Costs Up Benefits Down

I’m insured. Obamacare says so! Oops. No, I’m not. Oh wait, maybe I am again. Hours on the phone and I’ve noticed two consequences: their music is better, and I’m spending more money than I expected. Another thing has been apparent the entire time. For someone in my economic condition, insurance is an expense, not a benefit. But such disparities with the headlines are kept quiet, even by the people paying the bills. There are stories behind the optimism and the headlines.

You must get that feeling occasionally. Intuition tells you to do something. Intuition told me to call my new health insurer. It was a good thing that I did when I did. A day later and they wouldn’t have been my insurer, and there was nothing they could do about it.

It was February 24th and I hadn’t seen a bill for a premium (what a misplaced word) payment, and nothing had been automatically withdrawn from my bank account. Rather than let it slide and hope for the best, I called my insurer. About 20 minutes later I got through to find out that they have nothing to do with my payments or bills. Everything comes through Washington (the state) Health Planner. Click me over and wait for another 80 minutes. The last time I did that was more than a month ago. The music has improved a lot and they no longer interrupt it with useless advice and instructions. It was easy to forget I was on hold. Doing this without a wireless phone would be anchoring myself to a radius around a wall outlet. Because I had a hands-free, wireless home phone I was able to wander around and get the mail, load the laundry, and basically take care of a few chores while waiting.

Every time I’ve talked to Washington State’s customer service reps I’ve been pleased and impressed. The fact that I have to do so repeatedly is not a good sign, but hopefully we’re improving my situation with every call. This time, somehow, without any obvious action by anyone, I’d been dropped from the billing cycle, which also meant my coverage was going to be dropped – the next day. I knew the situation wasn’t normal when the rep had to put me on hold at least three times while he checked with various experts. A day later, no luck. It looked like we’d catch it just in time; but, he had so many options to legally relay that I was starting to worry about my phone’s battery. Finally, right after he came back again, a new option showed up on his screen. I asked the expedient question. If I take that option and pay with a debit card immediately, does that clear everything up? Yes. Are any of the options even remotely as simple? No. Then, let’s do that.

My health insurance has gone from a bit over $300 to almost $600, but then had a tax rebate applied that got it back to only $10 over my old bill. But not the first payment, which was the full amount, because I answered a question too precisely. The second payment, which was done over the phone, went well, but it was setting up for auto-pay, which I don’t like. The third payment was supposed to be via a paper bill mailed to me, but it never showed. I had to pay the full amount yet again, though April’s payment should be okay. Okay? So far, two months out of three have been at a price that would possibly threaten my ability to pay a modified mortgage.

So, what’s the worry? Why post about it? The applause about millions becoming insured misses the point that many of those millions can’t take advantage of the insurance. Yes; they are covered. But, only if they can afford to pay their portion of the doctor’s bills, the clinic’s bills, the prescription bills. Many of them weren’t covered because they didn’t have the money. Now, many of them are probably covered because they’ve been ordered to. I’m covered, and I’m glad; but I also know that I can’t afford to use the benefits from my second largest monthly expense. For me, health insurance is an expense which has a benefit with a value of zero. The cost/benefit analysis puts a zero in the denominator, which makes math and mathematicians blow up. I pay the bill and watch the money go away.

Our economy is improving. GDP is up, but much of it is consumption not production. Unemployment is down, but people have traded high-paying benefit-delivering full-time jobs for low-pay benefit-less part-time jobs. Housing is improving, but it appears that many of the houses have been bought by corporations to turn into rentals with business models that are as unsustainable as the previous mortgages. We are improving, yet there’s a bit of an illusion happening.

Undoubtedly some people are getting good jobs and returning to a mainstream lifestyle. The numbers we are dealing with are so large that probability ensures success for some; but probability ensure the opposite too. I see the headlines about successful programs and wonder if the numbers are being made to look better regardless of the need.

Quiet stories continue. A friend who is very aware of the complexity of my situation gingerly asked about how I was doing, and was courageous enough to listen to the long reply. My situation simplified within these posts, is more complicated in reality, yet is simpler and more secure than many around me. I am on the edge, as my fatigued mind and body acknowledge.

I’ve been working hard to keep my house. More than a year after stopping making mortgage payments, I may finally be making enough to meet a mortgage modification – maybe. I won’t know until March 6th at the next mediator’s meeting. My house is for sale because that is one way to meet my obligation. Maybe I’ll meet that obligation with higher wages. Maybe I’ll win the lottery.

Last week I realized that, very quietly, a neighbor who I assumed was successful and stable evidently moved out and had their house go into foreclosure. Everything looked fine. Their house looks much nicer than mine, has a nicer view, and is much bigger (not a plus for me, but for some). Some financial support failed, and I have no idea what happened or where they’ve gone.

I’ve always been skeptical of the news and the media, but it wasn’t until I backed into this financial realm that I realized how far the statistics are from measuring reality, and many lives quietly step aside rather than challenge that narrative. Sad to say, for many, the benefits are in the headlines, but the costs are all they see.

About Tom Trimbath

real estate broker / consultant / entrepreneur / writer / photographer / speaker / aerospace engineer / semi-semi-retired More info at: and at my amazon author page:
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