A Last-Minute Guide to Buying Health Insurance

While the Affordable Care Act certainly has its detractors, 2014 was a good year for Obamacare. The self-employed, underemployed, or otherwise ineligible took advantage of the state and federal exchanges last year, and their participation drove the nationwide uninsured rate to its lowest ever. Insurance companies posted all-time high share prices in the third quarter last year thanks in part to an increased subscriber base provided by the law’s mandate. Healthcare.gov’s Marketplace is not as bad as you’ve heard. In fact, it’s pretty darn good. But the velvet rope is closing soon: The open enrollment deadline is February 15th.

Even With Healthcare, We Can’t Always Get Doctors

If you are on Medicaid, and you start calling a list of providers and find that, say, the first three numbers don't work and the fourth number says "sorry, we've stopped participating," and the fifth number says "we can make you an appointment in two months," well—you can already see the time and hassle involved.

Life and Health at 75

Ezekiel Emanuel, the director at the Clinical Bioethics Department at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, has a provocative piece in The Atlantic this month called "Why I Hope to Die at 75."

When An Adjunct Gets An Unlucky Break

I usually teach three courses per semester, three credits each. $633 per credit, which comes out to $5700 for a four month term. I am not the primary money person in our family, thank goodness. But the money I earn takes care of all the non-essentials of life: piano lessons, trips, new tires.

A Fractured Skull, a Lost Sense of Smell, and a New Job

This summer, my friend Rachel Bailey was working as a waitress in Athens, Ga., doing social media for some restaurants, writing when she could, but not as much as she wanted—just scraping by in a town where it’s easy, sometimes even fun, to just scrape by. But she wasn’t having fun. She’d been out of college a few years and had imagined something more for her 20s. She was feeling anxious, stagnant and just generally crappy about life. And then she hit her head in a piggybacking accident and almost died. And then things got better.

Why Can’t Every Doctor Take Every Insurance?

When I showed up at my doctor’s office in Manhattan on Monday, I was flustered and exhausted; I had already been to deepest Brooklyn and back (the end of the 2,5 line) to take Babygirl to her new pediatrician’s office. We hadn’t wanted to switch but had to because her old pediatrician, who we loved, doesn’t take her current insurance, which is called Health First Child Plus or something, who knows, they’re all combinations of nice-sounding but meaningless abstract words. Red Star Red Sword sounds like a funny name for an insurance company, doesn’t it, but is that any different, really, than Blue Cross Blue Shield? We’re just used to the latter.

I ranted a bit to my doctor, and her eyes flamed with indignation. “It’s ridiculous!” she said. “I would write about it if I were a writer, but I’m not, so you’ll have to, but everyone says the patient’s relationship with the doctor is a key part of health care. When you have to switch doctors just because you switch plans, everyone loses.”

I certainly lost. Though the new people were fine, I missed our old pediatrician, who had been seeing Babygirl since she was days old, knows her well, and is a brisk ten minute walk from our house. Going to a new place – a much larger, busier practice a much greater distance away — made Babygirl squirrelly, and it cost both Ben and me our morning. It required redundancies, like typing old info into a different computer and answering the same questions over and over, and introduced the possibility of errors with each transcription.

Why can’t doctors offices and hospital accept any accredited, official health insurance? That would solve the horrifying “Out of Network” problem. That’s how it works for cars, right? It’s not as if you can get hit by an SUV making a left turn and then find out that oops your insurance somehow doesn’t take theirs. There doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to why our old pediatrician accepts one Obamacare policy but not another, or why the hospital closest to us accepts only these six and not those seven.

Seriously, what’s stopping government from mandating that every health provider must accept every legitimate insurance? Paperwork? Admin fees? Or is there a bigger problem I’m not seeing?

The Cost of Things: A Broken Foot in Winter

Non-monetary costs: Multiple phone calls and frustration with the insurance company over who they cover and how they bill. (My boot was billed separately from the hospital. Our system makes no sense.)

The Cost of Getting Hit By a Car

Those of you who follow my Twitter and Tumblr already know that I got hit by a car on Saturday.

(You also already know that I’m fine, so we’ll just get that out of the way.)

I was walking through a crosswalk in Capitol Hill, and the car hit me in the middle of the crosswalk as it came to a full stop. I was surprised more than anything else, because I saw that the car was slowing down as it approached the crosswalk, which is an everyday sort of thing, and then it drove into the crosswalk and hit me, which is not at all an everyday thing.

Because I was surprised, and because I knew as soon as I picked myself up off the ground that I was not seriously hurt, I didn’t think to get the driver’s insurance, license plates, or contact information. To be fair, the driver didn’t offer it. She got out of the car, asked me if I was okay, I said I was, I started to walk away, some bystanders shouted “get her insurance!” and I turned around and she was driving off.

This meant that later, when I went to the clinic to confirm I was, in fact, okay, I paid the $90 against my deductible myself.

Your Waistline = Your Boss’s Business

Here is your open thread, brought to you by the lengths corporations will go to spend less on health insurance:

companies, facing rising health expenses, are increasingly buying or subsidizing fitness-tracking devices to encourage employees and their dependents to be more fit. The tactic may reduce corporate health-care costs by encouraging healthier lifestyles, even as companies must overcome a creepy factor and concerns from privacy advocates that employers are prying too deeply into workers’ personal lives. … Companies and insurers said they protect the privacy of people using wearable gadgets, and comply with federal laws that prevent employers from seeing certain health information about employees without consent. The wearable programs are voluntary and often administered by third-party vendors like StayWell, which works with BP.

Big Brother is watching you on behalf of your boss. What could be better?