Woah! It's been a busy February. In fact, I'm happy to say that February, 2017 was the most traffic I've gotten in a month to this site and across all Digisaurus platforms! Thanks to all of you out there for listening, watching, reading, etc. and I hope you’re enjoying everything as much as I am. For those of you who missed it, here’s a whole bunch of stuff you can check out from this past month:
This week, I want to touch on a subject I've been thinking about a lot recently: healthcare. It's a metamorphosing beast that's never been truly figured out in the US, but it has been and will be going through a lot of change. The Affordable Care Act directly impacted my ability to leave my job and go into business for myself as a full-time musician. So I wanted to lay out some of my experiences with the ACA and my thoughts on it in this week’s blog.
Prior to 2016, I was a full-time employee lucky enough to have health benefits. It was a great PPO plan from Anthem Blue Cross that was mainly made up of cheap office visits, lots of doctor choice, and a reasonable deductible. I understood the importance of having it and appreciated how easy it was to navigate the system of medical professionals I could see. Giving up those benefits was something I gave great consideration when I made plans to leave my job. I knew about the Affordable Care Act and the basic principles it laid out. However, I greatly underestimated how much it would actually affect me.
In the two months leading up to pursuing Digisaurus as a full time endeavor I set forth to figure out my health insurance. My first question was, do I need health insurance? I'm relatively healthy, but I didn't know what life had in store for me. I’m also very lucky to have loving people in my life who really care about my well-being. I worried about how much of a burden they might place on themselves if I got sick or was in an accident. For me, it was just as much about avoiding that situation as it was to prevent unforeseen costs for myself. So yeah, I needed health insurance if I was going to leave my job. With that in mind, I went to the first website I thought of: obamacare.gov. That was the wrong website. Eventually, I ended up at healthcare.gov :)
The open enrollment period had just opened and the only conception I had in my head was that health insurance was going to cost a lot. I was shocked to learn I would actually get a tax credit to make a decent insurance plan affordable. The credit took the cost down to about $100-$150 a month. I did a double take and some internet searching to make sure I hadn’t screwed things up. Surely the government wasn't going to give me a break on my health insurance so I could go off and pursue my career as a musician. I found a speech from Nancy Pelosi and some other politicians that highlighted exactly that benefit. I know the ACA is designed to support far more important issues within healthcare than my dreams to leave my job and play music full time. But part of the ACA's goal was to encourage people to set their own paths and take a leap without feeling the burden of health insurance weighing down on them. So jump I did.
As for the insurance itself, I ended up with an HMO plan for 2016. I couldn't see my old doctor on, which wasn't such a big deal to me. But balancing so much travel, being between two states, a hard to navigate online system, and the unavailability of doctors to choose from (most appointments I called for were being booked 2-3 months out) made it more hassle than it was worth for me me to find a new one. I ended up glad I had the insurance in case of emergencies, but it wasn't something I put to much use.
This year, I'm living in a new state and signed up for a new HMO plan from Keystone. I should point out, that my only options through healthcare.gov in Pennsylvania seemed to be all Keystone HMO or PPO plans. However, this one is way easier to navigate through their online system. I've been able to find a good doctor with relative ease and set up a physical for next week. It's still affordable based on the tax credit I'm getting along with reasonable deductibles. I also got a dental plan too.
My experience has been limited, and my breakdown should be taken with a grain of salt being that I (stupidly) didn't actually use any of my care in 2016. Overall though there's been a lot of benefits and difficulties to getting on board and I've come to learn a lot more about the ACA in the process. The expansion of Medicaid, tax credits, etc. is important for those who need encouragement to take health care more seriously but don't have the means to be burdened by the cost of insurance. However, the most important thing for me was that the ACA made taking control of my life a whole lot less scary. We live in a system where most of us are expected to be employee to the employer. I think anything that makes it easier for someone not to be part of that system if they don't want to is a good thing. I was very lucky to have the ACA in place when I made the decision to leave employment.
It's not perfect though, and in it’s current state I'm approaching an area where my income means I get less tax credits and the overall premiums are rising. But it was never designed to be perfect. Just a starting point. Repeal isn't the answer and lawmakers are starting to realize that. I think it'll be a tug of war for a long time on what gets amended and replaced as power changes hands, but I'm optimistic we'll end up in a better place than we were before Obama took office. Insurance is just the top of the pyramid when it comes to fixing healthcare in America too, and if you dig deeper there's a lot of issues regarding the overall economic structure. I highly recommend reading this article that Time Magazine published almost four years ago that highlights this: "Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills are Killing Us." I’d also love to hear your thoughts and experiences with the ACA keeping in mind that our stories can create a better solution for everyone and not just ourselves individually. Feel free to comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.