WHAT WERE THE BENEFITS?
Health Care, Retirement, and Everything Else
the Government Was Supposed to Help Provide
Over the fifteen years I've spent in the workforce, I've been personally responsible for covering most of my own health care and all my retirement savings. In my twenties I either went without health insurance or carried a high-deductible major medical policy, what my father called “hit by a bus” insurance, which (fortunately) never kicked in. For a brief time I was eligible for insurance through a professional union, an early brush with the HMO system that I found so confusing I mostly just didn't use it. In my thirties, feeling less cavalier about my good health, I paid thousands of dollars for a COBRA plan off an old job until I became eligible for a group benefit package through another professional organization. From there I began a long cycle of hopping between the various plans it offered, always trying to find something cheaper that still gave me decent coverage. I kept two sets of doctors and swapped between them depending on which insurance carrier I was with at the time.
Today, I pay over $500 a month for a group plan with a major New York area provider. There was a less expensive choice—one with no prescription-drug coverage and no out-of-network options, one that gave me a considerably diminished list of doctors to choose from—but sitting in my Manhattan apartment with the various options, printed on candy-colored paper, strewn across my bed, trying to speculate about my medical future, I decided that there was a good chance prescriptions could factor in. Visions of the $1,000-amonth chemotherapy drugs my mother had taken several years earlier loomed large. So did the idea that if, God forbid, I got sick or