Getting Health Insurance: A Thing You Have A Few More Days To Do

Hey there tiny dancers, crazy diamonds, and console cowgirls. Do you know what Monday is? Monday is March 31, your last day to sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. The LAST ONE. If you don’t have health insurance — which many Autostraddle readers and even Autostraddle staff members don’t — this is crunch time for you to make the miracle happen. And having health insurance when you’ve been without it really is a miracle. Just ask Laneia:

I waited until two hours before the March 15th deadline to complete the enrollment process that I’d started in December 2013, because every time I thought about choosing a specific plan, my heart would stop and somewhere far away an orphaned kitten would cry out and I’d feel it in my soul, and then I’d need to lie down. Actually I was just beyond confused about the pros and cons of each plan’s details — copays and deductibles and monthly payments and what’s covered or not covered and so many things. I finally decided on a plan that seemed like A Good Plan and I paid the first month’s premium, and then four months of agonizing and eight years of being uninsured was over. But none of it seemed real until I got the packet with the card inside — with MY INSURANCE CARD inside.

I sat in the bathroom floor and ripped it open and straight up cried like someone on Extreme Home Makeover, and it hadn’t hit me until then how awful it had felt to be without insurance — like my life and health had been worth less than other people in this country. I didn’t even know how much of that I’d internalized until I had the stupid little card in my hand, and when it all went away.

You too can feel this feeling! If you’re uninsured and your body is ready, get thee to Healthcare.gov before March 31st. Don’t be afraid of the details — read about them and make the best decision you can and then, if it turns out that you chose the wrong plan, you can change it next year! Oh the freedom.

Not convincing enough? Maybe Hannah Hart and Obama can explain why you should be getting covered. That’s right, Hannah Hart and Obama made a video together JUST FOR YOU.

What are you waiting for? Get covered.

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Rachel is Autostraddle's Senior Editor and the editor who presides over books and news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy."

Rachel has written 759 articles for us.

27 Comments

  1. Thumb up 8

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    Unfortunately, my wife and I (excitedly) tried to sign up when the site first went live. After several excruciating days of reloading, we were finally to the application process and happily clicked away… Only to find out that the only option for coverage was many times our own rent per month.

    We even went so far as to call their Help Hotline and try to sort it out. They said there was absolutely nothing else for us and that the payments sounded extremely reasonable (to them, I guess anything under $1000/mo is reasonable). We even asked if we could get on a lower-cost Medicaid program, since we’d technically qualify for it — again, no go. Our State is one that opted out of having government assistance to expand their Medicaid program.

    While I’m glad the system works for some, it certainly doesn’t work for everyone, as these comments have already pointed out. I try to be optimistic and think this system lays out the groundwork for a better system, but it’s no Universal Healthcare like every other civilized country has. Those countries with actual Universal Healthcare and actual same-sex marriage are looking pretty tempting…

    • Thumb up 4

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      I’m really sorry to hear that because your state opted out that an affordable option wasn’t available to you. That kind of politics — to hurt constituents in order to make some kind of stand against the administration — is just horrible. You’re so right that we need to go further so petty politicians can’t hold people’s healthcare hostage.

  2. Thumb up 1

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    Let’s see … pay $400/month for something that I’ll never use and won’t even cover the closest thing to medical costs that I have, or the $500/year penalty (because yeah, I make enough that I can afford it, but I’d rather do something else with my money. The government already takes enough of it from me.)?
    Yep, obvious choice there.

      • Thumb up 3

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        Statistically, it still doesn’t add up. Now, I’m just ballparking the cost based on what my coworker (who is 20 years older than me) pays, but if I pay $350 a month and have a $3000 deductible, I’d have to be having some pretty serious accidents pretty frequently for health insurance to be worth it.

        Let’s say I break my arm. Assuming it’s a run-of-the-mill broken arm (i.e. I don’t need orthopedic surgery or something like that), the total cost for it wouldn’t actually be much higher than the deductible. And how often do people break their arms?

        I’d be way, way, better off putting that same $350 a month into a health savings account. After 5 years, I’d have $21,000 in it. And, however much I pay into THAT gets subtracted from my taxable income.

