Friday, October 23, 2009

The Things We Do For Health Insurance…Er…I Mean…Love

“[…] A compromise would surely help the situation
Agree to disagree but disagree to part
When after all it’s just a compromise
Of the things we do for love, the things we do for love
The things we do for love […]”

- “The Things We Do For Love,” 10cc

Once upon a time, there was a girl who believed in love, and marriage, and the fairy tale wedding, and the happy ending. But then she got lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, and realized that she had to be realistic about things…And while love might conquer all, health insurance conquers more…

Last year, I saw a story on CNN where a man that had a severe tumor in his neck married one of his female friends so that he could get on her health insurance in order to get treatment, because he didn’t have any and couldn’t afford it otherwise. Quite honestly, at the time, I guffawed. I thought, wow, that’s really sad.

But I never thought that could be me…

And it wasn’t until I read a recent post from Duncan Cross that I actually considered the idea.

(Although there was a point this summer when the school let my insurance lapse that this thought briefly came to mind…)

I’ve been dealing with a lot lately and have been contemplating taking a leave of absence from my PhD program. Currently, the major roadblock is health insurance. If I leave the program, I won’t have any.

I’m 24, but my parents don’t have health insurance (so I can’t take advantage of any of the loopholes in that sense). And even if I qualify for Cobra, it will certainly end up costing me more than I would make in four months working at a job given that I have a bachelor’s degree in English and sociology. And oh yeah, don’t forget about my pesky pre-existing conditions that got me into this whole mess in the first place…

It’s frustrating because I don’t want the reason that I stay locked into a situation I’m unhappy in to be solely because of insurance. But welcome to America in 2009. That seems to be the way it goes these days…

And I don’t want the reason I get married to be because of health insurance. When the time comes, I want it to be for love. And I don’t want the person I’m with to think that I’m only in the relationship for that. But there comes a time when practicality and necessity trump abstract notions of the way life is supposed to be.

And the thing is, a lot of people get married simply for the benefits that are acquired. Look at Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds in “The Proposal.” Yes, it’s a movie. But they plan to get married so that Sandra won’t be deported, and in the end, they fall for each other. So there’s nothing to say that love as a business transaction can’t work. And if you are seeing the other person at their worst, their lowest, their most in need, well, it can only get better from there…

So, is it likely that I’ll run off tomorrow and elope with the first stranger I meet? Probably not. But the truth is, this is a somewhat practical solution to a real problem. And when it comes down to it, there are a lot of relationships that have succeeded or failed because of less. Many people head into (or end) relationships for completely selfish reasons. The bottom line these days is that everyone is out for themselves. And if you are a person with a chronic illness, insurance is your bottom line. It’s the one thing you, possibly quite literally, can’t live without.

While this post is only a little more than half serious (seriously, it might come to that because it’s almost the easiest solution. I mean, come on, what are the other options?) – my parents would kill me - and I don’t talk about insurance issues often, the current situation is dismal, at best. The fact that anyone in America has to consider this option, let alone utilize it, is beyond sad. It’s a reflection on the richest country in the world seriously failing its citizens.

But given my dismal romantic life as of late, I’ve kind of given up on the idea of love at the moment, but have warmed up to the idea out of economic necessity.

So, the only question left to ask is…

Any takers?

(It’s too bad that mostly women read this blog…)


  1. I can so relate! I faced a similar choice before: tried to take a semester medical break from a PhD in order to get (non-elective) surgery done, only to discover that if I do that, I lose my insurance. I was forced to rely on my adviser's goodwill when I effectively took an "unofficial" break and didn't get any work done during the recovery. But this forced me to come back to work before I was truly OK, and set me up for ongoing problems which could have possibly been avoided if I had taken a proper break.

    I am now in the UK, and I am very relieved to not have to face such choices anymore. It's far from a perfect system. I was recently told that I will have to wait 4 weeks for a test because your problem is "not life threatening", even though my pain was so bad that it severely interfered with work and sleep. And yet I told several people that I won't even consider job offers in the US at the moment, because I think this would eventually give me the same untenable insurance problem again.

  2. I'm laughing hysterically because my friend and I had this conversation the other day. I said that I could care less what he does nowadays....but can I see a summary of benefits please? ;)

  3. I read something years ago stating that marriage is a business decision. If it was only love keeping you in the relationship, well, you already have that without signing any documents. Also, I'm a guy, but i don't have a job with health insurance. sorry :-)

  4. I think this is a great post because you used humor but are discussing a very serious and real option. I am divorced now for about 12 years, but I often wonder if I would have been better off to stay in a marriage that wasn't working for the health insurance. Believe me when my insurance company denied my medication this year and I had to come up with $1400 every month for one medication while my doctor and I fought the decision, I seriously thought about marrying the first guy with benefits who came down the pike. Sad state of affairs (pun intended!!)

