I’m at the same job I was in 10 years ago. The job has no path for advancement, either professionally or monetarily. I’m a walking knowledge base for everyone who comes into contact with me. I’ve been there so long that I sometimes can’t immediately answer “How do we do this?” because “how we do this” has changed so many times over the years that I can’t be sure if what I’m remembering is the current “how we do this.”
I can’t tell you the last time I learned something new. God, how I wish I could change employment.
Why can’t I jump? Health insurance — It’s the ball attached to the chain clamped to my leg that will eventually drown me in the clear, calm depths of professional obsolescence.
Here’s the situation: My health insurance premium is approximately 30% of my net payroll. I only pay 25% of that premium, but on the open market even crappy-coverage policies have about the same premium as the fairly good group-coverage policy through my employer. Why is it so expensive? I’m a child-bearing age female, and insurers won’t rider maternity coverage on an individual policy. As a result, adult females pay a shit-ton more than adult males for their insurance coverage.
Private insurers won’t rider maternity because they don’t want to deal with arguments/arbitration/lawsuits about whether or not any given other condition is the result of pregnancy. An example is high blood pressure. Imagine that I become pregnant, and my blood pressure rises (which commonly happens in pregnancy). The insurance company then refuses to cover visits or medication for my high blood pressure because it’s “pregnancy-related.” I say it’s my freaking circulatory system with a problem, not my fetus or womb, so they need to cover it. The next thing you know, the lawyers are called in.
<snark> (Maybe that’s how the health insurance industry keeps seeing double-digit returns for the last God knows how many years . . . Not paying lawyers to argue with their customers?) </snark>
So, individual health insurance policies on the open market are absolutely unaffordable for any woman whom I would say “works for a living.” Not the first time in my life I wish I’d been born a man, let me tell you!
Add this individual-policy health insurance situation to the fact that the only industry within which I’ve worked in 15 years has been completely outsourced or offshored within the last 10 years, and the issue becomes clear.
I, as a never-married woman of the means delivered only by her paycheck, have to stay in a job that has been beneath me for the last 5 years because I have to maintain health insurance. No one else is going to do it for me.
I can’t go without health insurance because, if something happens, public health services won’t be available until I am literally destitute. My state is so strict on the “literally destitute” concept that I watched my mother become ill and die at the age of 52 as the direct result of not being able to pay for health care while working her minimum-wage, no-insurance job.
Because my mother didn’t have $1K+ liquid from her minimum-wage paycheck (and, sadly, neither did I) to pay for tests to determine exactly what was wrong with her, she and her doctor treated what they guessed was wrong with her. Every month or so, she scrabbled together another $100+ for another 5- or 10-minute conversation and another prescription to treat the next guess. Within a year of the start of this cycle, she was dead.
Whatever I have to do, the same will not happen to me. I will not die because I couldn’t afford health care. Disregard what the Republicans say — “Just go to the emergency room!” — People in this country die every day because they can’t afford health care. I know, because I watched it happen to my own mother.
And I learned . . .
Keep health insurance or die painfully with those closest to you in more pain than you are.
So, every day I go to a job that I should leave. For more reasons than I can outline right now without falling into insensibility, the job is a bad fit for me dispositionally and outdated for me professionally. I did everything right — I’ve worked hard, been dependable, made the most intelligent decisions possible, always supported my co-workers and supervisors, learned as much as I can about the business and the customer, and have never been fired from a job in my life. In general, I’m a stellar employee capable of great production and requiring little oversight.
And now I’m bloody fucking stuck.
Much of the problem with my professional advancement is because I work in a predominantly male industry, but the reason I haven’t been able to jump ship as often as I should have to keep my payroll and advancement in line with my male peers is because of the health insurance issue. Yes, the non-insurance job in my industry pay more, but they’re irregular (read: temporary) and don’t pay enough more that I can lose 30% of my net on a crappy (read: doesn’t cover much) individual health insurance policy.
While I’ve spent my entire life aspiring to be (and mostly succeeding in showing) that I’m the better employee of most of the people (not just the men) around me . . . I’ve been stopped dead in my professional tracks by two different types of sexism — one systemic and based upon finances (health insurance), the other subtle and based upon gender differences (my industry).
The only thing that keeps me from bouncing off the walls with the injustice of health insurance premium inequity (no, men can’t bear the pups but men have to help make them!) is the knowledge that even if my Fairy Godmother came down to Earth and suddenly made this right, I’d still be stuck not being able to change jobs because so very few of the ones in my industry even offer health insurance, regardless of the cost.
Every time I think about this, I make no headway on a plan or a solution. I end up at the same point every time, and I don’t know whether to get drunk and bomb random health insurance offices or shoot myself in the head to relieve the frustration of the trapped. After all, prisoners do commit suicide to be free.
And here I am again. I had thought that writing about this, defining it, naming the monster, would help me clarify the situation, bring a solution into crystalline focus. And once again, I end up feeling like a prisoner, trapped within the cage of what I so desperately worked to obtain (a job with insurance!), the thing that I so desperately need to maintain. The health insurance that gives me the tiniest bit of security also prevents me from evolving, progressing, changing, living.
Health insurance. A pox on all of your houses!!