I’ve come to dread December, and for good reason.
Not because of the terror of Krampusnacht on Dec. 5, when Krampus comes out to punish the naughty.
Not because of the tedium of the Gildan New Mexico Bowl, first game of this year’s 17-day Festival of Meaningless December College Bowl games.
Not even because of the remorse of Dec. 20, last day to send out all the Christmas cards I’ll neglect to send out again this year.
No, it has nothing to do with Krampus, pointless football or missed U.S. Postal Service deadlines. Yet it’s still a day that inspires terror, despair and regret.
That day is Dec. 15, last day of enrollment for government-sanctioned Marketplace health insurance programs. Last day to sign on the dotted line to pay for expensive coverage with exorbitant deductibles.
Don’t get me wrong. Obamacare is great. It provides accessible health care ... as long as you’re young enough or poor enough to take advantage of it. But for anyone older than age 50 who makes above the subsidy threshold, well, prepare to cough up some bread.
The cheapest unsubsidized 2019 offerings for us quinquagenarians (50- to 59-year-olds) run around $800 per month, or $9,600 a year. Which maybe wouldn’t be bad, as long as you don’t get sick. Because if you do, then prepare to suck up a $7,000 deductible.
Still, if you make six figures or more, this might not be a big deal. And if you’re poor, well, the government will pay most of it for you. But if your household income falls only slightly north of the threshold, then you, my friend, have a problem.
As in an up-to-14-percent-of-your-annual-household-income problem for the premium, or an up-to-25-percent-of-your-annual-household-income problem if you have the temerity to actually get sick. Of course, that’s only for one person. If there’s two of you, well ... remember your vows, for better or worse.
Fortunately, I’ve found a simple way to get out of this dilemma: catch the cancer. I did, boy, and from an insurance perspective, it was the best thing that could have happened to me. I eventually qualified for Medicare, though I had go through a year of chemo, two stem cell transplants and two years of Marketplace coverage to get it.
My wife, however, she ain’t so lucky. First, she’s healthy. Most of the time, anyway. Second, she foolishly ignored my advice not to get old.
So now she’s one of those unsubsidized quinquagenarians who has to cough up a small fortune for a Marketplace Bronze plan.
And, believe me, there’s a lot of coughing involved.
Two years ago, when she was still a smoker (she finally quit last year), her plan ran $960 a month. For 2018, the cheapest quote for a viable plan – meaning one our medical providers would actually accept – had risen to more than $1,300 per month.
This year’s Trumpalization of health care created some cheaper alternatives. They’re called catastrophic plans, and provide coverage only if you suffer some form of catastrophe. Like a car accident. Or maybe a gunshot wound. Or perhaps some kind of unexpected trauma, like a zombie bite, or a chainsaw juggling mishap.
What they don’t cover are doctor visits. Or routine exams. Or anything that isn’t sudden and horrible.
Since Sara almost never sees a doctor – except for the occasional cough or dislocated toe – she figured this kind of plan was perfect. And, like an idiot, I reluctantly agreed.
So, of course, this turned out to be the year she needed emergency surgery. Surgery that was catastrophic to us, but not catastrophic enough for the insurance company since it wasn’t the result of a car wreck or chainsaw. They joyfully refused to pay one cent of the bill, which turned out to be a more-than-58-percent-of-our-annual-household-income kind of bill.
Fortunately, our health care providers – who apparently have a clause for idiots with catastrophic policies – reduced our bill to a more manageable 17-percent-of-our-annual-household-income bill.
So now we’ve got three weeks to sign up for next year’s plan.
We’re looking at a new company: Krampus Health.
I don’t like the name, but they have to be a better carrier than this year’s.
• Bill Wimbiscus, former reporter and editor for The Herald-News, has lived in Joliet for more than 30 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.