If you have ever been discouraged, frustrated or just plain mad while trying to find affordable, low-cost health insurance wherever you live, you are not alone! Today, we thought we would share one woman’s experience trying to find health insurance in upstate New York. Lisa W. Drew had been laid-off from her job teaching at a small college but still never dreamed that finding health insurance could turn into the ordeal that she would experience:
I started my quest with Aetna, my COBRA insurer. Under New York state law, I thought I had “conversion rights” — meaning I could convert my former employer’s group coverage, the basis for my COBRA plan, to individual coverage. Though the full monthly cost was already $565, and I worried I wouldn’t be able to afford any increases that kicked in when it became an individual plan, it was great insurance — providing excellent benefits and the ability to choose my own doctors. But it turned out my cost concerns were not even relevant. There is a caveat in the law: self-insured employers are subject to federal, not state, regulation. And because my former employer is self insured — meaning Aetna administers the plan but the college assumes all the financial risk — the conversion option did not exist.
After this idea evaporated, I explored possibilities on the website of The Freelancers Union, a professional association that offers its own health insurance in New York. Five plan choices popped up. Great, I thought. Then I clicked further to read about the plans’ residency requirements and up came a map. The right side of the state — covering 34 counties that share borders with New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and Canada — was colored in blue. These counties are the lucky ones. Those on the left — 28 counties that border more of Pennsylvania and Canada, extending all the way to Lake Erie and Lake Ontario — were white, meaning no Freelancers Union health insurance. That’s where Tompkins County is.
This development was crushing. Somewhere along the way, the notion had lodged in my head that if I ever turned to freelance writing as my full-time job, I could get benefits through this type of organization. But — at least as far as I could tell — there are no such groups with health plans in my area.
I felt stupid. I also was getting curious, which happens whenever I feel stupid. The reporter in me wanted to know what the heck was going on. But the consumer in me needed a health plan. So I kept looking.
Unfortunately, one of the key factors that determines what health insurance plans are available, what your health insurance premiums may be, or whether you can find any health insurance at all is where you live. And as Lisa W. Drew found out, if you live in a rural area you may find that you have very few health insurance options available, so if you are thinking of freelancing, deciding where you live may be vitally important to your health!
Have you ever had difficulty in finding health insurance? Tell us about it!
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