        I haven’t been to a doctor since 2009. And when I go to the travel clinic to get vaccines and malaria pills for my trip to Borneo, insurance won’t cover it because it’s a “preventative measure.” Sound like a first world problem? Damn right. I live in the first world; I get to have first world problems. And guess what else? I can take money out of that health savings account to pay for my typhoid vaccine.

        I don’t buy into this “oh but what if something happens!” paranoid attitude. Life isn’t about worrying about the worst possible thing that could happen. Life fucking happens. Life happened before the health insurance system even existed.

        • Thumb up 0

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          Expensive medical problems are not all that rare. Just thinking about my own friends in the past year: I’ve been diagnosed with PCOS, one friend was hospitalized with a seizure (she had never had one before), another had to have her gallbladder removed, a third has been struggling with a painful undiagnosed illness requiring many tests, a forth needed physical therapy for a skiing injury. This is all in one fairly small group of generally healthy people in their twenties.

          A single hospital visit can cost many thousands of dollars. For example, if she hadn’t had insurance my friend could easily have been billed 20,000 for the gall bladder surgery and her two trips to the ER. If she’d taken an ambulance instead of the subway, it could have been thousands more.

          I completely respect the decision not to purchase insurance if you can’t afford/can barely afford it. It’s absolutely horrifying that there are still people in this country in that position, and sadly there are many. But if you can afford it not being insured is a really horrible idea.

    • Thumb up 2

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      I was going to ask the same. I don’t think it’s the equivalent of the NHS as ACA seems to have levels of cover, and a excess should they need to claim. I can’t imagine not having NHS, even though we pay a substantial amount for it out of our wages, it’s money well spent and I suppose as we’ve not known any different, I’m used to paying for it.

    • Thumb up 3

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      No, unfortunately it isn’t like the NHS at all. Basically, most people still have to purchase private insurance if they are not ensured through their employer. You can choose a bronze, silver, or gold plan. Bronze plans have lower premiums but less coverage, gold higher premiums but better coverage. Coverage is subsidized to varying degrees depending on your income. The ACA made other changes as well such as making it illegal to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions and requiring insurance companies to allow young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26.

      In addition, the ACA was supposed to expand Medicaid (our system of free, government provided, insurance for lower income people) to those making up to 133% of the federal poverty level (the poverty level is about 11,000 for a single individual). However, some states decided that they didn’t want to do this. This means that, in those states, someone who doesn’t qualify for Medicaid in their state but makes up to 133% of the poverty level falls into a coverage gap which makes it impossible to get affordable insurance.

      The ACA has made significant improvements to the US health insurance system, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough. Especially in states that refused to expand Medicaid, many lower income people are still being left uninsured or having to spend an exorbitant amount on insurance. While no system is perfect, I believe that a single payer system would be much more effective.

  3. Thumb up 3

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    I really feel like everyone should get insurance. Like mentioned above, accidents are called so for a reason. While people think it’s not a good investment or too expensive I think we should look at the long term. Do I think we should have better health benefits like other countries? DEFINITELY. But is that something that’ll happen right this second? No.

    From what I’ve heard my co-workers say (I have insurance through my job) the reason we call it the Affordable Healthcare Act is because it allows you to ‘customize’ your insurance coverage. Of course opting out of some other options will make the price go down. I mean who needs MRI coverage unless of course you have some sort of degenerative disease that requires you to have an MRI a couple of times a year. Some of my co-workers have told me it’s a whole lot cheaper than what they’re getting at work but you have to keep in mind that if you opt out of other things to be covered on, you should be prepared for a possible time that when you actually need coverage for that certain thing, you’ll end up paying more thus causing some people to say that it wasn’t affordable as it should be. That is a bad run on sentence.

    • Thumb up 0

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      You can’t opt out of specific benefits- each plan has to cover a minimum of 10 essential benefits named in the law- but you can choose plans that only cover those or plans that cover additional benefits or the minimum benefits to a greater extent and charge more for that.

