Writers need health care, too

May 28, 2009

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.

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