what to expect.
Insurance brokers informed me that it was likely that plans on the marketplace would be close to the prices before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was implemented.
Overhauling the U.S. health care system is staggeringly complex, made all the more difficult by the fact that some Republican lawmakers have done everything they can to make sure it fails. There were plenty of negative sound bites about the marketplace, and it had not even opened yet.
Where was that going to leave me? Where would it leave my wife?
After doing the math, I realized that all I could afford to purchase for my wife and myself was a “gap” plan with a $10,000 deductible, few benefits, and no coverage for preexisting conditions.
For this bare-minimum plan we each paid $150 per month.
My wife and I both take medications each month, and the “gap” plan offers a small discount, but no co-pay. We researched the cheapest pharmacies and set aside another $120 a month for our medications.
At least, for the ones we would still be able to afford to take. I’ve suffered from muscle spasms since I was a teenager but hate muscle relaxers. They make me feel “fuzzy,” unable to think or focus on work, and I hate that.
Then I heard about a new medication that did not have narcotic side effects. It worked wonders.
Under my school plan, it cost a $10 a month co-pay. But under the gap plan, it would cost over $300 just for a generic perscription.
Therefore, I would have to live with muscle spasms again because I could not afford not to.
So, the gap plan was better than nothing at all, but only barely.
Needless to say, I had high hopes for the ACA’s open enrollment period.
On October 1, I logged on to healthcare.gov as soon as the site went live, and I created an account despite a few glitches during registration.
That did not upset me, though—I once waited in line four hours for a special deal on a laptop. I could handle a few bumps in the road to find out if a different plan could make things a little easier for my wife and I.
Over the next two weeks, I followed the news and logged onto the site each day. Slowly but surely, I made progress. Of course I heard about how frustrated people are with the website, but I just could not understand their impatience.
If people are willing to camp outside the Apple store all night for a new iPhone, isn’t proper health care worth a little more of a time investment?
After a few more delays in registration, I discovered that I could get a top Silver plan for $43 per month total for both my wife and I. The plan had cost more than $500 per month before the ACA, but now our benefits will be the best I have ever had.
Our deductible will be less than one-sixth what it is now.
Not only will all of our monthly prescriptions be covered, they will be free.
I will not minimize the problems I experienced during the registration process; however, I was expecting glitches or other problems, so I did not allow those “hiccups” to deter my final goal—health insurance.
Come January 1, my wife and I will have truly comprehensive, affordable coverage for the first time in our adult lives, and all for less than I spend during any given month on coffee.