the smell of my desperation has become a stench

OMG the ACA is like FML

Last night I was watching “The Daily Show” from Monday night featuring a small bit on the inability for many of us to sign up for an “Obamacare” plan because the website where we would do so is having technical difficulties. I’d embed the clip here, but ironically the button to facilitate that is not working. Who coded your website, Jon Stewart? THE GOVERNMENT?

Essentially it showcased news outlets reporting on this technical glitch including footage of NBC reporter Mara Schiavocampo who was put on hold for over fifteen minutes when she called the help line. Fifteen whole minutes. Can you even believe that? It then cut to Jon’s face and his knowing smirk where it paused for effect, and then it showed a picture of people camping outside a movie theater. We are a culture, he pointed out, who will sleep outside for three days in order to see a movie about shirtless werewolves, BUT DO NOT MAKE ME WAIT 15 GODDAMN MINUTES FOR LIFE-SAVING HEALTH COVERAGE.


Over the last couple of months I’ve received no less than 200 reminders from my insurance provider that it will cease to exist on December 31, 2013 and that if I do not buy coverage that is offered through the government exchange I will no longer be covered after that date. This means that I have to find Leta new coverage as well. The two of us couldn’t qualify for private insurance, but because we’re lucky enough to live in a state that has a high risk pool for people with pre-existing conditions, we were able to purchase very high-premium, high-deductible, pretty much just catastrophic insurance.

Marlo qualified for a private insurance policy because she was not born with a pre-existing condition. She was also lucky enough that her birthday occurred before insurance companies dropped individual plans for children altogether when the Affordable Care Act was signed into law. Totally dick move on the part of healthcare companies if you ask me OR ANYONE ELSE WHO CARES ABOUT CHILDREN.

The high risk pool that covers me and Leta is now going away, and when I researched the plans that would be offered in the exchange, I was very happy to find out that I will be able to purchase far better insurance for far less money. Not only I will be saving hundreds of dollars a month on health insurance for both me and Leta, but we will also both have dental coverage. My new plan will also cover mental health, something my old plan must have regarded as an imaginary condition considering how much I have paid out of pocket to see my therapist and psychiatrist over the last eight years.

Is it frustrating that I cannot yet sign up for this new coverage? Sure. Technical difficulties are never fun. But this is far less terrifying than being in the highest carriage on a ferris wheel when the motor suddenly breaks. I get the feeling that those of us who have been paying insane premiums and deductibles, those of us who couldn’t afford those premiums and have lived under the threat of medically-induced bankruptcy, we’re used to dealing with frustration far more intense. The website won’t load? Okay, I’ll try it again in an hour. And if I still can’t access it? I’ll keep trying. And then I’ll try again. A fifteen minute wait on the phone? I’ll use the time I’m on hold to do an impromptu square dance in the kitchen BECAUSE MY CHILD AND I FINALLY GET ACCESS TO AFFORDABLE HEALTHCARE YES MY CAPS LOCK GOT STUCK TODAY. Mara Schiavocampo, I would like to invite you to a special dance in my kitchen. Refreshments will be served.

  • CK

    2013/10/09 at 3:05 pm

    Every time I hear about a glitch in the system or the ACA website being down, I think of how the Target website crashed for hours on the day Missoni for Target launched. Or how impossible it is to get the Apple site to work when a new iPhone is released. If a multinational corporation can’t get their shit together for a product launch to make billions of dollars, why on Earth do we expect the federal government to be able to? They aren’t magicians and they can’t pay IT people money like Apple can. Let’s just all reevaluate our expectations a bit.

  • Jennifer Campisano

    2013/10/09 at 3:10 pm

    Exactly. I am lucky enough to have excellent healthcare through my husband’s job. But if that ever went away? As a young mom with Stage 4 breast cancer, I have to say THANK GOD–oops, I mean OBAMA–for making it unlawful to deny coverage for preexisting conditions. Because, try as I might to will it to happen, I don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend on chemo every year.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2013/10/09 at 3:14 pm

    Oh my god, I forgot about the Target/Missoni mishap! HA! Perfect example.

