THE BLOG
05/22/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

I'm About to Dive Into Health Reform's High Risk Pool

I wasn't in favor of this health care bill. I wish I could have been because I supported Barack Obama in the 2008 election -- which is exactly the reason I wasn't in favor of this health care bill. Key components of this bill, including the individual mandate, the Cadillac tax, the lack of a public option, the lack of transparency, and the influence of the big pharmaceutical and insurance industries are all completely antithetical to what candidate Obama ran on. So President Obama won his health care victory, but he lost my support.

But here we are, and I'm actually a prime candidate for one of the key provisions being touted by the bill's supporters; the high risk pools that will be created in the next 90 days for people with pre-existing conditions who haven't had insurance for six months or longer.

That's me. High Risk Stranahan.

Here's my background; I'm 44 years old, and I was diagnosed with diabetes a couple years ago. At the time, I was working full-time in a job that had benefits, and I had health care through Kaiser Permanente in Southern California.

I had my diabetes under control about six months after my initial diagnosis through a combination of prescribed medicines and some changes in diet and exercise. It has definitely caused some circulation problems. My feet will get random stabbing pains, like someone is jabbing me with a pin cushion. My vision also went downhill very quickly, and I now need reading glasses.

So there's my pre-existing condition.

About a year ago, I left my job and moved my family to New Mexico. Leaving my job was at least partially related to my medical condition. I was doing computer graphics and the situation with my vision made that more difficult.

One of the consequences of leaving my job was that I lost my insurance. In theory, I could have used COBRA but that would've been about $1000 a month and there is no possible way I could have afforded that. I've been doing some freelance work and trying to get business off the ground.

Making ends meet is a constant struggle, which I think is something that's true for a lot of people right now in this economy. I'm not complaining, mind you. I'm surrounded by my family (we homeschool our kids), and I'm doing work that I love and think is important. But I'd be lying if I didn't say money was often tight but that was also true when I had my full-time job in California.

And while my finances are a struggle, I don't make so little money that I would qualify for a subsidy. I'm not quite poor enough or quite rich enough to afford health care in America.

The high risk pools will give insurance to people like me who have not insured for more than six months and have a pre-existing condition. So you'd think on that point, I'd be throwing confetti with most other Democrats. But I'm skeptical.

My bottom line question is -- what's it going to cost me to be part of this high-risk pool?

What I need now is not insurance. It's health care. Of course, there are millions of people all over the world who have access to health care but don't have insurance. They live in countries where citizens have the right to health care but don't administer it through a system of private insurance.

With this new health care bill, there's nothing that will get me directly to healthcare without going through the private insurance system. Any money that I pay into the private insurance system is money that I don't have the spend on things like medicine or the expensive little straps that go in those nifty glucose level meters.
One thing I've hardly heard anyone mention when they talk about people with pre-existing conditions like me is that I actually have bought insurance even before this bill passed. Yes, people like me with pre-existing conditions could often buy insurance under the old system. The problem was that it was expensive. So in theory I could buy it, but in practice it wasn't happening. I couldn't afford it.

Will I be able to afford insurance in this new world where Barack Obama tells me "every American will finally be guaranteed high quality, affordable health care coverage"?

I suppose that I'm also an American who is guaranteed a high quality affordable gizmo like a 64 Gig iPad with 3G wireless. I suppose I should be thankful that the Apple store will not discriminate against me on the basis of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or a pre-existing laptop. Sweet land of liberty, where I'm guaranteed what I can afford.

So while a lot of my friends on Team Donkey are saying huzzah and the people on Team Elephant are already talking about how they are to defund the subsidies, I'm just left with nagging questions about how much this is going to cost me... and foot pain that sometimes wakes me up at night.

I'll keep you informed about what I find out. If there are good affordable plans available to me and my family -- and by extension, many other Americans -- I'll tell you about them and be the first one to say that that part of the bill has lived up to its promise. And if the plan is bad or not affordable, I'll let you know about that, too.