Open enrollment is the worst

Humdrum 63

The open enrollment period at my job just closed. I was angry and confused evaluating which health insurance option I wanted to go with for 2020. Angry because at the core of it, I think healthcare should be a right and not a business, and confused because I had to project both my known expenses while keeping in mind a lot can go horribly wrong in a year, plus wading through packets of information that’s both not enough and too much.

I was going to write an essay about how ridiculous it is to shop for health insurance, how we shouldn’t have to make an educated guess about which business is going to cover us best (or dick us over the least!) should we get sick, break an ankle, or just need insulin shots.

My draft of that essay quickly became a rant so I’m going to spare everyone that!

Here’s what I’ll say though.

I recognize I’m in a privileged position in that I can get health insurance through my employer (three plan options) or I can get on my partner’s plan. His employer provides two options. That’s five options to evaluate. I can write more about the privilege in having options and being empowered to choose the healthcare plan that will fit me best or other kinds of nonsense. Isn't that a little messed up? Talking about privilege and healthcare in the same sentence?

It gets more messed up when you start looking at numbers. I whittled my three employer-provided options and his options down to one each:

My contribution for an employee-only plan would be $153 per month, with a $1,250 deductible.

My partner’s employee+partner plan: $78 every 24 days (Employee-only is $34). A deductible of $0. (And this is the expensive option!)

Holy cow, that’s a big difference. And this doesn’t get into the maze of co-pays and how much one plan covers of a service vs. the others, which doctors are in-network vs. out-of-network, etc.

Those numbers illustrate why I started ranting in the first place. There’s all this chatter surrounding healthcare debates about “choice.” But what kind of choice is it when your healthcare costs and access are dependent on what your employer is able to, or willing, to pay? The insurance company they’ve partnered with? The opaque deals the insurance company has worked out with hospitals? That you probably won’t know how much you’re getting charged for care until you get a bill in the mail? (And that’s obviously assuming you can get insurance through your job).

Sure, you can go on the healthcare exchanges and look at options and maybe find a better one. But that’s also the point: some people, maybe it’s money, maybe it’s luck, can get “better” healthcare than someone else.

And that’s what makes this whole thing feel so gross and fundamentally unfair. We all have bodies that need care and attention. And often through no fault of our own, things randomly go wrong. It’s part of being a fleshy, goobery human.

So thinking of “better” for healthcare, having to evaluate different plan options at different price points with different doctors and coverage makes zero sense. I mean, I just wanna go to the doctor for my annual physical and if I get sick or break a bone. I don’t want to play mind games with insurance companies.

For more background into our current system, checkout the podcast America Dissected’s two-part series on healthcare.

About this newsletter

Humdrum is written by Christina Brandon, who is obviously a supporter of Medicare for All. Purchase her memoir Failing Better anywhere you want, including Amazon. Paperback edition coming this month! Connect with her by replying to this email or jumping on Twitter or Instagram. And tell friends to subscribe!