Quarantine Diaries, Part 9: Health Insurance — The Price Is Wrong
Editor’s Note: Joe Bardi — writer, editor, musician, husband, father — has always been a busy man. But until recently it had been up to his wife, freelance writer/photographer and frequent dRTB contributor Heidi Kurpiela, to handle the bulk of weekday parenting chores, because she could work from home and he had an office job. Then the pandemic hit. The following post is the ninth installment in “Quarantine Diaries,” a series about the double whammy of suddenly being both unemployed and a 24-hour stay-at-home dad. Read the first eight installments starting here.
After battling both Florida’s online unemployment system and the kids’ online learning portals, you’d think I’d be used to sisyphean struggles to accomplish basic tasks. Enter America’s health insurance system shouting, “Hold my beer!”
My employer-provided plan ran out on April 30, which left me with three options: Take the COBRA and continue with the same Blue Cross policy for an astronomical monthly premium; buy a new policy through Healthcare.gov (aka the Obamacare Marketplace); or go through an independent agent.
I took one look at the COBRA price tag and knew it was a non-starter.
Moving on to option two: Obamacare, which I saw as the path of least resistance. Wrong. Upon visiting healthcare.gov I was immediately thwarted by the fact that I had apparently already set up an account tied to my email address. When did I do this? Who knows? What was the password? Good question.
After failing to guess or reset it online, I used my iPhone to — gasp! — make a phone call to the marketplace’s 1-800 number, where I was quickly greeted by a real-live person. “Breakthrough!” I thought. Nope. Five minutes later the nice lady told me she wasn’t able to reset my password, and there was nothing more we could do.
I could have fought on at this point. There has to be some way to reset this password, right? Instead, I thought I’d go the private insurance route. I had just used an agent to buy homeowners insurance back in December, and I emailed him asking if his agency also did health insurance. He referred me to Jake at Florida Best Quote (no, not Jake from State Farm — an actual Jake), who has been good about helping me navigate the ridiculous policy selection process.
About that process: It feels like being on the world’s worst game show. I’m contestant number one, and I’m being asked to choose what’s behind one of five doors. There are bronze doors, and silver doors, and shiny gold ones that come with an equally glittering price tag. Each has its own boogeyman hiding behind.
Will Door #1 cover us if one of the kids hurts themselves? (Depends on how bad.) Is Door #3 going to drive our prescription prices through the roof? (Yup.) And which of these doors will let us see our current doctors? (None of them.)
We did several rounds of potential policies, some with our current doctors, others without. My father was invaluable. I’d call him while sitting outside Henry’s reading tutor and we’d sort through deductibles, co-pays and potential scenarios. In the end, I settled on one of the bronze plans knowing it did not include our doctors, and that it was really for catastrophic coverage. I intend to keep our doctors and pay out of pocket, understanding that the money I’m saving on premiums is going to get funnelled into higher prices at the doctor’s office. Insert facepalm emoji here.
And then the final kick in the nuts: The new policy won’t start until June 1. As I type this we are uninsured, and I have a link to a temporary policy sitting in my email. That policy would cover us through May 3 for an additional $200. If I didn’t have children this would be a no-brainer. I would skip it and wait out the next few weeks. The odds of us needing to go to the hospital are low, even in the midst of a global pandemic. But I do have kids, and those kids violently careen through life. A head injury lurks around every sharp corner.
So I guess I’ll take useless gap insurance for $200, Alex.