I have been without health insurance since June 2008. I had an individual plan through Kaiser Northern California for many years, but by early 2008, I finally had to face the fact that I could no longer afford to keep the coverage. My monthly expenses exceeded my income and there was no other solution in sight.
This is the background of how I finally reached the decision to drop my health coverage. In one or two more diaries, I plan to talk about what it has been like to be uninsured for three years, and my experience as I begin the process of applying for California's high risk insurance coverage.
This is also my very first diary here, although I've been a member for a long time. I hope it's not too disjointed or rambling. Mostly, I hope that maybe it will be helpful for those going through something similar.
A little about me: I am currently 49 years old, a single mom, and have worked for many years in the legal field as a legal assistant and office manager. Up until just a few years ago, I made a very decent living and was able to support my small family on my income, with a little bit to spare for luxuries such as the occasional vacation to Disneyland, or on what shouldn't be luxuries (but sometimes are), such as new tires on my car or regular dental check ups.
When my son was born 13 years ago, I decided to start my own home business and do contract administrative assistant/legal work. I lucked out and found two attorneys who each needed part-time help that I could do from home. My employer had been paying my full Kaiser premium, plus the much smaller monthly premium for my newborn. When I left to work for myself, I took over those monthly payments. I can't remember specifically what each plan cost, but I was able to pay both monthly premiums without too much trouble.
However, each year, the premiums for both plans went up. At first, it was just a moderate increase; but by the time my son was in preschool, I was really noticing the difference. At that point, I decided it would be better to go back to work for someone else, and get some of these benefits paid for again. I found a job with a solo attorney and he paid a flat rate for insurance coverage - $250 per month. So basically, my monthly premiums "went down" by $250, and I had more financial breathing room once again.
Seven years went by. During that time, I had four salary increases, and my child care costs had come down, but overall I was bringing home less every month because my health care premiums kept going up and up. Where once I had seen a savings of $250 per month because of my employer contribution, the premium just for my plan alone rose by about that amount. I used credit cards to make ends meet every month, and those balances kept going up and up as well. Then another card offer would come in the mail, and I'd plan to transfer over old debt onto the new card and close out the old account. Instead, cards multiplied like cells, and before I knew it, I had 3 or 4 major credit cards, all of them with some serious balances on them.
Next, I turned to my IRA account, usually around summer time each year, to help pay for summer camp for my son. I'd take out a little extra to "pay down" my credit card debt, but that never lasted very long.
I started doing a part-time job in the evenings at home for another attorney, which brought in about $250 extra each month. Even so, I was barely scraping by.
When I was notified at the end of 2007 of the new rates taking effect in 2008, I saw that coverage for myself and my son would be close to $700 per month. If I had been able to maintain my level of income, I might have struggled on for quite some time, robbing Peter to pay Paul just to keep my health insurance. But the solo attorney was dealing with a real downturn in business. It was clear he couldn't keep me at my full-time salary for much longer. So I started looking around for another job. A number of months went by, with nothing on the horizon except entry level positions. Then I heard of an opening at another small firm with a good reputation. It offered some flexibility in hours (important to a single mom), fairly decent benefits, but paid $4,000 less per year. Still, it was the best job out there at the time, so I took it.
And that's when I couldn't avoid reality any longer. I'd already cut out most of the extras from my budget. The only thing left I could cut that would actually make a difference was my own health insurance plan.
So effective the first of June 2008, I canceled my Kaiser coverage. I became part of the growing number of uninsured in our country.
(I'll talk in my next diary about my experiences of getting health care while uninsured.)
Updated by one of 8 at Tue May 10, 2011 at 10:32 AM PDT
Thank you for making my very first diary hit the Rec List.