A good friend of mine, age 62—let’s call him Craig—is without health insurance right now. Why, you ask? It’s because no one will insure him. Craig lost his job in the summer of 2010, and his COBRA health benefits ran out at the end of January. He hasn’t been able to find another position like the one he left, and although he was able to land a two-year temporary position in his field, the health benefits offered through the temp agency don’t include a comprehensive medical plan. Instead, his only option there is a “mini-med” health plan—the kind that is currently under investigation by Consumer Reports.
Craig has a number of pre-existing conditions that require a few thousand dollars in prescription drugs every year, so health insurance companies won’t insure him, for any price. Because he’s not married, he’s unable to get health coverage through a spouse. Because he’s not 65, he’s not yet eligible for Medicare.
His only option at the moment is to join his state’s high risk pool, a health plan for the uninsurable. The catch? Most residents have to be uninsured for at least three months to get into the pool, and if you’ve just finished COBRA, you must be uninsured for at least six months.
So, at the moment, even though he has a job and he’s jumping through all the proper hoops, Craig will be without health insurance until August 1st. Before embarking on this uninsured leap of faith, he made sure that he’d stockpiled enough medication to get him through the gap in coverage, and he got a full physical from his doctor.
“The doctor said, ‘You can’t imagine the number of people who walk into this office with the same problem,’” Craig says. “He said, ‘Just hang in there for six months and you’re home free.’”
I spoke to Craig on January 31st. “Today is my last insured day,” he said. “Tomorrow I will be uninsured.”
The good news is that in 2014, barring a rollback of Obamacare, this wouldn’t be an issue for Craig, because he’d be able to find health insurance via a state-run exchange. It’s also good news that the high-risk pool is even an option for Craig—and that’s also something that Obama’s healthcare package put in place.
The bad news is that if anything happens to Craig in the next six months that requires major medical care, he’s putting his entire life’s savings in jeopardy.
I’m crossing my fingers for him.
(Photo of fetching trapeze artist from Wylie Maercklein on Flickr.)