How can I get decent healthcare w/o insurance and somewhat limited funds?
February 17, 2011 4:59 PM   Subscribe

My husband used to love his IT job. Things changed, now he hates it, because his new work is boring and his new boss is a bully. So he might have found another job... but it has no paid vacation and no health benefits. I am a (secular) homeschooling stay-at-home mom with several chronic health problems. Can I somehow manage to deal with my physical symptoms w/o insurance, because I know it would be mentally better for both of us for him to not work for the bully.

He used to be quite happy in his job as a sysadmin/TSM admin for a division of... let's call it HeckofALarge Corporation. He liked his work, his boss liked his work, he frequently got awards, even though they were just the typical useless logoed backpacks and assorted crap you get for awards at a huge company like HAL. But they had a limit to how many useless crap awards you could get in a year, and he typically hit the limit every April. He got a 1 on his performance review, which is nigh-unattainable.

About a year and a half ago, HAL sold off his division to a smaller company, let's call it GreenSoft. The sale wasn't such a big deal, in fact it seemed for a while like it might be better. But in the shakeup, his old boss stayed with HAL, and he got pushed out of IT into QA, where he doesn't want to be. The work bores him and it's not a good use of his skills. That wouldn't be so dire, he probably could deal with that, except for his current boss. His boss is a jock bully who doesn't like fat techy guys, and especially doesn't like him. The first day he was under Jock Bully he was literally told, BY Jock Bully, "No one in this department wants you here." JB shows blatant favoritism to another underling and hangs around socially with said underling outside work or work social functions. JB gives my husband tasks he thinks my husband can't do, then gets royally pissed when he CAN do them anyway. JB badmouths my husband all over the place, to the point where people in other departments publicly tell JB things like "Can't you stop picking on him for five minutes?" Other people have told my husband "Your boss doesn't have your best interest at heart", but refused to elaborate. That just the stuff we're 100% positive that he's done, we suspect other things he's done that we can't prove.

JB's boss and boss's boss (both female) both seem to like my husband and praise his work. They keep hinting around that "The women will take care of it" while literally winking, tell him not to worry, he shouldn't quit, etc... but they haven't actually done anything. JB's boss makes no secret of the fact that she hates JB and thinks he's a lousy employee, but he's still there, still making my husband miserable. How miserable? Well, shortly after Christmas, he joined AA because his misery over his job led him to nearly drink himself to death. (He never drove drunk or let it affect his work, and he is 40+ days sober and doing well so far.) He's tried everything he can to improve things at work, up to and including directly confronting JB about his bullying behavior, and only seen very slight improvements. He thinks that finding another job is the only solution now; I tend to agree.

For several years now, a contracting company has been trying to hire him to do TSM admin for another division of HAL. The problem is, no paid vacation (currently he gets 5 weeks) and no health benefits except for some skimpy, ridiculously expensive package that's essentially useless. It's slightly more money that he makes now, but will be a net loss after figuring in the loss of bennies.

I'm worried about the prospect of trying to get some other health insurance, as most of us have health conditions. Husband's got PTSD, I've got diabetes, asthma, thyroid, PCOS, carpal tunnel, high triglycerides, and our six year old has some sort of condition we need to get diagnosed, possibly Asperger's or ADHD. But getting out under the stress of this horrible boss would be so much better for him. Knowing that he's so miserable at work stresses the hell out of me, too. And it would be a better commute (Same distance, opposite direction, far less traffic) so that would be less stress as well. I've encouraged him to use a job offer as leverage to improve things at GS, by for instance moving him to another position not under Jock Bully, but he doesn't seem to think they'll do anything. Several people have told him they'd quit or retire if he were fired or left, but he'd probably be foolish to count on them actually standing up for him to that degree. There's also a complication that he'll have to be released from a non-compete contract he was forced to sign during the sale to GS, but the contracting company seems to think they can deal with that. I want to encourage him to take the job, but I have worries about getting health care.

