Sometimes our little setbacks or disappointments can open doors for big steps forward. One frustration
and disappointment with my return to the US after 9 years in China was
discovering how difficult health care and especially insurance has
become in the U.S. It seems that foreigners in the Communist nation of
China have more options and economic freedom when it comes to health
insurance than US citizens do in the U.S.
To be more
specific, my disappointment came in two parts: (1) the surprise
discovery that US health insurance would not be available through my
work as I had been counting on, and (2) finding that purchasing private
insurance was extremely difficult. In China, if you want basic insurance
or added coverage, you call an agent, choose from a wide variety of
plans, and sign up right away. It’s much harder here, but these disappointments led to unexpected blessings.
In the US, I found that
healthcare companies didn’t return my calls and seemed to have no
motivation to work with me. Those that I reached told me I needed to
enroll through Healthcare.gov.
I wasted hours trying to enroll there, ultimately finding that the US
government’s system did not recognize me as a US citizen.
system would not allow me to enroll for their expensive plans due to
technical glitches in their poorly programmed website. Technical support
could not resolve the glitch after nearly two hours of effort, having me try
all sorts of variations in the application process for an engine that
just would not recognize me in spite of having paid US taxes faithfully
for the past 9 years in China and many years before that, always filing with the same US address where
we have kept and owned our home while renting it out during our China years. In the end, the supervisor at Healthcare.gov
admitted that, “Yeah, sometimes this just happens. Sorry.” I could not
accept that and didn’t give up as I think he wanted me to do. I
pressed on and asked what they could do. He finally agreed to call the
developer, then put me on hold, and after a few minutes predictably
(according to a doctor friend of mine) just hung up on me. When it
comes to health care, why does it seem that capitalism, choice, and
customer service are more alive in Communist China, at least for
privileged foreigners, than in the US?
With COVID raging, it
seemed like health insurance was a necessity, so I was getting worried.
Then I heard ads for Medi-share on the radio and saw a ray of hope, but
they require a religious declaration that I could not sign in good faith
largely because I believe their statement on the Bible contradicts
the obvious existence of gaps and errors, however minor, that are
clearly present, if only because of the challenges arising from the lack
of original manuscripts and the numerous variants that exist for
numerous verses in the competing texts that have been preserved. I
accept it as the word of God, but can’t say it is “completely
authoritative and entirely true.” It struck me as odd that my ability to get insurance would be limited by my faith. But this is a consequence of US law (the controversial Affordable Care Act), or rather the steps needed to avoid the very costly implications of US law. Such “healthcare sharing programs” aren’t actually insurance per se but are collective efforts to share health care costs organized under ministries or other religious organizations, resulting in substantially reduced costs but also some reductions in coverage.
At last I found Liberty Healthshare (https://libertyhealthshare.org/), another healthcare sharing program. Their statement of belief required for members (https://libertyhealthshare.org/do-i-qualify)
is actually more restrictive in some ways that Medi-share’s, but is one
I can fully accept and actually like. To my surprise, their plan is not
as expensive as the government plans, and the plan came with a
wonderful surprise: a personal health coach who helped me set specific
goals to improve my health, and encouraged me in periodic calls to
pursue those goals.
I soon found myself motivated to exercise
not just a time or two per week, but almost every day. I tracked blood
pressure carefully for three months and paid lots more attention to
diet, sleep, etc. I met the goals and feel better than ever and grateful. Regular
exercise is a much bigger deal for me now, and with my wife back in the
States now, our main date is going on bike rides around beautiful
Appleton, which has become such a fun part of our life together, almost daily. I also
found that I love going to Crunch Fitness in Appleton, the best gym I’ve
ever been to. And I always look forward to going there — such interesting equipment
and friendly people.
Many thanks to Brooke Preston, my health
coach, and the good people at Liberty Healthshare. Also special thanks
to the programmers who developed the Obamacare software that governs the
health insurance for millions. Had it not been so deficient, I’d be
less healthy today!