EverywhereOnce isn’t a political blog, and this isn’t a political post. Health insurance, for us, isn’t a political matter but a practical one.
Of all the things we had to consider when preparing to hit the road full-time, how to manage health care costs was not only the most significant but also the most unpredictable.
In 2010, when we left behind our Mega Corp provided health insurance coverage and surrendered ourselves to the tender mercies of the individual insurance market, we couldn’t guarantee we’d even be sold an individual policy. Now that we have one, we can’t be sure it will actually be honored if ever we get expensively sick—despite paying hefty premiums each and every month.
We’ve written before about the special challenges we faced in trying to obtain health insurance without a physical address. We worried, and still worry, about our insurance company’s ability to declare our application fraudulent because we don’t actually live in our state of declared residency – or any state for that matter. Being citizens of the U.S. should be sufficient to buy a U.S. health insurance policy, but alas, it is not.
We similarly worry that our insurer could cancel our policy if there are any errors or unintended omissions in the five years of medical history our insurance application required us to provide. And we were lucky. Many companies required 10 year histories.
It’s not clear to us how anyone could be confident in their ability to perfectly recall a decade’s worth of medical details. We therefore don’t know how anyone required to produce that information as a condition for an insurance policy can be confident in the reliability of that insurance. We know we aren’t.
These are not trivial concerns.
If we were to lose our health insurance after we got sick for these reasons, or any other, we’d most likely be unable to get a replacement policy under the existing system. Given the cost of U.S. care it is no exaggeration to say that hundreds of thousands of dollars potentially hang in the balance. And that is true even for people like us who are desperately trying to play by all the rules and do everything right.
Warts and All
For all of its warts, the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. “ObamaCare”) fixes these concerns. Without the ability to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions our medical history is totally irrelevant. It even makes our state residency status mostly irrelevant, too. While our existing insurance company could still question the legitimacy of our legal address, starting in 2014 we’ll have no concern about getting a replacement policy.
ACA fixes other, smaller concerns of ours too. As explained in our How to Become a Global Citizen article, we became legal Texas residents when we started traveling full time. It was a practical decision made because Texas has special services and a legal history favorable to our vagabonding lifestyle. We have Texas driver’s licenses. It’s where we register our vehicles. We vote in Texas, and our health insurance is a Texas policy.
We don’t actually live in Texas, though. We don’t really live anywhere. Texas is just where our legal lives are domiciled. If we want to stop traveling some day, Texas isn’t necessarily where we’d choose to settle down. But if one of us develops a medical condition, we might not have any other choice.
Because health insurance is regulated at the state level, our Texas policy only covers us as long as we’re Texas residents. We have no right to maintain our existing policy if we move to a different state, even if our insurance company also operates in that state. In order to live where we want, we’d have to re-apply for a new policy in our new state. Absent the Affordable Care Act, that might mean foregoing coverage of pre-existing conditions we’ve developed or potentially not getting insurance at all.
Freedom of Movement
In other words, if one of us were to get chronically sick, we might not have any choice but to live in Texas. Under the Affordable Care Act, we can move to any state in the union and purchase a policy off an exchange.
For those who see this issue in terms of freedom and personal liberty, we couldn’t agree more. The freedom to live in a state of our choosing, or no state at all; the freedom to be self-employed, to leave a large corporation for other opportunities, or to retire early without fear of potentially bankrupting medical bills are all enhanced by the Affordable Care Act.
If we’re about anything here at EverywhereOnce, it is about encouraging people to break free from convention to follow their dreams. Despite the passion the healthcare issue elicits in some, we truly doubt anyone dreams of living a life without health insurance. On the other hand, we’re positive there are people who are currently inhibited from pursuing their passions because of heath insurance concerns. For those trapped in a job they hate because they have an otherwise un-insurable medical condition, the Affordable Care Act is freedom.
It is true that these benefits have costs. We understand that not everyone will see the balance between the costs and the benefits tilting the same way we do. But for us the Affordable Care Act lifts a huge financial threat we’d have difficulty hedging otherwise. I know that gives us added confidence to follow our dreams wherever they lead . . . whether in Texas or elsewhere. We have to imagine it will do the same for others as well. And that is something to celebrate.