Is there a way to get reasonable heath care and prescriptions paying out of pocket without going broke? I'm positive we make too much money to get any public assistance, and I fear sliding scale fees would be too much as well, if there even is such a thing around here (NE Metro Denver). Some of my prescriptions are obscenely expensive without insurance-- Symbicort would be $280 a month, and that's just one. It seems like neither option is a good one, here. Please tell me there is some health care option I don't know about, because I just can't encourage my husband to go on working for this horrible man just because I'm sick.
posted by Shoeburyness to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is not a dichotomy. Both jobs suck, look for a third that has benefits and a non-wacked boss.
posted by benzenedream at 5:23 PM on February 17, 2011 [15 favorites]

It sounds like he is ready to quit if upper management doesn't do anything about it. If this is the case, at least let him present the case to them: "I'm going to quit in x weeks if something isn't done- move me out of this department, fire my boss, etc." Give them an actionable plan and they might be able help. Maybe not, but at least you tried. The way I see it is that there are several options remaining at his current job and they haven't been fully exhausted yet.

Also, why take a job that doesn't provide health insurance? If he's serious about leaving, don't think that your only options are for him to stay or to take this only job offer. There are other companies out there that will provide health insurance and vacation.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 5:26 PM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

The problem is, no paid vacation (currently he gets 5 weeks) and no health benefits except for some skimpy, ridiculously expensive package that's essentially useless. It's slightly more money that he makes now, but will be a net loss after figuring in the loss of bennies.

One solution is to ask the prospective employer to make up the difference - e.g., figure out how much good private insurance would cost, and ask the new employer to increase his salary by that amount. Your argument is that they need to at least match his current salary+benefits in some way, even if they can't provide the benefits themselves. It may not work, but if you have some solid numbers you can at least try to negotiate it.
posted by googly at 5:27 PM on February 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Stay for the comfort of the paycheck. But deliberately make progress everyday towards finding a better job. Do not get discouraged, take rejections as learning experiences.

Again, do not quit until you have a better place, especially one where you and your spouse's medical insurance is covered.

Good luck!
posted by jchaw at 5:29 PM on February 17, 2011 [4 favorites]

While I can't address the insurance and health side of it, your husband should seriously consider calling a meeting with JB's boss and her boss who have both indicated they might be on his side.

This is frequently known as a "Come to jesus meeting" where he lays it on the line and says that he'd really like to stay and work for them, but the hostile work environment created by JB is directly leading to health issues and a general desire to no longer be in that work environment.

There are two critical things I mentioned in that last paragraph that need to be framed in that exact way.

1. The phrase "hostile work environment" means something in HR speak and is frequently tossed around in courts over cases of this type. By framing it in that manner, it is a very soft and polite hint that they resolve the issue in short order before he is driven to the point of seeking legal counsel.

2. The "directly leading to health issues" needs to be stated (and preferably backed up with evidence from a doctor related to stress, etc. although I'd leave out the drinking). This also helps set the foundation if legal action is later needed.

Now, I'm not saying he should see a lawyer at this point, but if he exhausts his options with these two ladies, and can't find a different situation, a lawyer may need to get involved. That is why it is crucial to document the meeting in writing via email and save backup copies as evidence should it come to that. I know this may seem overkill, but if it does get to that point, he'll be greatful he did it.

Beyond that, I think it would be entirely fair for him to pose the question directly to those two women along the lines of:
"Hey, we all know this is going on, and it really is creating a hostile workplace environment for me that I cannot continue working in. I've gotten the impression from you both in the past that things may change in the near future as you have both acknowledged this is not a good situation, but I really need something more concrete in terms of what is happening to put an end to this and when it will happen by so I can make a decision as to whether this is still the best place for me to be."

At the end of the day, if they value him enough they will act on it or at least tell him what more they can about the situation. Its very possible that his boss is somewhat entrenched and they are not able to rush in and fire him on the spot, but at this point they at least owe it to him to keep in him the loop. Otherwise they risk losing him.
posted by Elminster24 at 5:29 PM on February 17, 2011 [11 favorites]

And just to add I love the wumpusisdead's approach of laying out a finite period of time for which he is willing to wait for this to be resolved under his terms (providing several options would be helpful there).

