At this point, I dropped the phone and got online, and there I figured out that my policy was inadequate by A.C.A. standards most likely because it lacked maternity coverage (not so useful for us) and vision coverage (which would be nice for a family of four-eyes, though we’d got used to not having it); there may have been other things in the fine print, too. On the D.C. Health Link, a site that, like most of the state exchanges and unlike healthcare.gov, has worked quite well since the beginning, I did some easy browsing and saw that there were thirty-one plans to choose from, with premiums ranging from $771 to $2,121 a month. On the other hand, the only options for my family that had no deductible, as we currently had, would cost more than the $1,300 we paid currently per month, between about $200 and $800 more, depending on the plan, and would come with a higher limit to our out-of-pocket costs than we presently have—as high as $12,700 (compared with our current $5,000 limit). One plan carried a deductible of $2,600, and the deductibles climbed steeply from there. Someone I know in California told me a similar story by e-mail yesterday: his family’s Kaiser Permanente insurance had gone up by eighty-nine per cent, and now included maternity coverage, which he and his partner, both in their sixties, weren’t figuring on needing. A self-employed consultant, he had “just started a new job but am not sure it will pay for more than my coverage.”
I lay in bed with my laptop and reported these figures to my husband, just late enough at night to give us both uneasy dreams. (Third lesson relearned: it really is a bad idea to take your laptop to bed.)
And then, this morning, I remembered my values. Well, to be honest, before that, I remembered something a little more selfish. I’ve had high blood pressure since I was in my thirties. I take ten milligrams of a generic beta blocker every morning, which has successfully kept my hypertension controlled. By doing so, I hope to prevent or postpone some of the possible consequences of hypertension—strokes, heart attacks—which are both debilitating and costly. That’s good preventive thinking for me, and good social policy, but it also means that I have a preëxisting condition. Like many such common conditions that people seek help for, it could have resulted, before Obamacare, in my being denied coverage if we were to lose our current policy.