Health insurance: an unfortunately epic tale (cont.)

(Cont. from my previous post)

At the time the ACA was rolled out, I’d been uninsured for a year. I had just gotten a full-time job and was happy I’d be able to afford insurance. My job even threw $50 a month my way to help cover the cost. I can’t tell you my disappointment when I saw the price tags on those plans. I finally settled on a “silver” plan, the one that falls between “gold” and “bronze.” It came with a $218 monthly premium, a $2,000 deductible, a bunch of different co-pays, and the worst customer service I’ve ever experienced. The plan was kind of expensive on a $33,000 salary:

Health Republic Silver

Because my job didn’t give me sick days, I only went to the doctor twice during the six months I was on Health Republic’s Silver Plan. Fast forward six months and it didn’t matter: I’d been laid-off. I immediately called up the New York State Health Exchange and canceled my insurance. I wasn’t spending my one-month severance on that crazy premium. Cue Never Let Me Go by Florence and the Machine. My relationship with Medicaid had begun.

My relationship with Medicaid started out rocky. The version New York had confused the hell out of me. I kept calling the number on the back of my card and trying to get names of participating doctors and clinics, only to be told that they didn’t have a comprehensive list. Some doctors accepted it, some didn’t, and it was up to me to figure out which were which. I turned back to my home remedies, determined to never get sick enough to need a doctor.

An illustration of a doctor holding up his hand in a STOP gesture
Photo courtesy of

When I moved home to Wisconsin, I assumed Medicaid would follow me. Not quite. I reapplied in Wisconsin and, because I was still job searching, I was eligible for Wisconsin’s version of the plan. It turned out to be the best insurance I’d ever had. The people I got on the phone could explain things to me in simple terms, the co-pays for doctors’ appointments rarely ran more than $3, and there was a clinic that accepted my Forward Health Card right down the street. I was so happy that I even jumped through all the hoops, started therapy for the first time in years, and eventually got re-prescribed anti-depressants.

I pitied the people who weren’t on Medicaid. It saddened me that others had to deal with inferior plans or private insurance. Our relationship couldn’t last. I’d misunderstood how little money you needed to be making to remain eligible. If you’re interested, for a single individual, it’s a gross income of $980/month before taxes. Anything over disqualifies you.

I had gotten a job and sometimes taught night classes at a community college. I made just enough to be over the $980 limit most months. According to the person I talked to at the State, every month I wasn’t eligible I was supposed to apply for private insurance. The months that I was Medicaid eligible, I was supposed to send in the necessary paperwork and get back on Medicaid.

As anyone who has shopped for healthcare plans or filed paperwork for state subsidies knows, this isn’t realistic. You’d be spending an absurd amount of time per month combing the affordable care site, scanning pay stubs, and calculating your income down to the penny. When you work two to three part-time jobs–none of which give you paid time off–it’s impossible to calculate your gross monthly income before the end of the month. So, for the last three months, I’ve gone uninsured. I’m pretty sure I’m just over the limit for Medicaid, but I have other things to do than spend every spare second obsessing over health insurance I can’t afford.

Of course I’m lucky to be healthy. And I’m only healthy–and O.K. with going uninsured–until my luck runs out. That’s why I included a petition I got in my inbox from the Bernie Sanders’ campaign. If you agree, please sign.


Add your name if you agree that the only long-term health care solution for America is a Medicare-for-all single-payer system.


Because of the Supreme Court’s decision to protect the modest gains made under the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans will be able to keep their access to health care.
This is good for the small business owners who, before the passage of the Affordable Care Act, couldn’t afford the escalating cost of providing insurance for their employees.

But while I am glad the Supreme Court upheld the law, in my view, the only long-term solution to America’s health care crisis is a Medicare-for-all single-payer system.
I start my approach to health care from two very simple premises:
1. Health care must be recognized as a right, not a privilege—every man, woman and child in our country should be able to access quality care regardless of their income.
2. We must create a national system to provide care for every single American in the most cost-effective way possible.

Tragically, the United States fails in both areas.

The health insurance lobbyists and big pharmaceutical companies make “national health care” sound scary. It’s not.

In fact, a large single-payer system already exists in the United States. It’s called Medicare and the people enrolled give it high marks. More importantly, it has succeeded in providing near-universal coverage to Americans over age 65 in a very cost-effective manner.

It’s time to expand that program to all Americans.

If we are serious about providing high-quality, affordable care as a right for all Americans, the only solution to this crisis is a Medicare-for-all single-payer system. Add your name to our petition if you agree.

The American people understand that our current health care system is not working.
They understand that the profiteering of the pharmaceutical industry and private insurance companies causes the United States to spend more per capita on health care than any other nation, while our life expectancy, infant mortality and preventable deaths outcomes are worse than most other countries.

We should be spending our money on care and disease prevention, not paper-pushing and debt collection. But the simple truth is that our efforts to eliminate waste and profiteering are endangered by these powerful corporate interests.

A single-payer system will expand employment and lift a major financial weight off of businesses burdened by employee health expenses. And the millions of Americans stuck in jobs they don’t like, they would be free to explore more productive opportunities as they desire.

Add your name to mine if you agree it’s time for America to adopt a Medicare-for-all single-payer health care system.

I am convinced today more than ever before that universal quality health care as a right will eventually become the law of the land. It is the only way forward.
Thank you for adding your name to mine, Bernie Sanders

Paid for by Bernie 2016,



4 thoughts on “Health insurance: an unfortunately epic tale (cont.)

  1. What we need is not just single payer, but single provider.
    My worry about single payer is that there would be no competition among health care providers (there’s little enough now!), and you and I would get even more ripped off, but this time in taxes. If government-trained and -employed physicians were to provide all health care, * then we the people can have a say in both making medical care efficient (which it isn’t, definitely, now), and saving taxpayer money that can be more effectively used elsewhere, e.g., to fix our crumbling bridges and subways.

    * like when I was in the Army. No coddling, and adequate care.


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