If he has enough clout, they will work with him. If not he really needs to find a different job period.
posted by Elminster24 at 5:31 PM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just to answer the direct question you asked: No, there is not some secret health care solution that you don't know about. Just my cursory guess: it would costs thousands of dollars per month to insure you, your husband, and your child. Don't let your husband leave his job until you have figured out another solution that includes health insurance.

Part of that might be going to his current HR and inquiring as to the cost of COBRA when he leaves. My guess is that it won't be cheap.
posted by BlahLaLa at 5:36 PM on February 17, 2011 [4 favorites]

One can buy private health insurance. I did. But since the choices weren't good enough as an individual, I incorporated first. So now I have to pay an accountant to make my corporation work and health insurance fees as well. You can google health insurance brokers to find someone in your area who will tell you what's available.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:37 PM on February 17, 2011

When I was uninsured, I was able to get medical care through a neighborhood free clinic and a teaching hospital that were affiliated with the two medical schools in my area. Check with UC Denver's med school to see if they have similar services that you qualify for.

The care I got at the free clinics was stellar, and I got the meds I needed for free either as samples or through an affiliated pharmacy.
posted by chez shoes at 6:10 PM on February 17, 2011

Would you consider putting the kid in school and working part-time, even as a barista etc. for insurance?
posted by Ideefixe at 7:29 PM on February 17, 2011

You cannot go without health benefits. Whether you pay for them, or his job does, you simply cannot do without. You have a child, and no one in your family is in good health. One hospitalization and you're ruined. Seriously, have him look for a full time permanent job with another company who will give him benefits. You cannot afford to try to skate without.
posted by clone boulevard at 10:12 PM on February 17, 2011 [6 favorites]

Are you sure you don't qualify for social services? As in, you've checked the eligibility requirements for state and federal services and you don't qualify for any of them? Social services aren't intended solely for the destitute; they're also meant to help people in your situation, people who are trying to decide which vital need they can least afford to ignore.

Do your health conditions prevent you from holding an income-earning job? You may qualify for disability. At the very least, your kid will probably qualify for CHP. Think outside the box, too; would you be able to afford private insurance if you could supplement your food budget with food stamps? If so, then apply.
posted by kagredon at 10:18 PM on February 17, 2011

There really is NO other option in America other than for your husband to work in this job until he finds another one WITH BENEFITS. You cannot go without health insurance, period. There is no way you can get private health insurance without employment if you have anything remotely wrong with you. I would favorite clone boulevard a hundred times if I could about this. It doesn't matter how miserable your husband is, this has to be priority. You all will be even more miserable if you get sicker without health insurance, or he does, or your child does. Sucks to live in America and have this be the case, but it is.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:29 PM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Ideefixe, there are several reasons:

1. The kid has some sort of special need that we haven't determined the exact nature of. Husband thinks it's Asperger's or something on the autistic spectrum, I think it's ADHD. Obviously, we need a professional to sort things out there. It's hard to do that when we're a one-car family and he's afraid to take a day or half-day off for family medical needs because JB will browbeat him about it. The kid would do horribly in a traditional classroom-- he wouldn't learn anything and he'd disrupt the class and frustrate the teacher; but because I can give him individual attention, he's at least keeping up to his grade level in everything but handwriting skills. It's not real fun for me, but it helps that he's pretty smart and grasps concepts fairly easily.

2. Our local school district (Mapleton) is... just plain terrible, really, by any available metric. By doing online school, he's "going" to one of the most prosperous, high scoring districts in the state (Douglas County).

