In April, I left my job with the federal government to launch my own consulting business. After serving as part of the Obama Administration for four years, I was eager to get back to my political roots and work with the progressive community again, but I had been worried about my ability to get insurance coverage own my own.
Like many Americans, I have a pre-existing condition, that without the protections of the Affordable Care Act, would make me uninsurable.
When I left the government, I elected to pay for the government’s version of COBRA coverage, a temporary and extremely expensive option that permits you to extend for another 18 months the insurance you had with your former employer, but there’s a catch: You pay 100% of the premium, there’s no longer an employer contribution.
Each month, I write a check for $698 dollars to pay for my insurance. At 31 years of age. Yesterday, when the DC exchange opened, I learned that I’ll be able to cut that amount in half as of January 1st.
Shopping the exchange is something I’ve been waiting to do for months now, and it took just minutes to create and account and price out my options. (The DC exchange didn’t appear to have any of the glitches that some others experienced.) Not only will my costs go down by at least half, but it means I can pursue my own small business goals without worrying about COBRA expiring and having no insurance because, without the Affordable Care Act, no one would insure me.
I don’t expect to be eligible for an income-based subsidy, but even without a credit, as a 31 year old female living in DC, I can elect a low-level bronze plan for $136 a month or a top-end platinum plan for between $274 and $375. Again, compare that to the $698 per month that I spend now, and the complete lack of health insurance I’d have had after my COBRA coverage expires at the end of 18 months.
Here are the actual results the DC Exchange gave me for the three most expensive “platinum” plans:
I’m taking time to look deeper into the details of the plans and expect to enroll in one of two platinum options later this month. At first glance, the coverage offered by the exchange plans is expansive. With no deductible, it’s just as comprehensive as my government option, which pre-COBRA was costing me about $240 a month out-of-pocket (because my employer was paying the rest).
A lot of attention has been paid to the 48 million Americans who don’t have health care – and rightly so. The heartbreaking stories of people denied care, or forced into bankruptcy because of their health care costs, or who simply couldn’t afford basic insurance have been the driving force behind the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
But another side of the story that isn’t told nearly as often is about the many people like me who aren’t even given the chance to buy health insurance because insurance companies consider us too great a risk, and if they do offer us a plan, it’s so prohibitively expensive that we can’t afford it. And as many have pointed about before, a “pre-existing condition” can be anything from asthma, to high cholesterol and blood pressure, to even eczema. That’s all changed now.
Freelancers, artists and other solo practitioners – not to mention the unemployed and those less well off – have options now that they never had before, and I’m excited to see how that spurs entrepreneurs and new business dreams. I know it is giving me the opportunity to chase mine. And for that, I’m grateful.