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Health Care at its finest hour: I’m auctioning off jewelry and art to raise funds

Posted Jan 16 2010 10:02pm

I’m selling my wedding ring and some art to pay back health insurance premiums. It’s a long story. Which I will tell you now.

I’ve had an up and down experience with the American health care system. I have been extremely grateful for the times when my paying into an egregiously greedy and ill-managed system has paid off, like when my newborn son went into heart failure, stopped breathing, and lay in a coma for a couple weeks while he (unbelievably, apparently) survived viral myocarditis, a viral infection of his heart caused by a Coxsackie exposure at his older brother’s daycare. Destroyed most of his heart muscle. You’d never know it today. He’s totally fine, against every odd you can imagine. The bill came to something like $250,000. The insurance company fought me, big time, but eventually paid the bill.

I’ve also been annoyed at the peculiarities of the system. For instance, everyone knows that if you leave a job insured, you have the option to continue coverage under COBRA. Am I right? What most people don’t realize is that if your former employer goes out of business, you lose your COBRA coverage. I shit thee not. If there isn’t a company paying premiums, there isn’t any coverage. Usually you get about two weeks notice before you’re swinging in the wind. This has happened to me twice.

I’ve spent the last six months uninsured, because I’m basically uninsurable according to the current thinking in insurance underwriting. I’ve had babies. I’ve sought fertility treatment. I was diagnosed with Post Partum Depression in 2002, for which I took medication. These are the reasons I have been turned down by every major insurance company, even when applying for a policy that specifically excluded maternity coverage. I am not making this up.

Fortunately for those who pose unacceptable risks for private insurance companies, there is a government safety net: HIPAA (The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996). If no one else will insure you, the government must offer you a policy.

Now, it can take a while to get through the process. The last time I was uninsured, it was months before I had confirmed coverage, so I knew that it would take some time to secure coverage again this time. Five months, to be specific. It might have been shorter had Aetna and I agreed on whether or not I’d checked the box that said, “Please consider me for HIPAA coverage if denied,” but that’s a whole ball of wax I don’t need to go into. Yesterday, I convinced someone that I indeed had checked that box, a supervisor made an exception, et voilà! Covered!

The good news: I’m covered retroactively to September 1, 2009!

The bad news: the five months of back premiums for that retroactive coverage is immediately payable in full. As in, I have thirty days to come up with $2,510 in back premiums, or they will cancel my insurance.

Normally, if I hadn’t been paying cash for prescriptions, emergency room visits, and other basic health care, I’d have that kind of money. But I don’t.

The three thousand dollars it cost to run blood work when my daughter and I had Fifth Disease? Went to collections.

The OTHER three thousand dollars for three stitches in my thumb? Went to collections.

I’m sure there’s more but I don’t pick up my house phone much anymore. I hate talking to collectors, starting at eight a.m. and ending at nine p.m., seven days a week. You can request that they not call you at your place of employment, but I work out of the house.

I’ve finally paid the last of the medical bills, and have since have avoided medical care like the plague whenever possible. So to speak.

And now, I have a policy! Which brings me circuitously to the title of this post: I need cash. So, I’m auctioning off my wedding ring and some art. If I raise enough, I might be able to replace my twelve-year-old car that keeps making noises and flashing some “CHECK ENGINE” light at me. Plus? The ABS brake lighty-thingy.

American capitalism. It’ll put hair on your chest. And in the loony bin if you’re not careful.

Show me the goods


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