Brought To You By The Letter D (for Depressing)

No one likes to read bad news, and I don’t really like writing about depressing things. But my little family has had our fair share of setbacks over the past few years, and sadly another one popped up recently. I considered not writing about it, although of course it then wouldn’t leave my brain to let me write about anything else. So here it is, and I’m only letting myself feel down about it in this one post and nothing more. If I get mopey in a future post, feel free to tell me to snap out of it.

Aaron got the bad news last week that his company is cutting him loose at the end of this month. He was told that it has nothing to do with his work, and everything to do with the president of the company choosing to run on a cash system – so if there’s a lull in contracts, like at the moment, he lets people go so he doesn’t run a debt. It’s a small company that depends on government contracts, and even though they recently won several contracts that should be coming soon, the money hasn’t arrived for them yet.

Aside from the head of the company, the VP’s and the project managers and everyone else he works with would rather he not leave. He’s the only writer they have, and his leaving means that the documentation for their projects – including an enormous user guide needed for a government agency software project due soon – will fall to, uh, someone else. Probably a project manager who isn’t exactly the best fit for something like that and would rather not do it and won’t do as well at it.

But despite objections from everyone else, the company president is focused on cutting expenses, even if it means cutting out staff who are vital to the development of the project. Not the wisest move in my eyes, but what do I know about business?

There is still talk of having Aaron stay as a contractor, with varying hours available to him, but that hasn’t been confirmed yet. Either way, we know that his steady income and all of our health benefits are out the door on May 31. He’s already updated his resume and has started networking. We know from experience that job hunting is rarely a short endeavor.

He’s angry, of course. Angry that he’s done everything right, has gone above-and-beyond for the company and has been praised over and over for his efforts, and gets rewarded by being laid off. It’s no wonder that loyalty towards a company by employees has been steadily declining – when treated like that, how can you do anything but constantly wonder when your employer will decide you’re not worth it? Too often now, an employee is just a set of skills to be used and discarded, and not a real person with a life and family and a relationship with the company. Mutual respect is gone.

I’m upset that we’re losing our health insurance again and hoping it will only be a short lapse. Why this country should continue to tie a family’s health insurance to their employment is beyond me. When people worked at the same company for 30 years, it made some sense for health insurance to be something shared between employer and employee as a benefit.

Now it’s just a cruel joke – if you work for the right company, you can get great insurance. Switch employers and it’s a gamble if your insurance could be worse in coverage and/or cost more. Your health didn’t change, and your need for certain coverage didn’t change, but because your job changed, your benefits and the amount you pay can drastically change. Lose your job with no ability to pay COBRA, and you have no coverage at all. What kind of a screwed up system is this? Why should a person’s job with a specific company dictate what kind of health care they can receive?

Not to get too political with this, but how is this a stable system for supporting the health of the country? A single payer system would be far more stable. Even if you don’t agree with a single-payer system, then it’s time to stop including health insurance as part of employment compensation plans entirely, raise the take-home pay for everyone and cap premiums from the profit-heavy insurance companies.

Stepping down from my soapbox now and returning to us: it’s obvious we’re scared and angry and frustrated, but we’ll be OK. I have a job at the moment that I love, so we do have some income. Aaron will qualify for unemployment if needed and has a lot of people trying to help him find another position.

It sucks to take a big step back financially (again), but money is just money. We may not be able to do or buy as much, but it can’t take away our family, our friends, or our determination to succeed.

And moments like this piss me off enough to push us to succeed, just to spite those who set us back. The best revenge is success.

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Comments

  1. Just de-lurking to say:

    You should move to Canada and then not have to put up with these health insurance hassles.

    Seriously, here in Canada we complain about long wait times for certain services, and so on, but ultimately the Canadian system is better; at least it’s not dependent on where you work or whether you have work. I can’t imagine how scary it must be, especially as a parent, to have to be constantly under threat of losing health insurance coverage for your family.

    Anyway, bon courage! I hope Aaron will be able to find a new job with health insurance.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I’m also delurking and I know this isn’t really constructive other than to say I totally feel your pain but… I moved to England from Colorado last year and I do like how I don’t have to worry about health care like that anymore.

    The thing is, lots of people here talk about moving to America because it’s “so much cheaper”. They whine about “rip off Britain”. But they do NOT take into consideration things like this. They forget about all their cushy bank holidays and many holiday (vacation) days they are allotted each year. But most of all, they do NOT realise that health care is a HUGE issue and concern.