  • Maria Ashley

    2013/10/09 at 3:16 pm

    I try about once a day. I can’t wait to get affordable healthcare for my family. And damn, is the process frustrating. But every day I’m one day closer.

  • The Absent Minded Housewife

    2013/10/09 at 3:16 pm

    Get this…one company I applied for private insurance through refused my application because I’d experienced HEMORRHOIDS after the birth of my first child. A condition that didn’t need any care past what I could buy over the counter. Luckily my husband’s insurance premiums actually went down that year and coverage was then affordable.

    My whole family is full of pre-existing conditions that are far more concerning than the piles. My little sister has two children with type 1 diabetes. They can grow up knowing that THEY CAN GET INSULIN, which, you know, isn’t arbitrary.

  • Connei

    2013/10/09 at 3:19 pm

    This made me both laugh and cry. Thanks for sharing your witty and very spot on insight.

  • CheeseburgerinLaradise

    2013/10/09 at 3:20 pm

    Heather, this is so important for people to read. People DO NOT REALIZE what health care is like for the self employed. They don’t even. It’s not even in the vicinity of their brain activity.

    I grew up on private insurance with self-employed parents. They paid something like 1200 a month to insure two adults and three kids. And that was in TWO THOUSAND TWO. Then my Mom got sick and they decided not to cover a hysterectomy, so she started paying for blood transfusions out of pocket until she was, oh, y’know, losing more blood than they could put back in her body. They waited until she was literally dying, and paid for emergency surgery, instead of an easy preventative one.

    FUCK YOU if you don’t like ACA. I’ll lovingly pay out my ass in taxes if it means people won’t have to go through their family members dying *just* because an insurance company decided to screw everyone over.

  • CheeseburgerinLaradise

    2013/10/09 at 3:21 pm

    Oops, that escalated quickly.

  • Connie

    2013/10/09 at 3:22 pm


  • Tiffany J

    2013/10/09 at 3:37 pm

    I manage a private Internist’s office in California. It makes us so sad that so many patients have stopped coming in for preventive care, or wait until they are REALLY sick to come in because they can’t afford it. They either have no insurance, or the insurance they do have is very expensive with really high deductibles.. so ironically, they can’t afford to use it.
    I’m lucky enough to work for an old-fashioned doctor who is in this for the love of patient care, not the love of money. No one is ever turned away because of the inability to pay. He automatically gives a 30% discount to anyone without insurance (and you don’t have to pay on the spot, like you do at the dentist), and he always accepts payments..even $5/month.
    I love that our patients are calling and asking questions about ACA- that means they are going to finally be insured! I think the sourpusses are people who never had to worry about these things. Those of us who have, don’t mind a wait.. we know it’s worth it.
    I’d like to add that I was diagnosed at 22 with a brain tumor. I had two craniotomies that even with insurance cost me a small fortune. Because of my insurance, I was able to go to the top brain surgeon at UCSF. I will take anti-seizure medicine for the rest of my life that without insurance, the retail price is over $1200/ month. Young people- sign on and cover your ass! This COULD happen to you, too.

  • Deminimis

    2013/10/09 at 3:39 pm

    When my wife’s cancer metastasized to her brain her employer let her go, an insurance company no less, so we had to go onto COBRA. The premiums were 1400 a month! Then there was the Neurosurgeon who wouldn’t do the craniotomy unless we paid him 5k up front to cover his service fee…
    So there we were with a sudden loss of nearly 50% of our income, and a huge new insurance expense. Thankfully, for us, about the same time President Obama pushed through the 65% cobra subsidy because of the 2008 crash. It definitely saved our family at the time. I can’t imagine people caught in a position like that without that assistance.
    I have been a total supporter of the ACA since it first began being pushed. Are there things that will need changed, and fixed? Absolutely. Personally I hope that it ends up being the first step to a single payer type option. The initial troubles on the exchange website certainly aren’t going to change my views, I’ll be there each day trying my login, they will get it fixed, and I’ll be there.

