Like a lot of us, I was never covered by health insurance growing up or as a young adult, raising a child, getting married and divorced. Dental work, emergency trips to the hospital, surgeries, doctor visits were all paid for with cash – just write a check and it’s all good.
Then one day in my thirties, I went to work for a local jurisdiction who offered health insurance as a benefit of working there. In fact, they called it the “health insurance smorgasbord” because there were a so many different companies and options that we could choose from to take care of our health-related issues – a literal feast of companies. I chose a plan that allowed me to visit my own doctor and dentist – I had joined the ranks of the insured!
That was 1986… 24 years ago.
Fast forward 22 years.
My father died, somewhat unexpectedly, as I didn’t know he was as sick as he apparently was. My dad was a stoic kinda guy. I remember watching him, working in his machine shop, when he cut open his hand, blood gushing everywhere, wrap his hand in a (clean) shop rag and go back to work. So when he said to me he wasn’t feeling well, but he knew that he’s be around for many years, I believed him. In fact, he was dying of multiple myeloma and would only live 3 more months. When he died, a bell inside my head began to clang loudly and insistently….I was getting older and wasn’t exactly doing anything that I wanted to do with my life and it was time to do something about that.
I left my government job, the one with the high stress, the angry co-workers, the mounting paperwork, the horrid bureaucracy, the clueless management, the boss who hated my guts; the one with the 6 weeks paid vacation, the 12 sick days per year, the one with the health insurance. I bought a little coffee shop for twice the money I should have paid, and set off to be an entrepreneur. Just like my dad.
It wasn’t long before the coffee shop was self-supporting but it wasn’t making enough profit to pay me, too, and the health insurance company canceled my policy for lack of payment.
I had never really been sick in my life and had never been to the hospital other than a car accident or two, so I wasn’t really too worried at this point. A little voice kept telling me that it would all work out, that I was fairly healthy, that I could get health insurance again very soon.
The landlords where my little coffee shop was located decided they wanted the location back for their own business and I was evicted. I had no money to move, so I fire-saled everything and closed the coffee shop. I filed bankruptcy and my mortgage company began foreclosure proceedings. My car was repossessed.
I went to work for a little start-up humanitarian-aid company who paid me twelve bucks an hour as a “part-time” contractor and my financial well-being continued to spiral downward. I eventually left my home, bought a little 1982 travel trailer full of dry-rot with no heater and a roof that leaked horribly when it rained, and left the city in the Pacific Northwest where I was living and began a life “on the road” – a life I had dreamed of for much of my life.
I ended my “contract” with the humanitarian-aid company after discovering that others were making twice what I was being paid or more, and were also enjoying paid benefits such as their expensive housing costs and cell phones, when I was working sometimes many hours a week, on call 24/7 for any number of people who thought I was also their personal assistant in addition to my regular “duties.” Yes, I allowed this to happen – I thought I was helping a start-up company to become established and we were all making concessions….little did I know.
I have stayed with friends in Oregon and with other friends in San Diego, recovering from the “abuse” of the previous 2 years with the start-up, and re-considering what I was doing, where I was going, and what was I going to do next.
And now, we’ll all up-to-date with the short version of what happened to my health insurance. Wow, a lot happens in a few short years!