I move into 2017 with a great deal of despair regarding health coverage. Under our present conditions, I could choose to pay $200 dollars a month for employer-provided insurance for myself, my husband, and our son. My employer would match that cost, so the insurance company would make out quite nicely for offering next to nothing. Better coverage through my employer would cost $500 a month for my family. It would also cost my employer more, and neither of us can afford that.

This minimum amount of insurance would make my solidly middle-class family compliant with the rules requiring health insurance, but beyond that the insurance is almost worthless — over $2,000 a year for little more than annual exams. If anything serious happens, it is 100 percent out of pocket. There are no deductibles to meet because only very limited “preventive” care is offered. How this can be classified as insurance is beyond me.

The first year the Affordable Care Act was implemented, we’d had to stop our health insurance, so we paid a penalty. The second year, we were told our income was too much for the subsidy we had previously received, and we had to refund the IRS. The third year, we got letters saying we might qualify for Medi-Cal, were we tempted to use government assistance. Getting into the system feels like a big, complicated balancing act.

I spoke to many different people while trying to resolve our insurance coverage, and I found the information changed from call to call. One person who seemed to know what they were talking about admitted there has been a lot of confusion.

I voted for Obama. With all my heart I wanted Bernie Sanders to win because I think he could have gotten this issue to a better place. Presently, I more or less don’t care. Be poor, and it’s clear what help you can receive. Be in the middle ground and be prepared to wish you had just a little less, or a good chunk more so you didn’t need to involve yourself in the first place.

I went on the Covered California website recently to compare plans. This time it offered Bronze-level coverage for the three of us for $236 a month with a deductible of around $5,000 a piece. Previously, the Covered California person quoted me $190 just for my husband. I had another rep tell me that if my work offered insurance, I had to accept it, no exceptions. Yet another said, no, I could opt out, which made more sense. But all the inconsistent information is exhausting and crazy making, and you spend a good deal of time on hold.

By law we carry car insurance to protect ourselves and others, and that insurance looks magnificent compared to what we get for mandated health coverage. I can choose not to drive a car, but I can’t choose not to have health insurance. Or I can be unemployed and get full coverage from the state. Funny how that works.

I want to have health insurance for my family, but I just feel discouraged. Whether we get insurance through my employer, Covered California, or independently, it will very likely be an unsatisfactory expense. You don’t feel like you are coming out on top any which way you slice it, not unless you are willing to pay far more than you can afford.

Those who have good insurance through your work, don’t take it for granted! I ended 2016 uninsured and am at a loss as to what to do next.


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