Miserable & Magical: It’s all about HIM, when it should be about us

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There are very few aspects of adulthood I feel life has prepared me for.

I’m getting better at cooking and my dad has taught me how to change my oil and put air in my tires, but then there are the absolute horrors I really think I should have been warned about.

Chief among them, taxes and insurance.

This year I’ve been living in the absolute stressball that is unemployment. A fun end-of-year treat that comes with this is the soul-sucking wasteland called the Health Insurance Marketplace. In the words of early-2000s angry-girl icon Avril Lavigne, “why’d you have to go and make things so complicated?”

There is no easy way to navigate the Health Insurance Marketplace. It wants you to fail. It doesn’t want you to have insurance. It wants to take $300 from you every month in exchange for something it calls the “catastrophic plan.”

This month was my fourth time applying for insurance through the HIM in two years. The first was when I became unemployed near the end of 2018 and spent an hour on hold before spending another hour talking with a woman who was as confused as me. Then I had to go through the whole process again that December to get insurance for 2019.

Applying for it last spring when I became unemployed again was the worst. I submitted the application only to be told I didn’t qualify for any plans, which didn’t make sense since I met the requirements for special enrollment. I spent days trying to fix this, only to be informed on the first of the month that the HIM had made a mistake. But since a new month had started, I had to wait 30 days before I could get insured.

There I was, in the midst of a global pandemic, completely without health insurance. I begged HIM to make an exception. I was told I could apply for short-term insurance, which could go into effect immediately, but that Maine didn’t allow that. (I don’t even have words for that one.)

I started calling health insurance companies directly, to no avail. I got myself scammed into a Christian health insurance plan, which after lots of panic and pleading, I got myself out of. Thank Gawd.

So after a month of being the most anxious I’ve ever been, I finally got insurance and was able to relax knowing I wouldn’t go bankrupt if I got COVID-19.

And now here we are, another year-end, and it’s time to apply again. I don’t know why I went into it thinking it’d be easy. I mean, I guess I’m kind of a pro at this point, but the HIM doesn’t care about stuff like that. As I said, it wants you to fail. It’s determined to break me.           

This time the problem had to do with unresolved tax issues from the last time I was unemployed. Fun fun. After tracking down lots of forms and borrowing a check from [name redacted], since having my own checks is another facet of adult life I’m apparently not equipped for, I finally got it straightened out. Watch out 2021, someone got herself a silver plan.

While this all makes for amusing fodder that you might laugh at and that I might one day laugh at, it’s also pretty grim. This year has definitely taught me how messed up our health care system is. I shouldn’t have to pull my hair out just to make sure I won’t be left to die if I get sick.

I know I’m not the only one who’s had their patience and sanity tested by HIM and I know many people don’t have insurance at all. Can someone please enlighten me as to why good(ish) health insurance is tied to our jobs, but only if our employer buys it? Why do we have to be “contributing to society” to be worthy of receiving health care? Riddle me that, America.

Everyone deserves good, affordable health insurance and I wish our country could just figure this out. In the meantime, I’ll be sitting here in my mask waiting for a new insurance card I hope I won’t have to use.

Kate Gardner is a Portland-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in The Washington Post, Teen Vogue, SELF, and Bustle. You can follow her on Twitter @katevgardner.