The only reason why I’m not divorced yet is because of the health insurance plan I got through my husband’s work. We’ve stayed married, but amicably separated, because of it.
When I realized my marriage was over a few years ago, many concerns came to mind: Where is my kid going to sleep each night? How am I going to afford my own apartment? Where will I live? These issues were colossal, but I could get my head around them. However, the prospect of losing my health insurance through my husband’s plan? That was paralyzing.
As a cancer survivor labeled with a pre-existing condition, my insurance inquiries in the past had been steep and impossible to obtain. Blue Shield once quoted me $1150 a month, and Kaiser Permanente (the presumably less expensive option) quoted me $850 a month. That was in the year 2001. I thought of those numbers as I faced the reality that my insurance coverage, as I’ve known it for 14 years, was ending. My soon-to-be-ex called me and gave me the bad news. He was losing his insurance as well.
I had heard horror stories about Obamacare. I was told it was difficult to set up, the website never worked and I would have no choices in doctors unless I didn’t mind driving to Riverside County. I had two weeks to get covered. Someone recommended I call a person who calls herself The Insurance Mom. The idea is to have someone walk you through the daunting process of obtaining healthcare. What I didn’t know at the time was this person gets paid $50 for each new applicant that she gets covered. It is clearly in her favor to get people signed up for health insurance, her way.
I made an appointment to have the Insurance Mom go over my insurance options while she and I were looking at the same computer screen. She gave me a brief lowdown on different plans and discerned quickly that my least expensive option was $339 per month. That’s a car payment. That’s three times my car insurance. That’s a number that I, as a single mom trying to start my own business, cannot manage.
The Insurance Mom told me that with my income, my only choice was Medi-Cal. Medi-Cal is a program that pays medical expenses for people with low income. She never mentioned Covered California (a section under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) to assist people in finding and obtaining good heath insurance. She never mentioned there could be state aid that I might qualify for. She snidely told me to take a Xanax and head down to the social services building in downtown LA, with plenty of time on my hands because I was in for a long day. She set out to make me feel bad, to make me feel guilty that I couldn’t purchase the insurance plan she advised. And it worked. She got me very upset. I felt like a complete loser. But that didn’t last long. As a cancer survivor, things rarely do.
I decided to take a few steps back and look at the situation from the beginning. How do people get health care coverage? What do they do? What is the Affordable Care Act? I went to the Covered California website, www.coveredca.com, which, clearly, I should have done from the beginning. I answered the questions, and in about 30 minutes, I had an answer that was far more satisfying than what the Insurance Mom told me. And the process was not nearly as terrifying as I had been led to believe. I did not qualify for Medi-Cal. I did qualify for state assistance. I received the Silver Plan which covers 70 percent of typical healthcare costs. Plus, it includes free cancer screenings, mammograms, wellness exams and more. My out of pocket expense is just over $100 per month and I didn’t have to spend the day at social services. And no one asked about my pre-existing conditions.
I have my own health insurance now and my divorce can proceed. If you’re thinking about getting divorced or already going through it, don’t let health insurance hold you back. Life may be messy, but obtaining healthcare isn’t.
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