When I was twenty-five and working at a job that was grueling and thankless and rendered me suffering from stress-induced stomach aches, I eventually decided I’d had enough and I quit. I was engaged at the time, and living with my fiancé. We were to be legally married three months later.
When I told my mother I’d quit my job, the first words out of her mouth were, “What about health insurance?” I might have replied that I’d quit for my health, but I can’t remember. I’m sure I told her that my fiance’s company, in their overwhelming generosity, had offered to pay my COBRA fees for the three months until his insurance would cover me as his spouse. Since I spent the next several months working as a substitute teacher, the $300/month would have been a massive burden. I was very, very lucky. (On the flip side, how unlucky was I that I lived in a place that didn’t recognize common-law partnerships?)
Six months after we got married we moved to Canada, where my husband grew up. And that is why I am able to live the life I want to live, to make the living I want to make.
Because my health insurance is no longer tied to my job.
Oh, and it’s affordable.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a long time, you might have an idea about how much I’ve required significant healthcare in the last couple of years. Enough that I now have a sufficient medical history that should I ever get pregnant again I likely wouldn’t cross the border at all, in deference to my pre-existing conditions and the pesky travel insurance that might not hold up in the face of complications.
Annie Modesitt has urged me to write about how having guaranteed health insurance has affected my work life, and all I can say about it, really, is that it has made my work possible. End of story. If I need or want to move on in my career, I can do so in my own time, at my own pace, in my own way. If I get pregnant, I’ll be a high-risk case from conception but I won’t have a financial concern about it. Which seems pretty right to me; my concern should be about my health.
In April, if I’ve had a good year, the Canadian government will take more of my money than the U.S. government would if I were living there, and I pay every dime of it with gratitude.
Yes, I’m a lefty and I believe very strongly that people have certain fundamental rights, but my personal experience has nothing to do with my politics. It has everything to do with my own quality of life. Not having to worry about health insurance allows me to be happy in my work in ways I couldn’t be otherwise—not with how variable a freelancer’s living is. It allows me to see a doctor when I need to, without a co-pay, and without concern about paying for tests she wants to run. It allows me to pursue any professional interest I have without going through the gatekeeper of traditional employment. It makes my health concerns my personal concerns, not something I have to argue about with pencil-pushers over the phone. Ever.
So maybe I will make this a little bit political. For the first time in many years, an administration that is open to providing universal health coverage will be in power in the U.S. Regardless of your political leanings, think hard about what you would personally gain from such a thing.
(P.S. It’s a fallacy when opponents to universal health care say the result would be that everyone would get the lowest-denominator, shittiest care. In most of the rest of the industrialized world, people enjoy government-supported health care. Yes, everyone has gripes; no system is perfect. But I’ll take this imperfect system over the pain- and stress-inducing American system any day.)