Before getting onto the main subject, my personal dilemma, I want to acknowledge the things going on in the world, in this country, in this state I live in, and with people I know, close friends and more distant acquaintances. There are reasons to celebrate, reasons to worry, and reasons to mourn, much of which I'm aware of via news, social media, and personal correspondence. Though on a day to day basis my inbox is mostly empty, I'm aware that there are emails, from friends I care about, that I have not answered. For some reason I find our current evolution of communication challenging. Or sometimes it's, “where to start?” But I remain open to discussing things. Also, I realize that a few people I know have been kind enough to offer me suggestions about my course of action, and just because I sometimes argue against these suggestions, or don't follow them, doesn't mean I don't appreciate them or find them helpful. Also, there is an election coming up in Wisconsin (Tuesday, April 3rd) and it's an important one. Whether or not there is an election in your part of the world, or you believe in voting or not, the first step is just to know that it exists.
My problems don't amount to a can of beans in this insane world, someone said (oh, that was me, just now) I am well aware, but as of this week, the last of March, I have come upon a problem that I want to share, just because maybe someone reading this can offer a suggestion—even one that leads to another idea, or potential solution. I don't necessarily expect an answer, or even anyone to read this, but I'll try anyway. Also, while I don't want to be someone who's just always complaining or in crisis, I realize it's not always healthiest to just keep this stuff inside you. Also, while often it's easiest and often most effective to go to a search engine with any question, I'd like to think it's still possible to ask actual people. And in some cases, to be able to share knowledge and information, or even help, makes people feel good.
Most people like to keep the details of their personal finances, including jobs, pay, health coverage, and whatever else they do to survive, private, and I understand that—I'm the same way, for the most part. But in this case I'm going to divulge a few details, just because someone might read this and say, “No, you should do it this way,” or “Hey, you actually have it good compared to most,” or “Wow, that's the same boat I'm in,” or “Try this...” When I moved to New York, ten years ago, I was dealing with finding both a job and health insurance, and through a network of friends found a state organization that helped me with a heath plan (I'd love to have that plan right now). A few years later, I recall referring another friend to the same organization—that's how things work!—or can.
When I lived in Iowa City and was very ill, the free clinic helped direct me to help that essentially saved my life, and then to a court that saved my ass, financially. When I lived in Oregon, the state health plan there got me by very well, until I finally found a job that offered health insurance. I am kind of painfully aware that both times I moved to Wisconsin (from Oregon, and later from New York), I left jobs in which I was fully covered by health insurance. Do I regret that?—of course not, because not ever moving to Wisconsin would mean not ever having had these particular friendships that have been the most important thing in my life. So that's perspective. However, I'm now wondering if moving somewhere more affordable or with state or local healthcare situations more useful to me might not be an option I should consider. Though, believe me, I do not relish the thought of moving, at this point.
So, briefly, because this is boring, it took me about six months to find my current job—which I'm totally happy with—in part, because it's part-time, so I actually have time, at home, for writing (whether I should be writing and what is a discussion for another time). The pay was just enough to get by, but that worked, for awhile anyway, because it put me below the poverty level, which allowed me to be covered by the state health plan. Of course, this was not an ideal situation because it doesn't really give me enough money to even travel to Ohio once a year to see family, and what little I have in my savings account has dwindled to about nothing. Still, a life where you like where you live, like your job, like the creative work you're doing, and have enough to eat—it's hard to argue with that.
Then I got a small raise, welcome, of course, except when I reported that to the state agency, it put me over the limit for state health care, which means now I have to try to find health insurance. If you've done that lately—not the best way to spend a morning. Without complicating things (for sake of discussion) with the fraught, fluctuating insanity of the political situation and its influence on healthcare right now—and in the unpredictable future—when you start reading about health plans (they like to use “gold, silver, bronze” as designations, which can give you a gallows laugh)—you realize that to make the proper decision, you must know ahead of time what the extent of the personal malady you will be afflicted with is. Well, the only one I could afford, based on my income, is none of them, but the one that comes closest, called “catastrophic coverage” pretty much won't pay for things like doctor or hospital visits, anyway—and only helps if it gets into the thousands, or millions (though there is a ceiling, but by that time, you're probably dead).
So anyway, do I: quit my job, keep health coverage, and try to find a job with health coverage (good luck!) See this as a sign, a time to move out of town, to hopefully something easier? Maybe find a second part-time job (good luck) whose income would just be to cover my healthcare? Or just go without health insurance? (Which is a little bit difficult, due to prescription medication, and also scarier the older you get). Or... ROADTRIP! Or maybe: start drinking heavily. Maybe stow away on the SpaceX Mars rocket. Or—here's a novel idea—could I tell my employer to reduce my pay, in order to put me under the poverty level, once again? Calling Dr. Kafka!
I know that this is depressing and kind of pathetic, so thank you if you got this far. I just got so stressed out about it yesterday, when this all came up. Then when I was at work I started seeing flashing lights—like the kind of psychedelic laser light show I so despise—around the periphery of my vision. When I tried to focus on the lights they just went to the other side—kind of like success. It was scary. I wondered if someone had dosed the Keurig pods with LSD, or if this was stress talking. I thought for awhile I might have to head to a doctor, and I admit it was comforting, knowing I was still covered. Anyway, sometimes a very easy solution comes with a very simple suggestion, so that's why I'm throwing this out there. In the meantime, it made me feel better just to write about it. Which is—in part—why I keep putting things in written words. I won't give up my pen until they pry it from my cold, dead fingers.
Randy Russell, 28 March 2018