  5. My DF and I have talked about this a number of times, since we were both laid off last November. We're both paying for COBRA right now while we work part-time jobs without benefits. While we do plan to get married for love, and are planning our wedding for March 2011, it's somewhat likely we'd get legally married before then. If he gets a job with insurance benefits, we'll probably get married so I can get on his insurance. We'll still have our wedding as planned, but it's pretty sad that we even have to consider this option.

    Be well,

  6. I really love your blog (and your name :)) have a great sense of humor while discussing something that is actually happening in our country. I saw on the Today Show a few weeks back of divorced couples who have moved back in with each other to help with bills.

    Keep up the great posts! :)

  7. Thanks to all who have posted comments so far. I am delighted that you all appreciate both the humor and the seriousness of this post. Although I am sad to say that by your comments, many of us have considered this option.

  8. I married for love, but often say how incredibly fortunate the timing was. We got engaged in July, and I wanted to get married the following summer, but my fiance was pushing for December. I agreed, even though it meant having less time to prepare the wedding. Then, lo and behold, my RA diagnosis came in April, when we had only been married for four months. If I hadn't agreed to get married earlier, I wouldn't have been on his health insurance.

    When I was single, before I even had RA, I used to say (half-jokingly) that I was looking for a guy with great health insurance above almost everything else. I was working as a freelance musician, and although I always had health insurance, it was incredibly expensive since I paid for it completely on my own. Like you, I was mostly kidding... but the word "mostly" is the key there...

    Anyway, here's hoping you'll meet someone terrific very soon so you can have both - love and health insurance!

  9. Unless laws change, I will be on my parents health insurance til I am 25. I am 21ish, so I have a few years to go, but I think that only stays on if I am in school, but I am allowed to take breaks too with the intention of going back to school and keeping the insurance. It's a confusing system! Once I get out of school and then into the real world, I need a job with health ins., and it I can't find will be some super trying times! Gosh sometimes America SUCKS!

  10. Leslie,

    Your writing is great! I look forward to reading more posts!

    Funny enough, my boyfriend (at the time) of many years actually worked very hard at finding a full time job so that I could get health insurance because my RA had come on full force right after I graduated art school. When he found a job,we got married---a shot gun wedding--and I wore jeans!! At the time, I could barely walk myself down that isle.

    My parents and siblings felt that I was getting married for the "wrong reasons". But they weren't in my shoes. I think most people in my situation would have done the same.

    My husband eventually lost his job so again, I am without health insurance. Cobra like you said is far too expensive.

    I hope this world turns around, and fast! As you may or may not know, my blog is mainly about alternative therapies (perfect for those without insurance) so in case you decide to go down that path, I've done a lot of research and tried a lot of things. I will try and be sure to do more research on Lupus alternative therapies,even though most of the supplements I talk about are good for all autoimmune diseases.

    I hope that pain free days are in your near future!

    many hugs,
    Sarah Keturah

  11. Ha ha, I have the opposite problem... My boyfriend and I want to get married soon, but neither of us have insurance yet. It's so frustrating because my father's insurance is very good right now so it's best to stay on it, but the little girl in me wants a wedding so bad!

  12. Leslie -

    Have you talked to a health insurance counselor from a non-profit advocacy organization? There is a new law called Michelle's law, which goes into affect this fall, probably right now. It is designed exactly for people in your situation. It allows patients to stay on their school's health insurance when they take a medical leave of absence. I don't know how the details of the law fit your case. I do know that insurance companies never offer this up as an option and try to kick you off hoping that you don't know about this new law. If you have not already, ask around about it.

    I get my insurance through my husband and would be up the creek without it. Luckily I adore him and he has white glove insurance, but before meeting him, I had considered the alternative of insurance card marriage. We've gotta do what we've gotta do.

    Love you blog,

  13. Kairol,

    I haven't talked to an insurance counselor, but maybe I should try and find one. As far as I can tell, Michelle's law only works in that it allows students to stay on their parents health insurance (or to go back on it), and since my parents don't have health insurance, it's a no go. Maybe I read the article I found about it incorrectly, but that's what I took from it.


  14. Funny, as I finish my thesis this week, that's the part of completing my degree that I'm most afraid of--not the finding a job in this economy or transitioning from years of school to a full time work environment parts--losing insurance. I am trying to figure out if it is possible to get on bf's insurance through domestic partner status, but if not, we're going to have to talk about the future sooner rather than later. I no longer qualify for my parents insurance due to age (thanks california for only guaranteeing through 23!) and do not qualify for individual due to pre-ex conditions. Would I marry for insurance? Yep. It be even better to marry someone from a nationalized health care country, and never have to worry about losing jobs! (My bf is not, but hypothetically speaking ;-)

  15. LOVE or MONEY scenario... Nice article. very interesting, thanks for sharing.

  16. Your comments regarding health care troubles are something I cannot relate to coming from Canada. Healthcare here is not a business. I would run, not walk from your country as fast as you can. You have your Ph.D then look for options that covers this, any European country, Australia, Canada, Japan just to name a few.