The health insurance game: freelancer special

Listening to: “Tiger, Tiger” – Bishop Allen

When I was in college, I was covered on my parent’s health insurance plan. After college, I had a full-time gig as an editorial assistant that provided some really crappy health insurance, but it still covered the big emergency stuff. I was laid off from that job in the spring of 2007, and I have been uninsured ever since then. I weened myself off the prescriptions I was taking at the time, and stopped going for annual appointments. If I’m ever in a fix (eye infection, sinusitis, stingray puncture, etc.), I go to urgent care centers and swallow the expense.

Do I want health insurance? Of course. Do I think I’m “invincible”? Of course not. I’m a freelance writer. Sometimes I’m a waitress. Last fall, I got laid off (again) from a “full time” job that didn’t give me benefits. These days, I live paycheck to paycheck, and sometimes without paychecks.

I live in Massachusetts, where supposedly healthcare is universal.


Last year, I got penalized on my taxes for not having insurance. At my last “full time” gig, I lobbied for insurance and was denied. For the past 6 months, I’ve been playing mail tag with Commonwealth Connector, trying to get on the Commonwealth Care program. I’ve sent them every conceivable proof of my income, and they still want more. I don’t know how many other ways to tell them that as a freelancer, I don’t get W-2s. A few weeks ago, they tried to close my claim because they said I hadn’t provided the proper documentation.

Universal healthcare? Bull. Shit.

Why am I on this rant right now? Because I stumbled upon this article in the New York Times, which pissed me off almost as much as this article that ran in the Phoenix awhile back. From the Times article:

In the parlance of the health care industry, Ms. Boyd, whose case remains unresolved, is among the “young invincibles” — people in their 20s who shun insurance either because their age makes them feel invulnerable or because expensive policies are out of reach. Young adults are the nation’s largest group of uninsured — there were 13.2 million of them nationally in 2007, or 29 percent, according to the latest figures from the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit research group in New York.

Yeah, that’s right. I feel invincible. I am as like unto a superhero, behold my Goddesslike Healing Powers. Look At These Guns. Behold My Shining Mental Stability. *Glistens in the sun*

I’m glad that this shit is getting covered in the media, I am. But these people who are covering it? They have no clue what the fuck they’re talking about. They haven’t tried to go through the system, and been stopped at every turn. They haven’t gone 3 years without a checkup or a pap smear. They haven’t turned down an X-ray because they couldn’t afford it, tried to give it a go sans antibiotics, hoped that maybe the weird tooth thing would just go away on its own. And at the end of it all, they haven’t been penalized for it.

So for them to talk about us pack of the young and self-employed like we’re a bunch of irresponsible, crazy daredevil kids flipping the bird at The System… well, it’s pretty goddamned infuriating. Is all I’m saying.

I’ll just end by saying–what kind of insane country, that has the gall to call itself First World, doesn’t provide its citizens with healthcare? It’s so mind-boggingly fucked. This first-person piece in the Guardian, from a British journalist who finds himself entangled in the American health system, is much fairer than the anthropologically snippety ones from the Times and the Phoenix:

Fifteen percent of Americans – including eight million children – have no insurance.

Diagnosed with diabetes, as Sam was, they would have been treated at Washington Children’s Hospital – it insists proudly that it turns no-one away – but probably only after collapsing, because uninsured people tend not to go to the doctor to investigate symptoms.

And the parents would now be facing the kind of added burden that I find almost unimaginably awful: a sick child and a dependence on charity. Gifts from churches and drug companies, or a life of increasingly threatening letters, ending in bankruptcy.

3 thoughts on “The health insurance game: freelancer special

  1. When I was your corporate overlord at that editorial-assistant gig, and Metrocorp sprang that godawful $1000-deductible plan on us, I complained to the Metrocorp No. 2 exec, with data on how plans like that force women to pay twice as much as men for regular healthcare. He quit shortly thereafter. Everybody I talked to was wicked sympathetic, but nobody did anything.

    I suggest you get married. Or get pregnant. If I wasn’t on Julia’s health insurance, I’d be dancing the same wretched red tape tango with the Connector people. And if I didn’t have a baby, they’d probably tell me to go screw.

    In all seriousness, call the Artists Foundation. They are the only people who have taken the plight of freelancers/small business owners in the MA insurance system seriously, they know their shit, and they might be able to help you.

  2. I actually saw the same article and was going to send it to you. My impression of the NYTimes and most reporters is that they are frequently uninformed, behind the times, and unable to frame the issue in a meaningful way. An article that pissed *me* off came out three days ago about Facebook’s terms of service being Machiavellian. I wanted to call up the NYTimes and say, “Yes and? Of course the terms are awful at Facebook, but have you looked ANYWHERE?” Facebook’s terms aren’t the only ones that claim perpetual licenses in any copyrightable material posted there.

    Back to Health Care. I think there is a group of people who actively turn away from health care because they think they are superheroes. That isn’t you. Nor is it any rational person. The question I am left with, however, is if these people don’t want their health insurance? Can they sell the rights to purchase it? The answer is obviously no, but what if you could?

    1. See, that’s what I mean. They’re interviewing the lunatic fringe, some asswipe with a snowboard and a death wish, and calling it average. This is your average uninsured twentysomething. It’s crap.

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