  • tahoekj

    2013/10/09 at 3:40 pm

    My husband and I are self-employed and have 1 kid. We pay more for healthcare than we do for our mortgage each month. Healthcare that doesn’t kick in until we pay $8K out of pocket. We never pay $8K out of pocket — except during that year when we had our kid, and then — surprise — maternity wasn’t covered (that’s not legal now, thanks to ACA).
    But I just can’t stand the thought of paying for other people’s healthcare. Because I assume all that money I’m paying now for services not received goes to feed puppies in need, or some other good cause.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2013/10/09 at 3:44 pm

    Another Amen here.

  • Matt

    2013/10/09 at 4:03 pm

    It’s interesting to see where all of this is leading us. A country very divided, some afraid of what’s coming, some looking forward to it. I personally don’t support socialized medical care but I’m not here to argue about it. There are many it will help, as it did the author. There are also many that it will harm as I’ve seen people have hours cut because their business couldn’t afford insurance for everyone. Two edged sword, we’ll see where it takes us.

  • James T

    2013/10/09 at 4:10 pm


    By your own admission, you have just handed your out of pocket costs (for your health problems) to me.

    How is that fair to me?

  • KatR

    2013/10/09 at 4:13 pm

    I’m misunderstanding you, because I thought you said you’d rather pay to feed dogs than for human beings to get medical care. That can’t possibly be what you meant.

  • CheeseburgerinLaradise

    2013/10/09 at 4:19 pm

    Just a note that my Mom didn’t die, I just realized it read that way. I was thinking of the cancer patients which couldn’t afford chemo.

  • Deminimis

    2013/10/09 at 4:19 pm

    You are aware of how insurance works aren’t you? People get together in a large pool and the premiums from all go to cover the medical costs of those who become ill. This isn’t a socialized medicine thing, it’s the free market economy.

    The problem before the ACA was that insurance companies were able to deny insurance to people who actually needed health care, as a way to maximize their profits. Thanks to the ACA everyone can now get insurance. Thanks to the individual mandate there will be a larger pool of people with insurance spreading the risk among more people, and helping to control and eventually lower insurance costs. Thanks to the ACA, preventative care and well visits must be included in insurance plans, which means that more people will be diagnosed with illnesses while they are still minor and still treatable / curable.

    How exactly is this hurting you again?

  • karen

    2013/10/09 at 4:21 pm

    As a German I recommend health care for ANYBODY – its awesome! Stay in there and fight the Tea Party!

  • Beth

    2013/10/09 at 4:23 pm

    I wonder why they didn’t do some kind of staggered enrollment like Gmail or Ravelry did when they first started?

  • Rhonda Cates

    2013/10/09 at 4:39 pm

    As a Canadian who has never had to worry about going bankrupt because I have cancer, or heart failure, or been in an accident that broke numerous bones, or have a pre-existing condition (here they will treat again, and again, and again until it’s better) – I am thrilled that Americans now have something similar. Yes we have to wait for hip replacements, knee replacements, MRI’s and many other elective surgeries but if your life is in any way threatened there is zero wait time. And if your employer does not provide standard medical the most we pay is $133 per month for a family of 3 or more ($66.50 for single person, $120.50 for family of two) – premiums are less if you make below a certain threshold. This is something that a government should be concerned with – the welfare of it’s citizens – basic human needs.

  • Brookie

    2013/10/09 at 4:44 pm

    Hundreds of dollars a month for medical insurance? I know it’s been said here before, but as a Canadian, that just boggles, BOGGLES, my mind.

