Sunday, February 28, 2010

Quitting my Job

At the beginning of January I quit my job, leaving corporate America. My employer was surprised but I had been working on my escape for quite some time. I had been saving money and acquiring equipment for my next adventure, a coffee house.

A major complaint I had about my employer was a shift to completely bottom line thinking. I decided that my leaving the company should be on the same terms. I submitted my resignation at an inconvenient time for the company with an offer to continue working for some period of time for, effectively, more money. They refused and I left. I won't be requesting a recommendation.

It has now been a couple of months and the results are mixed. In some ways my life has improved. I have been spending more time at the gym. Over the past three or four years my fitness level has plummeted and my weight spiked. Since I quit both my weight and resting heart rate have slowly decreased. I have also moved more toward what I consider my genuine self. I have volunteered time to a local food co-op and even marched in the Martin Luther King day parade.

On the other hand, my stress level has not decreased. The new business is a gamble and progress has been slower than I would like. This has left me with free time that I have not used as productively as I would like. I should be writing more blog posts. I should be playing more music. I should be working more aggressively on some business related activities. I don't always deal with stress in the most productive ways.

Heath care in the US outside of a corporate umbrella is difficult. Assuming we can get any coverage at all it looks like the best I can do is about $450/month with a $10,000 yearly deductible. That means Sarah and I are on our own in any year we spend less than $10,000 out of pocket. On one hand this is what insurance is for, protection against catastrophic loss. On the other hand, the rates seem high for this kind of protection.

A number of years ago one of my swim buddies was irritated with his wife. He likes beer and she sometimes worries that he is drinking too much. She mentioned this in an exam with his doctor. He said that even if he had a problem, his doctor should be the last person to hear about it. If his doctor wrote anything down, it would go into the insurance database and future insurance coverage might either increase in cost or be denied.

Sarah and I ran into a version of this in our insurance application. Before I left my corporate job, we made sure that we had preventive care done. I got my eyes checked (I do this every couple of decades) and Sarah went in for a physical. One of the tests recommended for someone of her age is a bone density scan. The results showed lower density than desired. While this is good to know and treat, on our insurance application it comes up as a potential chronic, expensive condition. By requesting the scan, the physician actually did Sarah a disservice. A possible consequences is that we may be denied coverage for anything related to bone density for one or more years. At worst, our request for insurance may be denied altogether.

Yes, there is a global health database maintained and used by all the major US insurance companies. If you have health insurance, one of the papers you sign is an agreement to disclose everything to the insurance company. That information goes into the shared database. The database is not used to improve your health care, it is used to determine risk and reduce insurance company payouts.

The coffee house is progressing. I am negotiating a space and think I have basically come to terms with the landlord. The location is good and the costs look do-able. The next few months will be really exciting. I expect that all free time will evaporate and just hope I can keep up the gym visits.

1 comment:

Amy Wing said...

Hey Colin - Welcome to the world of the uninsured. It's where my family lives and has lived for the past 3+ years. What becomes clear before too much time passes is how much you don't need the insurance companies and how much more freedom you will feel to take care of your health. That is unless you have a catastrophe and/or a serious illness or a chronic illness. Then you will be shitting bricks of worry and probably have to declare bankruptcy. But I see it this way: most people who declare bankruptcy due to health care costs DO have insurance. So what exactly is the difference?

The system is irretrievably broken. And the more of us who remain uncovered, the more the problem gets worse - because both the economy AND our health in general deteriorate when we uninsureds use the ER (the only federally protected health care access in this country) for our primary care needs - and usually far later than optimal.

My husband (we are both contractors - self-employed) was denied coverage for treated and stable sleep apnea. And we own the machine... and I wasn't directly refused but was given a huge jack-up in the already high rate for being overweight. (I've lost 45 pounds in the past year but also lost all interest in dealing with the insurance companies.)

I could write a book on this. But instead I will just say that I feel your pain, and you and I will both get front-row seats to the pros and cons of the new health care bill... in four years. Maybe.

BTW, my own family of four - two kids, two adults - would have been charged nearly $1000 per month for the same catastrophic coverage you mentioned - with the $10K deductible. AND a 20% co-insurance afterwards. And then, of course, all the haggling and refusal of coverage for this and that, which would have required us to go 100% out of pocket again... doesn't really seem like a good deal, does it? (We can't afford it anyway.)

Good luck to you and Sarah - feel free to e-mail me if you would like some tips on navigating the "fee for service" world - I've learned a LOT about how to get discounts and cut corners, from prescriptions to labs to doctor's fees. (Hmmm... if I had time, it would be nice to start a blog on it for the millions of us in this boat.)

It's not all bad, actually. I find I now roll my eyes at people who say, "I can't get the care I need because the insurance company won't pay for it." I mean, if it was cutting edge cancer treatment, there might be something to it, but it's ridiculous how dependent people have gotten on the insurance companies for every little thing. Screw 'em!