The Real World…

I have been back in my home state since July. I can’t believe it’s been five months already. It’s been tough, but also very good. I’m still navigating through several emotional bits, but God’s grace is sufficient to get me through.

One of the challenges I have is insurance. Since leaving Florida, my work status has changed from full-time with benefits to part-time per diem. Per Diem is just a fancy way of saying that I work when there is work to do or “on call” and of course I have not eligible for benefits (PTO, etc). Now God has proven himself faithful because I have not lacked for anything though I am only part-time. This is a relief because I was definitely struggling the past 2.5 years paying my bills when I left my job at the University of Miami to work in full-time ministry.

I can obtain COBRA insurance, which is basically the same level of insurance that my employer offers; however, at 100% of the coverage rather than the smaller portion (I think it’s usually about 70/30 split between employer and employee). My COBRA plan is well over $400 a month for health coverage. Needless to say, I do not have that coverage because I only work part-time. $400 could very well be my paycheck for a two-week period, so no thanks. For this tax year, since I was covered for over 9 months, I will not be fined when I file my taxes in January 2015.

Right now is open enrollment for healthcare plans in the Marketplace, and it ends Dec 15th (though you can still sign up through January). This fair of various health care plans was created because of The Affordable Care Act (or most people refer to it as the Healthcare Reform or the Healthcare Act), which is supposed to improve access to health care and also extend Medicaid in ways that weren’t happening before. This also is working to combat gauging from the health insurance companies. Additionally this will have an effect on hospitals and health care providers by discouraging them from charging crazy rates for services (have you ever paid for a $1,000 bandage from the ER?).

Though it does have the intention of improving access, it does create some other issues for regular fairly healthy people. This act benefits people who couldn’t get them before because of preexisting conditions or other factors. Now healthcare is available to all – for a price. For people like me without any health issues (praise the LORD) and are getting by for the most part, the marketplace plans start out at about $200 a month. Again – that is a lot for someone who works part-time. If I were not eligible for health coverage, including COBRA, then I could get a tax credit where I may not have to pay for coverage or have a very low monthly premium.

What happens if I don’t sign up for a plan through the marketplace?

If I don’t sign up for health care coverage through COBRA, another employer that offers me benefits, or through any plan that is meets the criteria according to the Affordable Care Act by April 2015, then I will be fined when I file my 2015 tax returns in January 2016. This fine will be 1% of my annual income or $90 per single adult in my household according to my tax filing. With plans starting at $200, it is financially advantageous to just opt out and say “Forget you Uncle Sam, I’m goin’ rogue! THIS IS ‘MURICA!” while waving my American flag, sitting my Coleman Elite Cooler Quad Chair, eating a cheeseburger and drinking a 2-liter Coca-Cola. But the prudent adult in me is trying to consider the possibilities of the cost that may be incurred should something happen to me like a car accident, illness diagnosis, or if I just need to go to the doctor and get medicine for a reasonable price. Let’s just get this straight… I have no money. I am recouping financially from the high cost of living in Florida. Working part-time has made the process very slow because I basically make enough to cover what I need, with a little bit to save and to play. I don’t have anything for emergencies (I know…Suze Orman would smack me in the face with her book Young, Fabulous, and Broke).

So – I sit here, basically priced out of the market, again. When I was in Florida making a decent wage, I had a hard time finding apartments at times because many of them were income restricted. Because I don’t have a lot of kids and live below the poverty line, I was not eligible to live in some really nice places (at least they appeared to be on the outside). Instead, I was stuck paying for a really overly priced box, or not so nice place in a bad part of town – yet according to my income I would be considered middle class. That’s just sad.

Well, there is no reason to be sad about it or to feel sorry for myself. It is a reason to feel slightly indignant because I pay my taxes, I file without lying, and I work hard. It is more beneficial in this country to not do anything and stay pregnant and sell my food stamps than it is to be an honest, hard worker. That’s the most upsetting. We are supposed to help each other and look after those who are poor and unfortunate; however, our country has enabled bad and lazy behavior. There is no incentive to do well unless you are going to do well enough to be in the top 10% of the earners in America. People in that bracket aren’t really worried about how much it costs them to be covered unless they own a business with employees (that is a whole ‘notha level of conversation that I am not getting into in this post), or just are horrible with money.

Anyway, I am just praying for safety and good health in 2015 because unless I end up just winning the lottery or do well as an entrepreneur, I am not going to have health coverage. For those of you who are employed and can get employer-subsidized health insurance, please count your blessings! I know there was a huge controversy earlier this year when Hobby Lobby decided not to cover certain birth control methods, there was a huge outrage by the public. I was really perplexed by the anger – who cares? They still offered good benefits, and it wasn’t like the employer fired people for using birth control. They simply didn’t cover some brands and methods under their subsidized plans (again…something I will not get in-depth about here). I think the biggest thing that people forget is that employer-subsidized insurance is a privilege. They don’t have to offer it, even with the new health laws (they can pay a fine too under certain circumstances if they choose to opt out).

Canada, are you accepting any new residents?

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