Writers need health care, too

When I tell friends I’m writing a book instead of working full time, they often inquire, “What do you do about health insurance?”

Usually part of the reason they bother to ask is because they, too, have thought about leaving their job to pursue a bucket-list project. And most people who leave full-time employment are forced to navigate the mess that is American health insurance.

When I left the Houston Chronicle and lost my benefits, I declined COBRA coverage because it was so expensive. Instead, I enrolled in a New York State program called Healthy New York. (While overseas, I also had additional travel and emergency evacuation insurance.)

For $230 a month, Healthy New York covers most doctor’s visits and daily medications. Thankfully, it also covered my recent knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus. The program doesn’t include vision or dental benefits, but I figure those parts of my body can deal with a little neglect until I return to full-time work in the next year or so.

My dad, however, thinks otherwise. He attended a benefit auction recently, where guests bid on baseball tickets, vacations and  fancy jewelry, and what did he bring home? A gift certificate for me to visit a dentist.

This week I used that gift, and for the first time, going to the dentist felt like a treat. I was actually happy to sit in that reclined chair — until the doctor said my teeth needed more than $1,000 of work (mostly to replace fillings that apparently weren’t done properly the first time).

So I offer this advice to go-getters who want to embark on adventures that don’t include health coverage: Marry someone with insurance.

8 Responses

  1. Now, I’m wanting this story to have a happy ending. I recently had a post about happy endings, and everyone wanted one.

    You’ve given us an “Intermediate Ending,” which is fine for now. BUT, I want you to figure out how to make this come out where the heroine not only fixes all dental issues…painlessly…but also, fixes the root (bad pun intended) cause as well! Okay??

    Best Regards, Galen.

  2. Ouch! Sorry about the dental work, Alexis. Hope that ends up working out okay.

    You’re right about the health insurance. COBRA costs are crazy, but it sounds like the plan you got is affordable.

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  3. This is a harsh reality for so many people.I am glad you are shining a light on it.


  4. Ha! Loved your closing bit of advice. 🙂

    The Old Silly from Free Spirit Blog

  5. Great advice. A self-employed writer needs to position themselves for medical and dental coverage for a couple years, or until the begin to see income streams from their work.

    I left my job in banking and finance and had full coverage for a year as part of my severance. Its gone now and we are paying out of pocket. Ouch!

    Stephen Tremp
    Author – Breakthrough: The Adventures of Chase Manhattan

  6. Important post…I hope you get all your dental work done with as little discomfort as possible!!


    The Berlin Sex Diary of Lady Eve Marlowe

  7. Health insurance for an individual is often astronomical anymore…at least for decent coverage. Sounds like you were able to find some decent coverage at least. Sorry to hear about the dental though. Ouch.

    Nancy, from Just a Thought…

  8. Even if you marry someone with insurance, there’s no guarantee they’re going to be able to keep it! This is one of the most pressing issues of our time.

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