Robert Steven Williams used to play competitive sports. Now his fears of getting benched by his health insurance have him sidelined.
As a freelance writer and communications consultant, I scramble yearly to find the best deal for health insurance. But a few years back, I had no options. I learned that one visit to the doctor can cause you to get dropped by the insurance company, or perhaps worse, held hostage, and forced to pay usury rates.
I understand that Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) is far from perfect, but the status quo is unacceptable. And yet, conservatives disagree and the Supreme Court might feel the same. I’m politically in the middle, but on health care, I feel strongly that we can’t let this happen. Here’s why:
Today I pay $270/month for catastrophic coverage; this comes with a $6,000 deductible. It’s awful coverage, but at least it’s something. Still, I can’t afford to get sick. In 2007, I hurt my back playing squash and went to the doctor. It was nothing serious and a few months later I was back on my feet. But at the end of the year, my premium was raised 35%, and when I looked elsewhere, nobody would take me.
How could I know that going to the doctor would be such a costly mistake?
My so-called preexisting condition was simply the normal wear and tear that happens to weekend warriors heading into their fifties. However, the doctor termed my situation a mild case of arthritis, and this prognosis prevented me from getting health insurance from anybody new. When I told my doctor this, he shrugged. “Everyone’s bones deteriorate as we get older; we all have a bit of arthritis.”
So does this mean anyone over fifty who goes to the doctor has the potential to be flagged?
It turns out that almost anything is considered a preexisting condition, and once you’ve been identified, you need three to five years to clear the status before most carriers will take you again. Fortunately, I have good genes. I eat healthy, I exercise regularly. But I was playing competitive sports and now I don’t.
I told my friends at the gym that I was still hurt, and then I told them that my back was too fragile to risk playing again, but that isn’t the case. I’m fine and I would love to get back out on the court, but I can’t afford to take the chance. You can be of any age and twist an ankle, pull the hamstring, or tweak a back, but when you’re playing sports, the odds increase dramatically. As you get older, those odds increase even more.
I realize that no government plan will be perfect, but this situation is ridiculous. I live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, but I can’t play competitive amateur sports because I’m afraid that I won’t be able to buy health insurance. How is this possible?
ACA may not be perfect legislation, but at least I can go on a basketball court and not worry that I won’t get health insurance if get injured taking a hard foul for the team.