One of the more frustrating challenges in the past few years, especially since I changed employers March 2014, has been affordable health insurance. When I was fired, I lost the BCBS family silver PPO that my employer subsidized. It had been close to 25 years since I had to worry about health insurance for myself or for my family, the cost of my insurance and insurance for my family subsidized by my employer. The pay I received from that job was bad to marginal but the health insurance benefit was above average and good, the $28 deduct from my weekly paycheck worth every penny. Suddenly, I was faced with paying for COBRA insurance, then working through the then new federal Healthcare Marketplace. I was offered a job two days after I was fired, but my new employer was small — a three person office with me being the only official full time domestic employee of a company based in eastern Europe. There would be no company health insurance benefit, although the job offer included a monthly allowance for my family’s health insurance. Even then, I would be required to pay roughly 75% of the insurance cost.
One note — I am very proud to be able to say that was only unemployed for two days. The word of my demise spread quickly, as nasty stories have a tendency to do, and someone with my reputation and experience is rare in the industry I serve. There was a lot of interest to hire me and the company who hired me was very happy to get someone with my experience. Unfortunately, I needed a month to recover from the stress I had been through in the months/years leading up to the incident that led to my firing. So much had been heaped on me for a long time, combined with financial and family/marital stress that added to the stress at work, that I had reached a breaking point. While my employer had been extremely cruel to me, I hadn’t helped myself with my final reaction, which had been to tell my boss to fire truck off — he had been looking for a reason to fire me and was intentionally trying to push me over the edge. After a long Wednesday that had been preceded by several long days and months of constant ruthless badgering by my boss, I handed the reason to him on a silver platter. I can only say that I have had to learn some hard lessons about dealing with anger properly. It’s not that I was an angry, raging lunatic, but I tried to avoid losing my temper so much that it wasn’t healthy in a lot of ways. It hurt me physically and there were times where the frustration became too much for me to handle. That time of my life taught me a lot of lessons, the stress actually pushing my body past its limits. It was a good thing that I had good health insurance at the time!
For the record, no matter what my ex says, curse words are not a normal part of my daily vocabulary. I know how many times she heard me curse in the 25 years we were married — so few that I can count the number of times on one hand. Saying fire truck to my boss means that I was stressed out of my mind. The day before the firing, the stress had been so bad that I had to go out to my car so that coworkers would not have to watch me lose it. I sat in my car weeping uncontrollably for a good half hour.
I negotiated the dark waters of that first open enrollment fairly well, barely making the deadline for the 2014 open enrollment. My son was diagnosed with borderline ADHD when he was 10 years old, prescribed the expensive medicines that go along with it. I didn’t agree with the diagnosis then, don’t agree now, definitely question the necessity of the medications. My boy has been exposed to an amphetamine that he will never be able to quit taking. Those medications and the psychiatric care that goes with them make it a challenge to get affordable health insurance for him. Most plans do not include those medications or psychiatric care. If they do, they are very expensive. That meant that the federal subsidy was necessary to keep the monthly insurance payment below $1000 per month.
The PPO for 2014 was discontinued at the end of 2014. The plan that replaced it cost three times as much, making it impossible to afford even with the federal subsidy. Through the Marketplace, I found another lower tier PPO that covered the medications required and was roughly the same cost. It was supposed to also include the pediatrician and doctors we used. The monthly federal subsidy was a little higher. After signing up, we found out that our doctors had dropped out of the PPO’s network. We were screwed for 2015. So, when that PPO was also discontinued at the end of 2015 and replaced once again by a far more expensive PPO, I changed to an HMO for 2016 that was affordable.
2016 was the year the divorce started, although we didn’t separate until April 2017. Late 2016, I took an advance from my retirement fund to pay off outstanding credit card debt (another stress for years, as well as a symptom of a terrible marriage). When 2016 taxes were filed and my wife and I had separated, I received a letter from the IRS that advised that our 2016 income had exceeded the maximum combined income to receive the federal health insurance subsidy — which meant that I had less than two weeks to come up with the nearly $7000 to pay back the total 2016 insurance subsidy. Since each of us had changed addresses, the letter got to me after the due date to pay the $7000, resulting in a hefty penalty for late payment.
This story is getting long. Let’s just say that I was fortunate to have the money from my portion of the sale of our house. Otherwise, it would have been much more difficult to deal with. As it was, it depleted my savings to near nothing, making the first year of divorce a quite bit more uphill financially. I am thankful that I planned my post divorce budget well, something I think my ex hates. She suspects I have unlimited finances, I think, judging from the way she asks for money. Truthfully, if I don’t stick to the budget I have set, I would be hurting. God help me if there is an emergency (like my car is strongly hinting at now).
Things like unexpected changes to health insurance premiums can really mess with that budget. This month, I start paying on the Parent Plus loan that I had to take out during my daughter’s junior and senior years of college. I planned on that, but it means my budget is even more tight. To avoid the excessive health insurance premiums and possible federal health insurance subsidy issue, this year I avoided the federal Marketplace altogether. Instead of health insurance, I enrolled in a federally recognized health share for myself. I found an inexpensive health insurance plan for my son — and found out that I either misunderstood what the salespeople told me or I was lied to. His plan is a supplementary plan, not intended to be the health insurance plan. It also doesn’t cover his prescriptions or psychiatric care, something I was careful about when shopping for his insurance, so I know I was lied to in that case. His insurance is definitely not the plan I was told it would be. It sounded too good to be true and it was too good to be true, as is usually the case.
So, my son needs to find insurance that meets his needs. I have been asking him to come over to my place so we can look into a new plan for him, cancel the plan he has now. I can’t cancel his insurance because legally I am not allowed. I also want to see if he qualifies for a federal subsidy on his own, probably the way we can afford the insurance he needs. I have to pay for his insurance, 100% of it, per the divorce agreement.
He is avoiding me. Until yesterday, he ignored my phone calls and text messages. He has done that for weeks. I would have tried to get his mother involved, but wanted to give Nate a shot first, let him learn how to do it on his own. I have communicated the reason why it needs to be done this way. The open enrollment period ends this Saturday. It has to be started a few days before or else there will be trouble.
They both answered me, partially, yesterday. When I say partially, both said they received my messages. So I encouraged her (and said it has to be done) to work with him to get enrollment started in the next two days. I said I have to approve any plan enrollment before they enroll, as I have to get it approved for my employer to pay their portion.
The challenge isn’t just dealing with the health insurance itself. This would be difficult if the divorce had never happened. Dealing with it with all the angst of the divorce is making it a real challenge. Trying to get both my son and my wife to work on getting the health insurance questions resolved requires patience… and prayer.