I Feel Betrayed, Or Traveling and Obamacare

I feel betrayed.

I voted for Obama. In 2008. In 2012, my vote wasn’t counted. I voted Green anyway. It was already becoming clear that my 2008 hopes were not my 2012 reality. I attempted to vote from South Korea, and have lived abroad the majority of every year since including this one.

Tonight, I saw a HealthCare.gov advert and remembered that TurboTax has been pestering me for weeks about my tax penalty for not having signed up for my own insurance policy. I’m not US-based at the moment, despite currently being here. I have a job offer in Shanghai. I have a non-citizen husband, who is here temporarily and not yet allowed to stay. I was living in London for the whole of the last 16 months.

I went to the shiny website and filled in some prying information. Nothing too serious. At least I was able to mark ‘White’ instead of ‘Other’ (in the UK, I qualify as ‘Other’ because I am neither White British nor White Irish).

“Seems about the same as registering for the NHS,” I (prematurely) commented to my newly-minted husband.

I filled in some more information.

  • Medical insurance history: clean
  • Address: Statesian
  • Most recent employer: no provision for one that is not based in the USA, like Brewdog
  • Income: Non-existent (unemployed!!!), and previously just barely above poverty line in Colorado
  • Previously existing conditions: Wouldn’t you like to know, not that it should matter in 2015 anyway
  • Major life changes: Got Married

Signed my application online. Got an immediate response.

No medicare. No medicaid. No other government assistance. Whatever. I’ve never gotten it before, why should I get it now? I was prepared for that.

I was not prepared for shopping for the plans. The cheapest one I qualify for, with a foreboding name like CATASTROPHIC, costs more than $100 per month.

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Put in a less palatable way, $1200 per year. Oh yeah, and a $6,600 deductible that means I have to pay out of pocket in addition to my $1200 until I have three ER visits or total my car by getting hit by a random drunk driver. Even though I do not live in the US full-time. Even though I will be here less than 3 months in 2015.

I just cannot believe this. I have to figure out a way to get covered in case something ‘CATASTROPHIC’ happens between now and when we move to China. I looked into stop-gap insurance, but it was expensive and doesn’t cover much.

When I looked at the details, it just got worse.

  • OB/GYN visits? Not Covered.
  • Prescriptions? I get a discount card, but not free birth control. I apparently don’t qualify, as a 27-year-old, newly-married, straight, sexually-active woman.
  • Vision? Not covered.
  • ER visits? $250 deductible plus 20% co-pay on any visit that doesn’t land me admitted to hospital.
  • Dental? Don’t make me laugh.

Maybe I got soft, living in places like South Korea and England. I forgot the time my insurance under my parents put a ‘rider’ about a pre-existing condition on my policy at 20. I forgot about the ~$6000 my ovaries have cost me since I went on contraception ten years ago. I forgot about the time I paid $80 for some antibiotic eyedrops. I got used to having access to medicine and doctors, either by paying a fee that is nominal in reality (I once paid less than $50 for a six-hour ER visit in Korea, with dispensed prescriptions included).

After a momentary cursing fit, I attempted to log back in and look into the plans in detail. I received a message that ‘no one in the family is eligible for coverage.’ Not only do I have to buy insurance that I can’t afford, with income I do not have, for a plan I cannot use outside the country (where I happen to live) or face a tax penalty…I apparently am not eligible for the coverage I am required to purchase!

My international life is complicated, and full of bureaucratic catch-22s. Today I tried to open a joint bank account with my non-citizen husband and was told he had to prove US residency. This, despite being told by an immigration lawyer that we need a joint account to apply for US residency.

This Obamacare fiasco feels worse.

I fought for healthcare reform. I supported the President. I offended family members. I shock non-Statesian friends regularly with tales of the American Healthcare System. I donate to Planned Parenthood every time I go there, even though I don’t have much to give and can’t really afford a different provider. I know firsthand how awful a plan like the one I was offered can be, because my family lived under one when my father lost his coverage in the Great Recession.

It’s like everything I worked for over the past few years has come around to bite me in the ass. I’m going to sound like a goddamned ‘conservative libertarian’ when I file my taxes, because I’m going to have to take the hit and pay the Obamacare penalty. In my case, the maths appear to be in my favour if I refuse the CATASTROPHIC plan I was offered by healthcare.gov.

$325 tax penalty+$130 stop-gap policy+$170 OB/GYN annual+$240 six months’ birth control 

$865 < $1200 for CATASTROPHIC plan 

It’s possible that I could find coverage under Obamacare that would work. Maybe. I could get hired for a job that gives me more than 40 hours a week and has a healthcare plan, with my employer having full knowledge that I am not intending to stay in the US beyond April. I could pony up and use all of the money we received in gifts for our wedding, plus some of my dwindling savings. Or I could hope I don’t get sick or hurt for three months, and wait until I have private health insurance in Communist China.

I feel betrayed.

4 thoughts on “I Feel Betrayed, Or Traveling and Obamacare

    1. Ridiculous. I won’t need 12 months of coverage, because I won’t be living in the USA for the next 12 months. I have to pay for it though…or face the penalty.

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