Here in the US, the Affordable Care Act is finally going into effect, with
accompanying drama. I managed to get signed up today at healthcare.gov.
After not having health insurance since 2000, I will finally be covered
starting January 1 2014.
Since my income is mosty publically known
anyway, I thought it might be helpful to blog about some details.
I was uninsured for 14 years due to a combination of three factors:
- Initially, youthful stupidity and/or a perfectly resonable cost/benefit
analysis. (Take your pick.)
- Due to the US health insurance system being obviously broken,
and my preference to avoid things that are broken. Especially when
the breakage involved insurers refusing to cover me at any sane level
due to a minor and easily controlled pre-existing condition.
- Since I'm not much motivated by income levels, and am very motivated to
have time to work on things that are important to me, my income has
been on average pretty low, and perhaps more importantly, I have
intentionally avoided being a full-time employee of anyone
at any point in the past 14 years (have rejected job offers), and
so was not eligible for any employee plans which were the only
reasonable way to be covered in the US. (See point #2.)
So, if you're stuck waiting in line on healthcare.gov (is this an entirely new
online experience brought to us by the US government?), or have seen any of
the dozen or so failure modes that I saw just trying to register for a
login to the site, yeah, it's massively overloaded right now, and it's also
quite broken on a number of technical levels. But you can eventually get
Based on some of the bugs I saw, it may help to have an large number of
email addresses and use a different one for each application attempt. It
also wouldn't hurt to write some programs to automate the attempts, because
otherwise you may have to fill out the same form dozens of times. And no,
you can't use "firstname.lastname@example.org" for your email; despite funding the
development of RFC-822 in the 80's, the US government is clueless about
what consititutes a valid email address.
But my "favorite" misfeature of the site is that it refuses to let you enter
any accented characters, or characters not in the latin alphabet when
signing up. Even if they're, you know, part of your name. (Welcome back
to Ellis Island..) I want to check the
git repository to see if I
can find the backstory for these and other interesting technical
decisions, but they have forgotten to push anything to it for over 3
The good news is that once you get past the initial signup process, and
assuming you get the confirmation mail before the really short expiration
period of apparently less than 1 hour (another interesting technical
choice, given things like greylisting), the actual exchange is not badly
overloaded, and nor is it very buggy (comparatively). I was able to
complete an application in about an hour.
The irony is that after all that, I was only able to choose from one
health insurer covering my area on the so-called "exchange". (Blue
Cross/Blue Shield) I also signed up for dental insurance (it was a welcome
surprise that the site offers this at all) and had a choice of two insurers
The application process was made more uncertian for me since I have no
idea what I'll end up doing for money once my current
crowdsourced year of work is done. The site
wants you to know how much income you'll have in 2014, and my guess is
anywhere between $6000 (from a rental property) and about what I made
this year (approx $25000 before taxes). Or up, if I say, answered the
Google pings. The best choice seemed to be to answer what I made this year,
which is also close to what I made last year.
So, I'll be paying around $200/month for a combination of not very good
health insurance, and not very good dental insurance. There is around
$750/year of financial aid to people at my guesstimated 2014 income level,
which would drop that to $140/month, but I will let them refund me whatever
that turns out to be in a lump sum later instead.
For comparison, I am lucky to spend rather less renting a three bedroom
house situated in 25 acres of woods..
It's strange to think that all of this is an improvement to the system here in
the US, especially given all the better options that could have been passed
instead, but it seems that it probably is. Especially when I consider the
many people around me who are less fortunate than myself. If you'd like a
broader perspective on this, see Tobias Buckell's
"American healthcare was already socialized by Reagan, we’re just fighting about how to pay for it".
Syndicated 2013-10-02 22:33:10 from see shy jo