Being self-employed sucks sometimes.
I’ve been covered under my wife’s health insurance just fine, but recently, we started wondering “what if my wife wanted to do something that didn’t offer insurance.” There’s always a bit of guilt being self-employed, because I realize that part of the reason it works is because she has benefits through here job. This means, however, that if she wanted to do something different, she might not be able to.
So, I started looking into “owning my own insurance,” and checked out the USAA, since I’m a vet and they supposedly have good policies with rates that are significantly cheaper than most– perhaps all– other options. I called and talked with the health insurance folks there, and almost immediately hit a wall. Turns out they won’t cover me.
As long as I live in Oregon.
Feelgood Laws: Good Or Bad?
Details are unimportant,1 but it turns out that I have a condition that’s covered by the VA, and I go regularly to the VA to seek treatment for it. It’s a condition that could be (could become) much more serious. It often comes up in the “pre-existing conditions” category, of course, but since the VA is basically responsible for its treatment, it’s not an issue. If I need health insurance, I just tell them “this is already covered by the VA” and the insurance company doesn’t have to include it.
Or so I thought. It turns out that Oregon is apparently the only state that has a law that prevents companies from excluding any pre-existing condition from a health insurance policy.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? Way to go, Oregon!
This is where I– the full-on, apologetically bleeding heart, left-coasty, liberally biased yoga-narcissist– starts getting seriously pissed off about wide-sweeping, bleeding heart, left-coasty, liberally biased feel-good laws that end up fucking people over. I can almost hear the discussions:
“Insurance companies suck, they keep denying coverage for pre-existing conditions”
“Yeah, we should get a law passed to prevent that! Power to the people!”
So, some unemployed kid stands on a street corner in front of a coffee shop collecting signatures, and some politician somewhere thinks “Wow, this is complicated, but we’ll just make it general enough to apply to everyone” and writes a law saying “No exclusion of pre-existing conditions.”2
So now, instead of an insurance company saying “Okay, we’ll work together and cover you for everything except that,” the company says “We won’t cover you because we have to cover that.”
I love you, Oregon. Seriously, I do. But you totally fucked me on this one.
This doesn’t give me any better rights as a citizen or any better access to coverage. In fact, it removes both. It completely removes the option of me talking with the insurance company and saying “Yes, I have this condition, which is completely covered by the US Government and which you don’t have to cover- in fact, I want you to not cover this condition, because I won’t use the coverage anyway and I’ll get a better rate.” It doesn’t give me any better rights or ability to have health insurance, it strips me of my ability to negotiate with the company by forcing their hand.
So, thanks to this law, I’ve gone from a very healthy, exercise frenzied, easily insurable candidate with partial coverage already provided by Uncle Sam, to an uninsurable Oregon citizen with a pre-existing condition. All because some Oregon legislator– probably with a good heart, admittedly– decided not to actually craft a law, but to swing a blunt axed solution that removes my ability to negotiate my own coverage.
Since the nearly immediate response from Michele, I’m now confused as to why both the USAA and other insurers flagged the reason they would not insure me as specifically because of Oregon law preventing them from attaching riders for exclusion of my service-connected disablity. I’m going to call them back after reading the material she sent, and try to pin them down on just what’s going on.
In any case, thank you, Michele, for the pointer to the High-Risk pool. I questioned the providers about what my options were and none of them brought that up. Understandable that it’s not their specialty, but I’m surprised they didn’t at least know about it.