From the Blog

Fun With Self Employed Health Insurance

I’m good at worrying. Did you know this about me? I don’t feel like a complete person unless I’m worried about something. If they had an Olympics for worriers, I could melt down all the gold medals I’d win and make myself a gilded helmet to protect my crazy, anxious brain.

When we quit our jobs and terminated our comfortable, reliable income (no, that didn’t make me worry AT ALL), one of the first items we had to contend with was health insurance. We could have stayed on COBRA, but it would have cost more than our rent. Health insurance is important, but the thought of it costing more than our food and shelter made me want to rain hellfire down on the village where all the healthcare CEOs live.

So we applied for an independent health insurance plan and crossed our fingers and prayed to the unicorns that we’d be accepted. It seems like it wouldn’t be an issue for us. We were both under 40, and both healthy. Dave hasn’t been to the doctor in years.

But for me, I had been to the doctor. First of all, I’m a woman, so I have “lady business.” Then, when we did regular checkups and stuff, they took blood and I had high cholesterol for my age. Also, I somehow injured my shoulder and it hurt for months, so I went to the doctor for that. And way back in 2007, I went to a chiropractor and had physical therapy for a lower back injury.

None of that was “unhealthy.” I got my cholesterol DOWN SIXTY MOTHERFUCKING POINTS and my doctor was stunned. She said I was one of three or four people she had ever seen lower their cholesterol with just diet changes. She gave me a hug and said I was super cool. This is all absolutely true.

But when we applied for health insurance, they didn’t care that my doctor said I was super cool. They just wanted the number. And they wanted info on every doctor visit for the past five years. Every diagnosis. Every prescription. They wanted the diagnostic code from the chiropractor from way back in 2007. I don’t know about you, but 2007 is a lifetime ago. I don’t even remember my own name from back then.

I had some running around to do to get all this information. All the while, I was hair trigger anxious that the health insurance company would turn me down. And then I’d have this “black mark” on my record of having been refused for insurance. And if I ever applied somewhere else, the refusal would be on my record, and that might be enough for me to never, ever have independent health insurance.

Remember I said I’m anxious? I specifically DON’T go to the doctor for it because I don’t want to make it harder to get insurance. I write this blog instead. You’re welcome.

If I were refused for independent coverage, I could go into a high-risk pool. Or I might have been able to get on a state plan, but part of the qualification was to not have coverage for half a year, which I could do. But that sounded like a risky, dumb thing for a responsible adult to do. Or we could have done COBRA, but as I said, it was astronomically expensive. Health reform is opening up some options, but not many, and not soon enough.

Our goal was to quit our jobs and build our own company. But if I couldn’t get independent health insurance, it would have meant that I’d always need a job with benefits. Or Dave would always need a job with benefits. We would always need an employer. Neither Dave or I are corporate ladder climbers. Without health insurance, our career decisions would not have been based on what we wanted to do with our lives, but needing to be worker bees for the sake of benefits.

Is it me, or is that fucked up?

The good news, is that despite my worrying, we did get an independent plan. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be living in Astoria, and we wouldn’t be building our fledgling company. If we had been turned down, I would have kept trying, I would have explored every option. As a corporation with two employees (Dave and me), we could have tried to get group coverage. I would NOT have sucked it up. I would NOT have stopped whining. I would NOT go back to seeking employment. I would NOT just put my head down to do what I was told to do. I would bend over backwards to make my own work. The work I want to do.

But should it be this hard? How many other people would break away from their jobs to build their own companies if they didn’t have to worry about being bankrupted by health care? “That’s just the way it is” isn’t a good enough answer.


  1. Ach, I remember this BS. I was literally 30 days from losing COBRA when I got a job. As someone with a rather large pre-existing condition and drug/care costs that would have bankrupted me in less than a year, I feel your pain. Isn’t it neat that in a supposedly first world country, and the most wealthy nation on earth, you still get to gamble your entire life against being sick.

    • I have to agree – it is super neat!

      I don’t get offered health insurance at my job and have pre-exisiting conditions, so I get to spend a large chunk of my income every month on high-risk pool health insurance. I just realized it’s more than my car payment. Yikes!

  2. It’s totally fucked up. Not only does it affect people who want to start their own business, but there are also a lot of people who would retire early, or earlier at least, but have to continue working for insurance. If those folks did retire, guess what? More jobs for others. Oh but no, we can’t provide health care for everyone cause that would be SOCIALISM and in America SOCIALISM = pure baby-killing evil. God forbid we have a healthy, educated populace, who knows what else they’d start noticing!!

    • I have often thought could could solve the economy by solving healthcare. For just these reasons.

      Also, babies are delicious.

  3. I’ve always wondered how lives would change if healthcare was not such an issue. It’s like when you go to Europe and start up a conversation with your waitress, and she tells you that she moved from Berlin to France with a boyfriend but then stayed after the broke up because she loved the cheese, and now she likes to paint and read and learn about French art and she has this job and also works at this theater part time. You walk away thinking, gosh, how cool would that be, to just sort of build the life I want and focus on what I like to do, working just on things I liked or found interesting or gave me enough money to pursue my hobbies? And then you remember that you can do that in Europe, because you don’t have to worry about healthcare…

    That said, I have a government job that I love, and so I’m safe. But before I had the government job I loved, the search for a job with benefits was the bane of my existence. I really think I could have been a fairly happy barista or courier or whatever else, but I never could really pursue that outside of college because responsible adults have insurance, and part time baristas don’t.

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