I was having dinner with a group of 30-somethings over the holiday break and Obamacare came up. I was surprised to find out that most of the people in the room didn’t have health insurance.
I was having dinner with a group of 30-somethings over the holiday break and Obamacare came up. I was surprised to find out that most of the people in the room didn’t have health insurance. It’s not something people like to admit, because not having it might make you look poor and/or irresponsible. I don’t feel like I am either of those, but in the past I did change the subject whenever health insurance came up, so I wouldn’t have to answer questions about why I didn’t have it. So when it came up recently, I was relieved not to be in that position anymore.
But some of my friends still were. “I had a wire rack fall on my foot and cut my foot open in the shower a few months ago,” a friend of mine joked. “It was bad. It sliced my foot open and my second toe wouldn’t bend right.”
“You didn’t go to the hospital?” I asked.
“No way. My friend came over and wrapped it in a bandage and I walked it off for months. It was weird not being able to straighten out my toe but what can you do? I could still walk and work, so I just lived with it.”
I felt the same way for a long time. When the healthcare debate was in full swing back in 2010, my health care provider jumped their premiums on me and I made the decision to let my coverage lapse. I figured that it would be awhile before things settled down enough to even afford it.
Therefore, for the last four years I have lived with the “walk it off” mentality. If I got sick, I would eat plenty of warm healthy foods, drink plenty of water, take over the counter medicine, and wait it out. When I started getting cramps in both arms from working at my desk, I would look up remedies online and adopted stretching to keep them loose. When I was so ill that I couldn’t get out of bed, I would lay quietly, try to feed myself, watch television and hope for the best.
I did what millions of people do everyday to get by and not go to the hospital, holding back from getting help because it meant bills that would put me so far behind I couldn’t catch up.
It’s stressful feeling like you have to be close to death, or completely immobile, before going to get the care that you need.
I am a regular guy, a 36-year-old single dad that smokes and doesn’t get enough exercise. As the publisher of RVA Magazine, I make almost the median income for a Richmonder, and own my own small business. I don’t qualify for government aid, and my company cannot afford to pay for my insurance. For Christmas, I decided that I would give my myself peace of mind and get insurance through HealthCare.gov.
It was the best decision I have made in a long time.
I jumped on the site and after putting in basic information about my age, social security number, and address, I was walked through some preliminary questions. The only health-related question that was asked is if I smoked, and when was the last time I did so. After that I was asked how much I made in a year, then I got a confirmation with how much the government was going to pay towards my insurance. I was getting a little over $450 for the year from the United States, and was asked if I wanted to apply that now or get it back on my tax return. I choose to apply now the $35 a month discount to whatever plan I picked.
Then I was brought to a screen that showed me all the insurance options available to me in Richmond. I honestly was surprised that it wasn’t government issued insurance, but companies I knew to be good insurers. Bon Secours and Anthem are the main ones I looked through at a monthly rate that I could afford. I spent a couple of hours calling people for advice and comparing different plans before deciding. After pushing the button to confirm my plan, I was so relieved. I didn’t realize how much of a silent stressful burden could be lifted by such an easy process.
As of January 1st, 2014, I am enrolled with Anthem for both health and dental plans at $240 a month. I’m able to get regular checkups and take care of myself for the first time in a long time.
When I told my friends that I had enrolled, a few of them mentioned going to the site, or thinking about it, but not doing it yet. I was peppered with questions and I answered them honestly. By the end of dinner, everyone who didn’t have insurance was planning to check it out.
That was a pretty good feeling – I helped a few people make an important decision about their lives. And by writing this article, maybe I can help a few more.
It looks like I wasn’t alone, however. The Times-Dispatch reported about 40K Virginians enrolled in health insurance plans in the month of December. Maybe that’s all a lot of us wanted for Christmas – a little security; a safety net just in case.