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I've Lost My Health Insurance, What Next?

Mason AltschulerMar 3, 2017

For years I got health insurance through my job, along with a 401k, disability and life insurance, not to mention three weeks paid vacation, ten sick days, six floating personal days, and membership to a gym that had an indoor pool and sauna.

I’m not bragging here. I’ve since been laid off. What I’m trying to say is, because this was my only ever occupation, I thought all of those benefits were normal. I thought all full-time employees enjoyed if not all of them, at least some. I was in for a rude awakening for sure!

I graduated college with a BA in English in 2002. I got the first job I applied to. It was a major financial firm on Wall Street. They needed entry-level editors to proofread their reports. My GPA wasn’t stellar and the school I went to certainly wasn’t Wharton. How did I get the job?

While the HR person was going through a stack of resumes at light speed, she for the briefest of moments happened to linger on one word in my employment history.

“O’Connell’s.” The name of the restaurant I waited tables at in college. Her last name was O’Connell. She called me up out of hundreds of applicants. It was just blind luck.

I worked there for ten years, had good days, had bad days, enjoyed lavish holiday parties, complained about management, went to happy hour, and did all the things people normally do in their jobs. All the while I enjoyed a platinum level health plan that only an ancient Wall Street firm with more money than it knew what to do with could offer its employees.

Not only did they cover the whole premium, there was no deductible and the copay in most cases was $5. Also, the plan also seemed to be accepted everywhere. In the ten years I worked, I never once encountered a doctor’s office that didn’t take it.

But it wasn’t to last. In 2012 the company merged with another European mega financial firm and made the “strategic decision” that they only needed one Editorial Department. The London office was selected to remain and all of us in New York got the ax.

If you’re familiar with the city, you know that New York isn’t exactly the kind of place you’re able to take your sweet time finding a job. After my layoff package finished paying out I was dead broke in a month and had to move back home with my folks in Florida.

I became that guy, 32 year old back in his old room. (At least mom had taken the Metallica posters down.)

After six months I managed to find work with a small non-profit in Fort Lauderdale. I went from writing press releases for high-powered Wall Street big shots, to writing funding proposals for NGOs who intervened on behalf of at-risk kids. I actually found this job considerably more rewarding.

Although I enjoyed the work itself, I shouldn’t even have to say the benefits package was considerably less. In fact, the firm was so small they didn’t even provide health insurance…much less a gym or sauna.

By this point the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) had been in operation for almost three years, and everyone at the firm was on it. So I went to the online exchange at got myself some health insurance too. Considering my $35K yearly salary, I was able to qualify for some subsidies as well.

The way the discounts work is like this: If your total income for the entire year is at or four times the poverty threshold, you qualify for assistance. (If your income is lower than the current poverty threshold you’ll have to go with Medicaid.)

Since I qualified the government sent an advance payment to my chosen health insurance provider, thus lowering monthly premium.

The professor that ran the firm was keen on us gaining new skills. One of the things she would pay for was job training. I took the opportunity to learn graphic design programs. I had a hunch it would be more lucrative than writing and editing while still being creative.

My hunch was right. I began taking on freelance clients on the side and was soon making more money doing that then my salary at the non-profit! Turns out I had a knack for layout and illustrating.

Then, just last year in 2016, Dr. Grace got sick and had to retire. Without her at the helm the firm lost its government funding and we had to shut down. I was ok because of my design clients. I opened up my own business and called it Evergrace Studio, in honor of the person that enabled me to find my calling in life.

Work became so plentiful that I soon lost my Obamacare subsidy. See, as a single man the most I can make in a year and still qualify is $47,520.

The situation made me reassess my health insurance needs and educate myself as to the different types of plans available. Obamacare doesn’t just refer to plans bought through healthcare.gov, it’s actually a set of regulations that govern the entire health insurance industry. All private suppliers must comply with its ten essential services, as well as a host of other stipulations as well.

All private plans on the ACA exchange must be identical and the same price on the particular company’s own website. However, the reverse is not true. Private companies can offer a host of other plan and policy options that, though not on the government exchange, are still in compliance with the Obamacare regulations.

For the widest possible selection, I decided to go with an advertising partner of the website on which you are currently reading this. eHealth allows you to compare and get quotes from more than 180 health insurance providers.

Now I’m fully covered and expanding my operation. I’ve hired two employees directly out of college just like I was. They won’t be getting the indoor pool and three weeks vacation, but I will be getting them insured, that’s for sure.