    I had to pay a pretty hefty import tax on something mailed to me from Colorado. Yeah, paying bills bites. But I also had a health concern that was totally ignored in America (because I had no health insurance and even when I got some minor coverage once they still didn’t want to help me) and I went to a GP here and they totally helped me. I received minor surgery that I didn’t have to “pay” for.

    My main point is I totally feel your pain and now I am living on the other side of things and it is pretty nice. I also hate when many UK folk tell me they desperately want to live in America because it’s so much cheaper. Comes at a price.

  3. I’ve been in your situation and it sucks. Don’t be shy about getting political- we NEED to raise our voices this way. When faced with a job loss, many families are in the same boat–it comes down to paying the mortgage or for health insurance. COBRA is expensive and unless everyone is your family is perfectly healthy, getting private coverage may not be able to fill in the gap. Argh.

    I know it feels like “two steps forward and one step back” but I hope you guys get to a point (for a few years at least) where all the movement is forward. And soon. They’d be smart to figure out a way to keep your husband WITH benefits.

  4. Wasn’t all this health care reform supposed to protect the working families from situations like this? Instead, I’m just paying higher premiums and copays with less coverage… so just who is this plan helping?

    Off my soapbox now. Best of luck to Aaron, and here’s hoping for a short job hunt before landing a good one with great health benefits. One suggestion – we have a few friends who are self-employed, some as one-person LLCs. They then join groups like their local Chamber of Commerce and buy health plans through them. Cheaper than COBRAs and not the best coverage, but it’s something. Also, talk to your doctors, etc. – many offer better deals if you’re willing to pay cash up front.

  5. MN RN Mom says:

    FYI@Working Mom – the health reform aka the affordable care act aka Obamacare is helping many people and many more adults will be helped when the bulk of the provisions for adults start in 2014

    I definitely feel your pain. Mine has been out of work for almost 3 years. He retrained in another field, computers, and has been hunting for a job for over 6 months, but not even an interview. Unfortunately, with only unpain internship experience, and that minimal, no one right now is taking a risk on a newly educated over 40 year old male. I’ve been carrying the health insurance for us through my nursing jobs, but LTC can’t afford to provide employee health insurance anymore beyone a HDHSA – which sucks.

    I have been a single payor system advocate for over 10 years. I have somewhat of a unique perspective on the insurance game as not only have I been a nurse and a patient, but before I became an RN, I worked for a hospital system trying to wring rightfully owed $$ out of insurance companies who would do absolutely anything and everything to stick it to the hospital and their customers rather than pay. Our country pays the most for medical care, has the worst infant mortality rates and the lowest average lifespan of all “first world countries”. Our country is the only one without a single payor healthcare system.

  6. Thanks, everyone. I’m a big fan of our neighbors to the north, and living in Canada or Britain would never bother me except for being so far from our families. I remember when I was in Britain for a summer in college and one of my classmates came down with chicken pox. He was scared what it was going to cost him to be seen by a doctor and treated, but quickly found out it was next to nothing. It took the stress off of him and let him focus on getting better.

    Our current insurance is through a chamber of commerce. The company Aaron works for is too small to get a good insurance rate on their own, so they get their group plan through the chamber, which has several small businesses grouped together for a lower rate.

    Sadly, I wish all of the Affordable Care Act was already in place, but the most significant portions of it aren’t active until 2014. That’s when the part forbidding pre-existing restrictions and the cap on premiums goes into place, along with the requirement for the state exchanges to provide lower cost options to people with sliding-scale income based premiums.

    I know there’s a lot of debate on health care in this country, and sadly most people tend to focus on the “not wanting to pay a lot for other people to be sick” part of it, but no matter your view on a single-payer system vs everyone on their own or whatever you believe, real reform for health care begins at the top: making health care a non-profit industry and stripping health insurance companies (all companies, really) from buying our government through lobbying and donations to politicians.

    Oh, hey, how did I get onto that soapbox again?

  7. Rachael Heiner says:

    I’m sorry about all of this. When my husband got laid off from his last job, he wrote a post on my blog called ‘Being laid off sure feels a lot like being fired.’ He wrote about how inside he didn’t feel that different, and that it still sucked. And I agree about healthcare, don’t even get me started… at one point we were on COBRA and were paying lie $700 a month for 3 people. It was ridiculous.

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