It’s 3:14 a.m.
I’m awake. Every night for the last six months, my eyes have opened just after 3. It’s my personal witching hour when my demons come out of the closet and surround the bed whispering messages of doom. My husband sleeps on, oblivious. I’ve developed some tricks to keep the creatures at bay. I count backward, I count my blessings, I recite what little poetry I know by heart. If I start listening to the goblins, that’s it, I’m up for the duration.
What am I worried about? I have smart, healthy children, one college graduate and one in college. I have a house and a husband and a car. What I don’t have is a job. And because I’m unemployed, we don’t have job-based health insurance. My husband works hard. He works a lot. But he’s always been freelance, and he’s hardly ever had insurance. That’s what I get from my kind of work, teaching at the university level — never much in the way of salary, but benefits. Now the work has dried up, and I’m benefit-less again.
I had a great one-year appointment teaching at a California State, with wonderful colleagues and interesting students. When the school decided to make the job a permanent position, I couldn’t apply. I didn’t have the required advanced degree. Twenty years working in my field, four published books and many published articles and stories, and I wasn’t eligible to continue doing exactly what I’d been doing. I know it has to do with the school’s accreditation. My department would have kept me if it could, but it couldn’t. I looked into getting that advanced degree and was even accepted at a school nearby, but I wouldn’t have been able to have the degree “in hand” by the time the permanent job started this fall.
So I’m out of work. Again. And because healthcare in this country is tied to employment, we are out of luck. Again. I had cancer. My daughter was hit by a car and got a concussion and a fractured ankle. I know bad things can happen to me, to my family. We have to have health insurance. And we have to pay for it ourselves. And that keeps me up at night.
I was excited when the Affordable Care Act was introduced. I thought it was about time everybody in this country had insurance. I believed it was ridiculous that we’re the only wealthy, Western nation without universal care. But the Affordable Care Act is not universal care. It’s not the single-payer system I so hoped for. It’s a step in the right direction, but for people like my husband and me, who make a pretty good income, it’s unlikely to give us any kind of break. We’ll still have to pay for our insurance entirely ourselves, and I’m not optimistic the price will go down.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, my new insurance company can’t deny me because I had cancer. Unfortunately, at least until January, when additional provisions of the law go into effect, they can charge me for it. For my family of four, to get care comparable to what I had through the CSU, we will spend $1,500 a month, or $18,000 a year. That’s a lot of money. I have to teach a lot to make that. The insurance through my former job was fantastic. We could choose our doctors, our co-pay was low and our deductible very reasonable.