Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Playing the Health Insurance Game

Intensive care bed after a trauma intervention...Image via Wikipedia

I just watched the PBS Special Report: Heath Care Reform and highly recommend you watch this program too. The report devoted a whole section on the issue of pre-existing conditions and for a few minutes afterwards I sat and scratched my head. I live with multiple health problems (just look at the description I use to introduce you to my blog above.) I scratched my head because, after viewing the program, I was left wondering how I avoided getting into trouble with my health insurers about my pre-existing conditions.

Needless to say, it took me several hours to come to the following conclusion: it appears at first glance that I played the "health insurance game" successfully. My fear of not having health insurance after my cancer diagnosis at age 22 spurred me to make absolutely sure that AT NO TIME was I ever uninsured in the past 21 years.

Then I realized the sacrifices and calculated choices I made to achieve this goal.

For starters, while I was working, I didn't apply for and turned down jobs that didn't offer health insurance. This automatically meant that working for small employers and starting my own business (like a private clinical social work practice) were never options for me. I avoided leaving a job without securing another position beforehand. In the event I wasn't able to make this kind of transition, I ALWAYS paid for extended COBRA health insurance coverage, which is very, very expensive.

I admit that in the past 10 years, my worries about having medical insurance decreased after I got married. For the first three years of my disability, I relied exclusively on my husband's health insurance, which prompted occasional worries about what would happen if my husband's employment situation changed. In 2007, I qualified for MediCare, which eased those worries a bit but brought new frustrations with my medical providers' inability to make the transition to billing MediCare as my secondary insurance.

I guess for all my bad luck with health problems, I have been blessed with good health insurance mojo. But don't let that fool you; watching this latest report on how health insurance excludes people with pre-existing conditions fueled another round of health care worries for me. I will always be obsessed with getting, having and keeping my health insurance: I will always be playing the health insurance game.

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