When I got laid off back in June, my first thoughts were not about health insurance. Quickly, though, my friend in HR (and I'm not being facetious, she's actually my friend) brought it to my attention, because she was eager to make sure I realized that there's currently a 65% Cobra subsidy available from the government.
When my paperwork came, it turned out that with the subsidy, my Cobra was $100/month. So for the first time ever, I went on Cobra while unemployed. In the past I'd either gone without health insurance or signed up for a plan that basically kicked in only if something went horribly wrong.
So, I had health insurance and unemployment insurance, and it was nice not to be totally screwed while unemployed. I began to look for a job - always a less-than-fun process. I absolutely hate not being gainfully employed. This time in particular I was torn between learning what not having a day job could really mean for my directing career, and going absolutely insane over living off of money I wasn't out earning.
Ultimately, I got a cool opportunity to take a 6-month gig at a studio, and I decided to take it. I've always wanted to work at a studio, and the position offered the opportunity to learn a lot of new things in a totally new environment. I love my new job, even if it ends in March and I'll be unemployed again.
But here's where my health insurance goes to hell in a handbasket.
To take the gig, I had to sign up with the temp agency the studio hires through. And the temp agency offers "limited-benefit health insurance." Which I didn't even know existed. Basically, if you get really sick, it just flat out runs out. And fast.
It's literally a better-than-nothing plan. And while I have risked having nothing, I was much younger at the time. At 38, I'm really not comfortable rolling those dice. (It's worth noting, too, that if I'm going to get a better-than-nothing plan, I want it the other way around. No immediately benefits like co-pays on doctor visits, but if you get cancer, it triggers and you get significant coverage.)
Worse, because of the temp agency offering me any form of health insurance, I stopped qualifying for the government Cobra subsidy. So now my Cobra is $260/month. My decision to stay on the Cobra officially makes my temp position WAY more about the experience than the paycheck, with more unemployment waiting on the back end. If I take another temp position after that, my finances will officially move back to mega suck.
I did look into individual plans. They cost less, but I didn't feel confident or comfortable about the companies after polling my friends. I wanted to research more, and I figured I can always make that jump. I had to decide about the whether to take the limited plan offered by the temp agency within 30 days.
I *would* like to find an individual plan, so after I complete my move at the end of the month I'm going to look into it again. I think I can find something cheaper than what I'm paying on Cobra, but I'm worried about the coverage. Still, if I end up temping again, I'm going to have to find something to switch to.
1. The fact that my former company was very cost conscious and trying to find the most afforded policy for them totally saved my butt when I got laid off. If my Cobra cost anymore, there's no way I could afford it. I mean, heck I can't really afford it now, but it was within the limits of possibility. If it had been over $300, for example, there would have been no way.
2. As I begin paying $260/month for my health insurance, I realize that what really annoys me about health insurance tied to your employer is that you build no relationship with any health company over the course of your life. When I call my car insurance, or my bank, or any number of other businesses in my life, they can immediately see that I've been a customer for years. Here I am paying $260/month to a health insurance company and costing them next to nothing, but by the time I *am* costing a health insurance company money because I'm old and sick, say, it won't be a company I've had a relationship with for twenty / thirty years. That blows.
3. My number one problem with health insurance being tied to employment is that it completely screws with the job market. I was raised to believe that there is a check and balance whereby if an employer treats their employees like crap, they will leave. Except if they have health issues, often they won't. They will sit in a job they hate because they need to stick with that health insurance. This isn't good for anyone, not even that company that's getting to abuse their workers, because unhappy workers are less productive and make mistakes. And if you don't think that unhappy workers sit tight due to health insurance concerns, I'm betting that you are 1. not sick and 2. not living pay check to pay check.
I've been laid off twice in seven years and now I'm a temp. I want to get real health insurance that's not tied to my employment. If you've got any recommendations for individual health care plans in SoCal, please leave me a note in the comments. Under $200 month would be best for me. Honestly, even that much makes me a little sick to my stomach, but "limited benefit health insurance" scares me more.