3. We have another child who doesn't have special needs or health concerns, but is three and would need daycare. Any profit I might make for a job would probably get entirely eaten up by daycare costs. We might even end up in the red, given the type of jobs I could get. Plus there are the savings of not having a second car/bus fares, me cooking dinner most nights instead of being too tired from work and eating out/picking up food, needing to buy work clothes, paying for lunches at work, etc. We analyzed this once, and figured out that I really am of more economic benefit to our family staying at home than I am working the crappy kind of jobs I could get. If I could even get one, we've seen people with master's degrees working at Wendy's around here, and I never finished my bachelor's.

4. Even if I could get a job, baristas etc. do not really ever get health insurance in my experience. Any job I am aware of that I could get with my skills in this economy after having been at home for the past 7 years is really, really super unlikely to offer bennies. Part timers do not get bennies, at least around here they don't.

I don't mean to sound contrary, but I can't see how that would work.
posted by Shoeburyness at 10:35 PM on February 17, 2011

Part time baristas as Starbucks get benefits, I believe.

Regardless, you can't go without insurance unless you want to lose all of your assets.
posted by miss tea at 3:15 AM on February 18, 2011

Short answer, your only possible hope for decent health care is COBRA. The rules vary by state, by generally speaking, if the employer is over 50 employees they have to offer him COBRA when he leaves. However, for a family of 4, you are probably looking at $1500-$2000 a month for the insurance, and COBRA only last 18 months. Then what do you do?
posted by COD at 5:42 AM on February 18, 2011

Just throwing it out there: your school district is required to provide your kiddo with a free and appropriate public education, and if that means that he needs evaluations and support in the classroom, they have to provide that. You may need to fight with the school district a bit to get what he needs but if he's as disruptive as you say, it will probably be obvious to the school that he needs assistance.

Because the culture of individual schools can vary wildly within a district, it's good to ask around about principals who are special-ed friendly. For some, it's not a priority.

But they do have to help your child function in the classroom.
posted by corey flood at 6:38 AM on February 18, 2011

Before using the term "hostile work environment." I'd spend several months documenting the treatment that is considered hostile.

If he changes jobs, you will all be eligible to continue the health insurance through COBRA, though it may be terribly expensive.
posted by theora55 at 9:26 AM on February 18, 2011

I'm sorry you're in such a rough situation. It sounds really stressful. I would start by checking out Cobra, which you can keep for 18 months. It's expensive, but for your husband's mental health, it might be worth it.

I know you're against it, but could you get a job for a finite amount of time? Just until your husband can find a job with health insurance benefits?

A local university might have part time secretarial jobs that offer benefits. I know several women who have found part time jobs at universities to help pay the bills and get health insurance. I want to stress that you don't have to keep this job forever. You would be giving your husband a break from his stressful job.

(just as a side note, to take your son to the doctor, could you drive your husband to work one day and then take your child to the doctor and pick your husband up after work?)
posted by parakeetdog at 1:24 PM on February 18, 2011

For several years now, a contracting company has been trying to hire him to do TSM admin for another division of HAL.

They've been recruiting him for several years? Sounds like he has the leverage to get what he wants. He's got to at least ask for it. Has he? If not, why not?
posted by desjardins at 1:25 PM on February 18, 2011

They've been recruiting him for several years? Sounds like he has the leverage to get what he wants. He's got to at least ask for it. Has he? If not, why not?

That's exactly what he did, but they sound reluctant. They seem to think it's completely reasonable for people to leave jobs with health benefits and vacation time to come work for them without them and for effectively less money. That's why he's always turned them down in the past, and they seem utterly baffled every time he does.

As far as sending the kid to school--in Colorado, you can enroll your child in any district where there is room. However, your not home district can refuse any out-of-district child they wish, which effectively means if your child has special needs, you are stuck with your home district. When we enrolled my eldest son (who is now 21) in our home district, we were told point-blank "We don't accept kids from out of district if they have a Special Education Plan." At the time, we thought the district would improve because they had just gotten a huge grant from the Gates foundation, but no real change ever stuck. My home district does mainstream education so badly that I'm terrified of what special education looks like there. I have no confidence in their ability to help my child at all. If I lived in another district, this might be a path worth pursuing, but this is honestly one of the worst school districts in Colorado. The Schooldigger site ranks it 118th out of the 122 districts in Colorado. I feel I would really be doing my son a disservice sending him there. His behavior isn't really that awful, but he needs to have his attention constantly redirected to the material. He wants to talk about things that aren't relevant, he wants to get up and walk around. A public school teacher, even in a good district, wouldn't have the time to deal with this-- it would take up all her time. But since I only have him to teach, I do. By doing online school, he's "attending" the 9th ranked district, even though we couldn't move there or transport him there for school.

