I have mentioned a few times on this blog that our financial situation is occasionally a little precarious. As part-time, seasonal instructors at colleges, we are never guaranteed classes, and some semesters, we just don’t get them. This semester was one of them. I have an online job that I fall back on during these times, but it is part-time, and it offers no health coverage. J has now been actively searching for work and applying for jobs for the past three months with not even a phone call for an interview. It’s always a crap time to be out of work when our degrees and experience pigeonhole us to a very specific level and type of teaching, but right now, with the waves of layoffs and hiring freezes, it just flat sucks. She has been applying for jobs far beneath her experience and qualifications, but there are simply no bites. We both pick up temporary test scoring gigs from time to time, but again, these offer nothing in the way of stability or health insurance.
As a result of all this, we’re living on my little salary, a little bit we saved from the fall semester, and J’s unemployment, and we’re making ends meet. It’s tight, but it’s manageable. After so many years of this type of living, we know how to live on a budget. Until the end of March, we had J’s health insurance from the university, which was okay. It was crap insurance (because for some reason, part-time seasonal instructors get crap insurance), so we now have medical bills for every ultrasound and test they ran, but at least the office visits were covered. For us, COBRA is not an option. Well, it is, technically, but it would cost us a thousand dollars a month, and this would mean choosing between a roof over our heads and crappy health insurance. Clearly, we choose the former.
As of the beginning of April, however, we have no health coverage. This is often the case in the first half of the year, but this year, I am pregnant, and this is not acceptable. We are fortunate in California to have a couple of programs for middle and lower income pregnant woman.
For months, I have known that if J did not find full-time work with benefits, we would be applying for the middle-income program, and I was happy with that. When applying for such a program, one has two options: prove one’s income via current check stubs, or prove one’s income via last year’s tax forms. Here is where our limbo began. When I sat down to apply, I discovered that our current income brings us thirty dollars under the minimum income to qualify, and last year’s tax forms bring us a couple of thousand dollars over. This led me to call their information line to find out what happens in these cases, and I was promptly sent to a call center in India where my questions did not fit the script the operator had, and so, I was told to apply anyway to see what would happen. I have to wait ten days.
If I don’t qualify, my application will be sent to Medi-Cal, where I also may or may not qualify. I am just thirty dollars under their uppler-level income cutoff. Next month, when J and I score tests, we will be a thousand or more dollars over, and this cycle will continue until September when J begins teaching again or when she finds a job. The anxiety produced by all of this is beyond words. I just want some fucking health coverage.
I have, for a long time, been a big proponent of universal healthcare. As someone who works in a field where healthcare is only provided to the lucky tenured few, I know what it is like to be my own doctor, to hope that I don’t get too sick during the off months because if I do, I’ll end up in the community clinic where they’ll assume I’m a drug-seeking junkie should I have any pain. Healthcare really shouldn’t be something for those in certain professions or those with perfect health (don’t get me started on being denied private insurance for “undiagnosed wrist pain”), but for now, in the good old U.S. of A., that’s precisely who it’s for.
So we may end up on Medi-Cal. My first feeling when I realized this was shame–shame that we can’t seem to find a more successful path, shame that somehow we’re not taking care of ourselves, or our baby. But we are, and there isn’t any reason for us to be ashamed. We pay into this system every year, and if we are to benefit from it, we’ll hold our heads high, and hope for the best. The greatest thing about it all would be that we would definitely be covered for prenatal care and birth at the birth center we want to transfer to. Our classes would be covered at the birth center, and our baby would be enrolled in a health care program for children when s/he is born. These are all such positive things that I’ll be happy if it works.
I think it’s important to talk about this, as personal and as uncomfortable as it all is. There are so many of us struggling to have our families. We struggle financially (and in so many other ways) just to get here, and then we struggle again once we’re here. But there doesn’t need to be shame in that (although I know plenty of people out there who believe otherwise), especially in these hard times.
We should know in a week where we stand. Until then, it’s limbo.