Why I'm Naming the New Lesion in My Ill Wife's Brain 'Anthem BlueCross' After the Criminals That Denied Her Medicine
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This article originally appeared at Truthout, and is reprinted here with their permission.
We got accountants playin' Godand countin' out the pillsYeah, I know, that sucks - that your HMOAin't doin' what you thought it would doBut everybody's gotta die sometime...—Steve Earle
Nothing so thoroughly dominated the American political landscape over the last year more than the Republican assault on the Affordable Care Act, colloquially known now as "Obamacare." The GOP's eternal refrain that "Government is the problem" was used as a battering ram against the law, and House Republicans have voted to repeal or denude it exactly fifty times as of today. Ted Cruz and his cohort of wreckers shut down the government over it, and the Tea Party base broke out their Sharpies to make gloriously stupid protest signs that read "Government Keep Your Hands Off My Medicare."
Amusing as all this was, the dark underbelly of it all is dangerously wrong. Yes, the ACA exchange website rollout was a train wreck, and yes, a small segment of the population has had problems with the new law. This is not in dispute. Websites can be fixed, however, and problems can be solved. None of this holds a candle to the awesome misery and financial pain inflicted upon the populace by the holy and sainted world of private business, known in this instance as the insurance industry.
My own saga with these broad-daylight thieves began in late summer, when I moved my family to New Hampshire. We were living in Boston before the move, and had health insurance through my wife's employer. My wife has Multiple Sclerosis, and one of the big reasons we felt comfortable about moving was that, if she changed jobs after the move, she could not be denied health insurance due to her pre-existing condition, thanks to the ACA.
We made the move, and my wife's employer transferred her to their location in Concord, more than an hour's drive away from our new home. She worked full-time to keep the health insurance, but after three months of ten-hour days combined with almost three hours on the road getting to and from work, it became clear that the situation was untenable. She was exhausted all the time — fatigue is the number one danger zone for people with MS; it leaves you wide open for an attack — and worse, she felt like she was missing out on raising our daughter because she was gone more than thirteen hours a day.
On top of that, winter was coming, and the last thing she wanted to deal with was driving one-lane roads at night in a snowstorm, which would have happened more than a dozen times given the severity of this winter. After careful consideration, she asked her employer to transfer her to a location only 20 minutes away from home. The price of that transfer: going from full-time to part-time, and losing our insurance.
We looked into the insurance available through my employer, but came to the conclusion — based on the information provided on the Healthcare.gov website — that going through the exchange was our best option. So we went to the website, and shopped for new insurance. The website was klunky, to be sure, but when I reached a point where it didn't seem to be making sense any more, I called the 800-number provided and spent a couple of hours talking to a tremendously nice woman with a near-parody Wisconsin accent — "Ooh yah, dearie me" — who was amazingly helpful, and got me the rest of the way through the process. Given the fact of my wife's MS, our process was particularly complicated, and this person did everything necessary to make sure we were taken care of.