  • Persia

    2013/10/09 at 4:48 pm

    What you all fail to see is that if this Healthcare is soo grand how come they cannot even get a silly website to work? Or people to answer the phones? Do those people not have jobs anymore because of the Government shut down? This healthcare BS is too shady for me. No thanks! What’s that saying..try, try again?? They should do that and come back when the kinks have been worked out.

  • Kristan

    2013/10/09 at 4:51 pm

    A friend pointed out to me that this could very easily be seen as a good thing, something that Dems might be wise to seize upon:

    “I’m sorry, did you say that Americans don’t want Obamacare? Well then I wonder what all these MILLIONS OF AMERICANS CRASHING OUR WEBSITE are looking for.”

  • Julia

    2013/10/09 at 4:53 pm

    We now pay $1200 a month for 4 plus 15% co insurance ….will now be paying $2-3000 a month now for a family of 4. Self
    Employed family with prexisting conditions. While health and access to beyond important, and the exchanges are ao helpful, this law was rushed and flawed.

  • Writerchick

    2013/10/09 at 5:01 pm

    Hmm… I was informed that my affordable little insurance coverage [I am a single mom working at home as a writer] policy will no longer be adequate and I will now be paying FAR MORE for coverage than before. Or I can pay a huge penalty. I don’t qualify for Medicaid. WTF?!? I have several friends who are self-employed and their coverage is going to be 200-400% HIGHER under this nightmare. Also – people are losing their jobs or getting their hours cut because of this. We need a better healthcare system in this country, but this is NOT the solution. This Obamacare only benefits insurance companies.

  • Julia

    2013/10/09 at 5:02 pm

    Rushed as was my reply … Excuse the typos. Good things about the law, but my pocketbook will suffer much more

  • natatomic

    2013/10/09 at 5:12 pm

    I wish my premiums were going down. Instead, they’re nearly doubling on our current wonderful, no-complaints, no-deductible insurance. So we’re opting for the cheapest insurance since we can’t afford that type of increase. This new, lesser insurance is still more expensive than our current insurance, but it’s the only thing we can afford. It has a $3,000 deductible (then we pay 20% of anything above that), and instead of paying $4/Rx no matter what it is, we will now have to pay the retail price for all Rx.

    I’m pregnant too, and thank goodness the baby is due before the end of the year, else we couldn’t afford the hospital bill!

    It’s nice that you are now able to get better, cheaper coverage, but pardon me if I’m not celebrating over a millionaire getting more affordable insurance, when little, old $10/hr me is getting worse, more expensive coverage.

  • Deminimis

    2013/10/09 at 5:25 pm

    From what you describe as your employment, you would most likely easily qualify for federal subsidies, which would make your premiums much less per month than you currently pay if not eliminate then entirely. You should go take a look before jumping to conclusions.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2013/10/09 at 5:29 pm

    Thank you @Deminimis for jumping in here. @Writerchick, who informed you that it “will no longer be adequate” ? 200-400% higher? I’d love to see actual examples. Because in Utah, for a family of 4 that makes $50,000/year or less, they will only have to pay $122 a month. Where do you live?

  • Heather Armstrong

    2013/10/09 at 5:30 pm

    Where do you live?

  • Lee

    2013/10/09 at 5:39 pm

    Yes, your expenses might now be a little more and mine a little less.
    But when your sister is diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer, or your mom has a massive heart attack, or your kid is born with a birth defect, I’m happy to help out and pay a little more so that they can see the doctor. In exchange, you can help me out a little.
    It’s called empathy. And helping your neighbors.

  • tahoekj

    2013/10/09 at 6:10 pm

    I was being (ineffectively) sarcastic. One of the arguments against ACA that I find most forhead-slap-worthy is the argument “but I don’t want to pay for other people’s healthcare.” My family pays thousands of dollars every year for insurance that we thankfully haven’t had to use, and then we pay more out-of-pocket for the medical expenses we do have because our deductible is sky-high.