Also, a barista job is out because I can't drink coffee-- it upsets my stomach horribly. I can't imagine Starbuck's hiring me when I haven't had a coffee since 1999, but gosh, I still really like the smell! I mean, if I ran a coffee shop, I wouldn't hire me.

I also have visibly missing teeth, which is a barrier to employment. We haven't been able to afford to get me a bridge, but since I wasn't working outside the home, it hasn't been a big deal.

Our plan for the time being is for him only to accept the contracting job if they reimburse for benefits. Otherwise, I am going to push him to look for other jobs. It's hard because working for JB has got him into this mindset of "There are no jobs out there for me, no one wants to hire me, etc." I try to look for jobs for him, but he can always shoot me down with some technical thing I don't have the knowledge to refute. "Well, I don't know Ruby on Rails" or whatever. "It says sysadmin, but really it's a *technical blah blah blah* job and I'm not qualified because *technical blah blah blah*." He's so defeatist lately, and he wasn't like this when he wasn't working for a soul-crushing asshole. He hasn't always liked his bosses, but none of them have ever ground him down this much.
posted by Shoeburyness at 3:13 PM on February 18, 2011

They're not paying you to drink the coffee.

Another idea: is it possible you could pool your time with another homeschooling family, maybe even one that has experience dealing with atypical kids? A setup where you homeschool their kid and yours 2/3 days a week and they take the rest of the time? I know that some homeschooling groups arrange that.
posted by kagredon at 3:27 PM on February 18, 2011

Not to focus on a sore point here, and I'm not sure how much you know about the technical aspects of his job, but please try to be considerate of the fact that the "technical thing" he's shooting you down for might be quite valid (and thus this might be getting on his nerves).

You suggesting some of these things (like a Ruby on Rails developer job when he is a sysadmin) could well be the equivelant of suggesting to say, a pediatrician, that they look at an anesthesiologist job or something that many orders of magnitude different from what they currently do.
posted by Elminster24 at 10:23 PM on February 18, 2011

It's just very frustrating, Elminster24, because I can't get him motivated to look, and when I look, I'm missing crucial pieces of the puzzle. Even when I see things I know he knows ( like VMware or Clearcase, I've still gotten it wrong somehow. (He knows lots of different software, operating systems, etc. but I don't recall what they are unless I see them.) I'm fairly technical compared to most people, but when he tries to tell me exactly what he does, my eyes glaze over. Could be my brain just doesn't work that way-- I've tried taking programming classes and I was utterly hopeless at anything but PASCAL. His tendency to rattle off tech stuff at lightning speed doesn't help matters-- it's like trying to drink from a firehose. He has the ability to absorb this technical stuff that fast; for instance he will read a technical manual once, and he'll never need to read it again because he remembers it all. But he has a hard time slowing it down for people who can't absorb it that fast.
posted by Shoeburyness at 1:01 AM on February 19, 2011

Well, you do seem to know quite a bit so perhaps you aren't that far off the mark with your suggestions.

To be fair to him, it can be difficult to get motivated to search for a new job when ALL of your energy is drained from your current one. Heck, hunting for a new job in this economy can be a full-time job in and of itself, particularly in his industry.

One of the big things you can do to help is just be supportive and try to remove stress from other areas of his life. Remove enough stress and he might be able to dig himself out of the funk and start being more assertive in changing things.
posted by Elminster24 at 10:41 AM on February 19, 2011

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