October Work Release

Photo Oct 14, 9 33 26 AM

Whew, what a month! Time to release our work. I am going to skip over the usual — the practices I list every month which are more or less the same each month. You already know what I do regularly. This month I will only spend blog time on one big highlight because a) I’m late with this post, and b) around 60% of the annual bankruptcies in this country are related to medical bills.

This month I learned a real-life, real-time lesson about Obamacare. I successfully navigated the government’s healthcare marketplace associated with the Affordable Healthcare Act. I now fully understand what it is and how it works. Why? Well it wasn’t for shits and giggles. I already revealed that I changed jobs this month. (Highlight!) My new employer doesn’t offer health insurance as a benefit. My spouse is self-employed so he doesn’t have access to a group policy either. What’s a family like mine to do? We have to buy our own health insurance.

The premiums for basic, no-frills coverage for me and The Chef — two healthy individuals who do not use tobacco, do not take any prescription medications, and have no preexisting conditions which require treatment — cost HALF of my monthly income. This shouldn’t be, America. Health insurance premiums shouldn’t cost more than more than my mortgage. But they do; health insurance is now my single largest monthly expense. The only way to offset this (short of getting a second job) is to qualify for assistance. Into the marketplace I went. You know it as Obamacare.

Here’s how it works. It is not Medicaid. It is not welfare. It is a need-based discount in the form of a tax credit. Based on our income we qualify for a certain amount of credit/discount. The government will allow us to use this credit when we file our tax returns or we can use it to lower our monthly health insurance premiums. We had to prove our income (that’s the need-based part). We had to prove that we have no other options available (like group or employer-offered plans). We had to choose from coverage options the government provided (companies and policies already on the list — no exceptions). We had to pay up front. If we hit hard times and can’t pay each month, we are expelled from the program until the next enrollment period (which could be as long as one year).

If the Affordable Healthcare Act (Obamacare) is repealed, we will lose the credit/discount which allows our household to afford health insurance. This more or less means we would lose coverage unless I surrender ALL of my monthly income for full-price premiums. This is what people are talking about when they refer to millions of Americans losing healthcare over a repeal. We are full-time working, taxpaying Americans who try extra-hard to stay healthy. Whomever you might imagine affected by the pissing contest going on in Washington right now (the pissers all have FREE healthcare, by the way), imagine people like us. We are Average Joe and Jane just trying to afford premiums for basic coverage we might not even use, but shouldn’t risk living without.

The risk, of course, is that without at least some coverage we would be unable to pay medical bills if either one of us should need some unforeseen medical care. We might also be compelled to skip screenings and routine preventative care if we had to pay full price out of pocket, which could set us up for trouble down the road. There is no winning option here. I can surrender half of my monthly income for insurance we may never or rarely use, or risk complete financial ruin if one of us gets sick or injured without insurance. Both choices are horribly expensive and burdensome to my household. I say again, it should not be this way, America.

So how is this a highlight? The situation isn’t, of course, but the understanding is. Our healthcare system in this country is highly politicized. A basic understanding of the points about which we will argue, debate, scream, accuse, and incriminate is relevant to those arguments and debates, is it not? It matters when we vote, does it not? It matters when we elect lawmakers and lawbreakers, does it not?

Have you ever tried to discuss a topic such as this with someone bearing very strong opinions about the issue but almost zero real understanding of the issue? It’s a pretty safe bet that one of us doesn’t know what she’s talking about. It is ridiculously easy to pick a fight with someone over Obamacare. How many people willing to engage in a hateful, venomous fight actually understand Obamacare? Estimates are that one in two people are either clueless or dead wrong (misinformed). Like I said, so matter how much we bellow or brawl, one of us is shouting/spouting our ignorance.

Wellness is knowledge. Knowledge is wellness. If we are paying for it, we should understand it. If we are voting for or against it, we should understand it. If we are filling the internet or the ears of our peers with our opinions about it, we should understand it. This was my work for October, learning the truth and mistruths, and by all means necessary, trying to stay well enough not to accumulate medical bills I can’t pay.

— Mercy


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