  4. Thumb up 1

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    I’m lucky to have a lower deductible but even with insurance paying several thousand dollars of the cost, I still ended up paying a couple of thousand recently for basic tests (not even treatment) like blood tests and xrays. It probably depends on where you live but I was surprised that the costs went up so quickly and I was glad that insurance paid for more than half of it. But I am lucky to get insurance through my school and my premiums are low. Just as well as I have a chronic illness and I’m glad I can’t be kicked off the plan or denied new coverage when I move because of a pre-existing condition. Thanks ACA. :)

  5. Thumb up 1

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    I’m so happy Laneia has insurance now. I wish that feeling for everyone.

    Something really bad happened to me last summer and I would have been fucked five ways to Sunday if I hadn’t had health insurance. Five hours in the hospital cost over $23K, and that was just the start of the expenses. Nobody ever sees these things coming, and almost nobody has that much cash just lying around so they can cover it out of pocket on the fly when it does happen. This is why you need insurance. You just do.

    That being said, I wish ACA had gone further. The basis of this program is still that people with more money deserve better health care, an idea which makes me unspeakably angry.

  6. Thumb up 2

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    Two years ago I moved to a developing country where a decent doctor’s visit is less than $20, you don’t need a prescription to buy medication, and more serious medical procedures (though not REALLY serious…you’d have to leave the country for that…) would set you back a couple thousand dollars, at most. I also have health insurance through my employer – $500/year (they pay it).

    Healthcare is high on the list of things that scare me about moving back to the U.S. In a country with our relative wealth, it’s criminal that decent healthcare remains so expensive and out-of-reach.

  7. Thumb up 1

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    I’m able to stay on my mother’s plan for a bit longer so that’s great. But once that’s over there is a good chance I won’t be able to afford any plan for a while so I’m just gonna live it up for these next few years while my mommy has me taken care of and then prepare myself for death at least until I make enough to afford these things.

    • Thumb up 0

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      I’ve looked at the individual market in my state (DE) and the prices are pretty comparable to what I could get through work- we had a stipend to buy into any of the benefits we chose so we always knew the full price of our insurance, not just the amount we were required to pay toward it out of pocket. I think a lot of people think of the price of insurance as what they pay through work after an employer pays a share of it and of course the marketplace prices are going to look higher compared to that. One thing I wish the ACA had done was make all premiums tax-deductible- that would even the playing field more between those of us who could buy insurance through work with pre-tax money and those who had to buy it on the market but didn’t qualify for subsidies or tax credits.

      And let’s not forget that the ACA’s determination of affordability is based on the same flawed measure that most other safety net programs are based on- the federal poverty level which is incredibly low- I think around $25K for a family of four. Sadly there is no political will to update the formula as no one wants to be held responsible in campaigns or history for increasing the number of poor people!

  8. Thumb up 1

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    I finally got my act together and signed up and while it is still so expensive, it would have been a lot worse without the ACA. I chose a gold-level plan because I need prescriptions and I know I will need to see a few specialists this year, so the cheaper plans didn’t really make sense for me. I’ll be spending $117 a month for it, after the $79 a month subsidy. (I make a little under $20k a year). I also could have just gotten catastrophic coverage for about $15 a month I think. I hope that someday we have single-payer but at least this is some help. I would definitely be uninsured now if not for the ACA.

  9. Thumb up 2

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    Yeah, and a gold level plan would cost me $340/month. A catastrophic plan would be $240/month. Explain to me why I should have to pay 16 times more than you for the same thing.
    If they’re going to implement this at the national level, they should have at least made it so insurers are forced to compete across state lines.

    • Thumb up 0

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      A bronze plan or catastrophic plan would cost $240 a month? If your income doesn’t allow for subsidies, you likely wouldn’t have been eligible for them to price a catastrophic plan for you- those are the really cheap ones that basically only cover major illness/accident.

  10. Thumb up 0

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    I would just like to point out: stating that the ACA works well for you is totally fine; by all means let’s share our personal experiences. But when you say “This act works well for me, so I fully support it!” you’re linguistically slapping millions of people in face. It’s kind of short-sighted and certainly destructive to support acts and institutions based solely on your individual personal experience. We should be supporting structures which assist as many people as possible. <3

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