Today, being liberal and wanting to live in a country where more Americans have access to affordable health care cost me precisely $2,550 dollars. And that number could very likely rise exponentially later in 2014, in 2015 and every year after that.
In 2014, there will be a dramatic increase in the number of "cashendectimies."
This $2550 isn't the result of some kind of paper loss... nor is it the result of tricky accounting or some charitable contribution that the IRS has called into question, like my thousand one-dollar bills donation to The United Stripper College Fund.
This $2550 dollar cost is a direct result of President Obama's Affordable Health Care Plan, which went into effect January 1st, 2014.
The Affordable Health Care Act is a plan I vociferously supported in 2013 because I would like to see more Americans afford health care and I believed the President when he said that I could keep my old insurance and that rates would only be going up for the richest Americans.
Now, before I reveal my level of anger with this $2550 stick-up and a 20 percent increase in the cost of any necessary hospitalization, let me back up just a bit.
In 2013, the deductible on the health insurance plan which covers my family of four was $450 in network or $900 bucks out of network. Under that plan, we were covered 80 percent for doctors in our network and where I live in Los Angeles, many of the best doctors are part of that network. For prescription drugs, we had a co-pay of $4.00 on generic medications and after the deductible was met, we had a co-pay of 20 percent on name brand drugs.
This is my actual 2013 health insurance card.
Under the old plan, if any of us had to visit the emergency room, there was a $150 deductible...and no additional costs (assuming we met our $450 family deductible.) If any of us ended up in the hospital, there was an additional $250 co-pay. That's it.
FYI: The charges for $2.37 & $2.00 are for new laces for my sneakers.
CUT TO: January 24th, 2014. The first inkling I had that my health care costs were going up is when the pharmacist at CVS told me that the medication I take, that I paid $120 dollars for in December 2013, would now cost me $561.04. If you're keeping score at home, that's an increase of $441.04... Although, if I want to add a dinner salad, it's going to be just $2.50 more.
If $441.04 sounds like a lot of money... you're right. It is. Makes me wonder if I'm doing the right thing taking all these pills that will prevent me from getting Dutch Elm disease.
Armed with this astronomical cost increase, I got myself all worked up, prepared myself for the battle ahead and then called my insurance company to demand an explanation and a refund. Immediately.
Now I know why it takes 20 minutes to get through all the voice prompts before you get to actually talk to a real person -- it's to give you time to calm the fuck down. If the call center folk had to deal with people who could get through to them quickly, they'd spend the first 20 minutes of every conversation going, "Yes, sir. I understand." "You're going to have to calm down. Yes. I know you're upset."
Reminds me of that woman a few years ago who was sleeping with the astronaut who was married to someone else. When the mistress finds out that a third woman is also vying for the astronaut's affections, she goes nuts! She buys a wig and puts on a diaper and drives from Florida to Texas. From where she lives to where her paramour lives. The wig is so no one will recognize her. And the diaper? So she won't have to stop along the way. My point is: it's like 900 miles from Florida to Texas, at some point she has to calm down, right, and recognize she's in a wig and a diaper. How does she sustain that level of anger she had when she got on the road?
Where was I? Oh yes. I built up a head of steam... I was mad. I dial the insurance company, and after a few prompts, I am put through to an agent. What? I had only been on hold for like 2 minutes. And I was ready to tear her a new ass- But then, in the sweetest voice I have ever heard, she says: "Mr. Hotchkiss, how can I help you today?" I expected Lord Farquad from "Shrek," but instead, I get "Snow White." Damn you Snow White and your sweet voice.
Anyway -- it took Snow White about 35 minutes to walk me through the changes in my family's health care plan. She had answers for all my questions. And even answers for questions I hadn't thought to ask. And at no point did she try and hurry me off the phone or get snippy with me or act evasively. She was reasonable, she was polite and she was well informed.
This is my actual 2014 health insurance card.
The new deductible for in-network care is $3000 for my family. If we use doctors out of the network, the deductible is $6,000. Remember, the old deductible was $450.
Under the old plan, my cost for an ER visit was just $150. Now? Twenty percent of whatever it will cost.
Under the old plan, my cost for a hospital stay was $250. Now? Twenty percent of whatever it will cost.
According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, in 2010, the average cost of a hospital stay was $9700.
Let's assume it's the same today. My additional cost? $1940.00 compared to $250 in 2013.
And the reason my medication went from $120 to $561.04? The $440 is my share of the family's $3000 deductible - which is divided up between medical care and prescription drugs.
OK, now the big question. How do I feel?
1. I feel like the victim of one of those Nigerian email scams. At least, my intuition tells me that what I'm feeling is the feeling felt by the people who fell for one of those scams. Only in this instance, I wasn't taken by a phony Nigerian Prince who builds up your trust then stabs you in the back, I was taken by a presidential candidate whose trust I felt was earned, but it turns out, he wasn't telling the truth. The President said I could keep my same insurance plan. That was a lie. As "Snow White" explained to me, my $450 deductible plan was no longer being offered. All of the new plans being offered included larger deductibles. One was only 4 times as much - $2000 instead of $450 -- but had higher co-pays for hospital stays.
So -- I guess I feel shitty. I feel taken advantage of. I feel duped. I feel like I've been robbed.
2. On the other hand, the President also said that increases in health care costs would only affect the richest Americans. Now, when I heard this last year, I was like: "Yes. The rich should pay more! Fuck the rich!"
That was when I didn't think I was rich. Turns out the federal government thinks differently. And so would most Americans.
And this is where it gets tricky. Because I don't think of myself as rich. But, that is clearly some psychological delusion I've subscribed to.
You see, rich people don't drive a 10 year old car with a large stain on the driver's side door, the result of my car being egged 8 years ago on Halloween night. Rich people don't have to work in the garage along side multiple dozens of boxes that don't fit anywhere else in the house. Rich people don't have to decide between a backyard shed - to move the boxes out of the garage -- and sending their kids to summer camp.
And yet -- by all accounts -- the people who live in my area, the people who work in the entertainment business, the people who live in my home, we are the 1 percent. Actually, that's not right. The people who live in Beverly Hills are the 1 percent. The people in the San Fernando Valley are the 5 percent.
And while I do drive a car stained with egg, I also have a swimming pool in the backyard... and a wood burning pizza oven. And while my garage is chock full of crap, it also has a 42" flat panel TV. And while I don't have a fancy shed, I do have two fantastic kids who will be going to summer camp. Most kids in America aren't that lucky.
So, is it right that I should have to pay more? It was right when I thought someone else would have to pay that wasn't me.
Today being liberal and wanting to live in a country where nearly all Americans can get affordable healthcare cost me $2550 and well, I'm OK with that.
Jon Hotchkiss is the creator of the new six-hour science TV series, This vs That and he invites you to check it out, HERE.