    My point (minus the sarcasm) is that we’re already paying for other people’s healthcare.

  • Amy

    2013/10/09 at 6:18 pm

    People are not losing their jobs or getting their hours cut. According to Sunday’s NYT, only 3% of businesses that employ over 50 people do NOT offer health insurance. So maybe those 3% might do some finagling, but overall, that’s not the problem. It’s an urban myth.

  • valcl

    2013/10/09 at 6:23 pm

    Well: when someone in *your* family does need healthcare, everyone else will be paying for you.

    I’m happy to live in my “3rd world” country where we believe in this “today for you, tomorrow for me” mentality 🙂

  • Kristen Lewis Dunder

    2013/10/09 at 6:38 pm

    What a fantastic post! I am so happy for you and Leta…yours is one of those stories those of us who support the ACA need to remember and retell to counterbalance all the BS that is being spread by those in opposition to the law (yes, the one that was passed by Congress, signed by the President, and upheld by the Supreme Court).

    On a personal note, I found out recently that the bank I worked for is being bought out by another. I have no idea if they plan to keep my position or not, so I decided to log on to the Oregon exchange and take a look at my options (just for giggles). For someone at my age (44) and smoker status (non), it came back with 42 different plans, depending on the level of coverage I was seeking. Every single one of them was cheaper than COBRA. It will probably still cost less than if my husband adds me to his, but I wonder about my coworkers who a) are unmarried or b) have spouses who are in the same boat. They don’t have that option, so it’s nice to know there will be choices that won’t bankrupt them, or where they won’t have to choose between having insurance (if they can’t afford COBRA) or going without.

  • Kristen Lewis Dunder

    2013/10/09 at 6:44 pm

    I will willingly pay more in taxes too, if it means my fellow citizens can get health care. It is in my best interest to have my neighbors, coworkers, etc healthy, as much as it is theirs, and personally it saddens me that we have become such an “all about me” society. None of us are an island, and not a single one of us can “go it alone.” I am glad your mom is doing better now, CIL.

  • luckymom22

    2013/10/09 at 6:59 pm

    Well, I am 56, single mom with two children, and I have not had your happy experience. I am blessed enough to self-employed and also blessed that I do not qualify for any subsidy with the new health plans. My insurance is also ending, but the least expensive offering for me and my kiddos through the exchange will be an increase from $427 a month to $690 a month. I am happy for those for whom this works out, but for those in my peer group, this is horrible, scary news. My savings ate it in the recession and I am still trying to dig out and trying to figure out how/if my high achieving daughters will have an option for college other than community college (they’re both in high school now). I’m thankful for the option though, don’t get me wrong. I feel old and screwed, and haven’t yet drank the “happy” Kool-Aid that many of you seem to be enjoying.

  • Bichon Bisou

    2013/10/09 at 7:01 pm

    Why are you here? Go away.

  • Kristen Lewis Dunder

    2013/10/09 at 7:15 pm

    Many of us would so very much love to have Canada’s health insurance too, but I’m afraid that might make our conservative legislators heads explode. (Which, when you think about it, might not be such a bad thing.)

  • Gem Wilder

    2013/10/09 at 7:16 pm

    Wow. I’m just scrolling through here & realising that if I lived in the US I’d most likely be dead by now. I’m so blessed to have had my various specialist appointments all covered by NZ’s public health system. Neurology, Ophthalmology, Ear Nose & Throat, Chest Clinic & Obstetrics, all free. A stay in hospital with pneumonia, free. Giving birth in hospital with hospital midwives & obstetricians, and a three night stay, free. Counting my blessings right now.

  • Ari

    2013/10/09 at 7:25 pm

    Well, the people who designed the act aren’t the people who designed the website, so that’s important to keep in mind. Also, coming from a tech background: launch crashes are exceedingly normal, particularly when half your management structure (the GOP, in this case) gave you traffic projection numbers that were absurdly low. The thing is, to get more servers online and get people on site reliability, not to mention getting more people to answer the phones, there’s has to be freedom to spend program money, to hire people, and to get furloughed workers back into the office. Though I’m not sure from your comment whether it’s these very normal launch period aches and pains that seem “shady” to you, or something else about the ACA entirely?

  • Ari

    2013/10/09 at 7:36 pm

    You may not know it, but you’ve actually already been covering emergency services for people who can’t get mental health care–or other kinds of health care, which is WAY more expensive than anyone’s out-of-pocket costs for mental health care, ever. Not only does having more people participate in insurance lower the pool cost for most participants (see the reply from Deminimis), but your contribution to other people’s healthcare generally is going to drop if more people are getting cheap preventative care rather than ghastly expensive emergency care. Though since you mention “fair”, perhaps you’re not interested in the fiscal aspects of the ACA, but in the ethics involved? Your ethics may not match mine–and that’s ok–but I’d generally say that living in a society wherein we care for one another is more valuable than living in one that is fair but cruel (and really, we’ve got cruel down at present but we’re absolute rubbish at fair and always have been). I’m a single mother and not wealthy, but I’d happily pay as much as I can bear–certainly more than I am–if people in my community needed it. Worrying about whether I’m getting as much as or more than everyone else is so much more exhausting than just making sure that everyone else is getting *enough*.

  • Melissa D!

    2013/10/09 at 7:47 pm

    My Father-in-Law was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year, during a gap in insurance that was no more than a handful of months. If you’re not familiar with cancer drugs, you may not realize that you need to take a lot of them. And the side effects have side effects, all of which need – you guess it! medication! And for the un- or under-insured a single bottle of pills to get you through a month of one small aspect of a large, miserable treatment can set you back OVER TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS. And that’s not the perpetual appointments. The scans. The nutritional supplements. The ER visits when you’re coughing up blood.

    I watched cancer kill my Father-In-Law and bankrupt a previously successful family. They owned an $800,000 house. They had yearly vacations in the Caribbean. They owned a Jaguar. And as quickly as it drained the life out of my Father-in-Law, it mercilessly took away everything they had worked hard for over a series of four months. FOUR MONTHS.

    My Father-in-Law was a Fox News Conservative. He worked in finance. He was a good man, a fair man, but he didn’t support the idea of universal healthcare. Once the reality hit – once they were forced to confront the inequity of our current system, he realized how this would have made all the difference in the world for them. I’d hate to think that’s the only way to change the minds of those who insist the economic benefits to corporations take precedence over our families. We need to come to our senses.

    I’m so glad you have the peace of mind now. I’d be dancing, too.

  • matildarf

    2013/10/09 at 8:00 pm

    I’m also signing up in Maryland. It’s taken me days to get a log on, and even more to fill out an application. I’m still SO happy to be able to do this as my insurance keeps getting more expensive that I’ve had to cut out things like prescriptions. I’ve been waiting for this for 3 years!!

  • matildarf

    2013/10/09 at 8:05 pm

    As a self-employed person paying $500-700 a month for health insurance I could actually have retirement savings if I paid $66.50 a month!

  • Kristen Howerton

    2013/10/09 at 8:57 pm

    Also, the crash signifies to me just how much we NEED this. Obviously there are many people in the same position – excited and grateful to have an option, finally.

  • BossGary

    2013/10/09 at 9:24 pm

    I’m Canadian too. Obviously I love the health insurance – but you guys have such great desserts. Really – the best. (I do think that you need that single payer though).

  • MB

    2013/10/09 at 9:25 pm

    I’m also happy it’s working out for some people. It’s not going to be the case for everyone though. Someone will have to pay higher rates to cover all those now being covered, and not contributing enough to cover the cost of their own care, or even a small portion of their care.

  • MB

    2013/10/09 at 9:27 pm

    Does it matter? Not everyone qualifies for subsidies. No matter where they live.

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Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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