October 31st was the last day that I worked for the bullet manufacturer. I knew things were going sideways, not because I failed in my performance, but because the wind had changed and I could see that I was no longer going to be needed. I had done too well in setting things up and loyalty at this level is not much different than the stigmas associated with big time public companies. But this is in part because I realized I did not belong there. It was a reality that I had come to understand with each passing week. While relationships were mostly kind and professional, there was a rift where I was personally concerned because I did not like to kill animals. I do not own guns and have never been a hunter, per se, at least not the kind that devotes hundreds of thousands of dollars to the pursuit of killing an elephant and other exotic creatures for the sake of the kill. I do know other hunters that take meat for the sake of putting protein on the table and I happen to like the taste of venison. Heck my daughter has wanted to take up hunter safety training and hunting with her dad; she has talked about it for a few years now. But, desire is one thing while timing is quite another. As it is, I never fully fit into their mold.
The company is going through tremendous change as ownership is passing to the next generation. Likewise, the company made a poor acquisition the summer before based on hand shake ideas that came back to bite them. The vetting process was short and arrogant and only allowed enough for a façade to be bought into. There was no proper integration of staff and oversight at the remote location. Accounting processes were sloppy and communication held too close from those that had to manage the daily tasks of business; nobody understood their role and confusion ensued on both sides of the trade.
Eventually, I was released from the micromanagement of chaos. Who are these with so little sight of the path of their own progress? Either way, I went and felt an air of relief and gratitude come over me. It was time and I knew that another day was just another step toward my grave. The stress was just that intolerable, on the edge and time – just time to go and let them sort it out.
COBRA came knocking with the promise of continued health care that I had been receiving at the full rate of what my plan cost at retail, which I quickly realized was about $1500 per month. Of course, I did not give it a second look. So I waded into the dense thicket of Obamacare in hopes of unlearning some of my ill-perceptions about the mandatory nature of the plan. I started out going to our local county offices hoping that people would be present that could explain things to me. Instead, I was handed a packet and told to go fill it out and mail it in or bring it back and they would mail it for me. No longer did local officials have anything to do with the process and in fact were not even trained to answer questions other than point people to a convoluted series of links and websites depending on your need.
Then the emails came. Seemingly ever hour on the hour as a constant reminder that December 15, 2014 was the deadline for enrolling. How did they know? I looked and tried to enter into it with diligence. But much was unclear and I had doubt as to what and where I needed to be or how I qualified which determined where you needed to be. I filled out the long application and folded it neatly into a pre-addressed envelope that was not postage paid. I held that envelope for days with uncertainty. Another email came and then a text: “there are only seven days remaining and you must act by December 15 for you 2015 health benefits. Do not delay”. I received about five of those per day, each citing language of fear and anxiety to prompt me to act. Still I did nothing, still uncertain. I picked up the phone and ended up speaking to a man who tried to transfer me only to get disconnected. I called again and found the wait time was 22 minutes. I hung up.
Some days passed with relentless emails and text warnings – all the same message, different days. One morning, I rolled out of bed and shuffled down the long hall to my kitchen. Light music still played through the flat screen. It was only 4:20 am. I went to the window and instinctively peeked through the blinds to see if it had snowed. After watching the snow come down for several minutes, I considered going back to bed. But then I noticed my slipper was tearing at the seam and this made me stumble in my thoughts. Suddenly, I felt as though I should repair them or at least do something. My slipper reminded me of everything else in my life and so I made coffee instead.
It dawned on me that I did not need to go to work that day. I felt restless and disoriented. Only the hazelnut would do in a moment like this. As I sipped the fresh cup of coffee, my lips tingled and I felt warm. It was a Pete’s dark roast. I caught myself pacing, thinking about Obamacare. How could something like this be mandated? I really was not comfortable in paying anything with my income being reduced by about 50%. I had house payments to make and food to put on the table. There was a pace that I wanted to sustain, which was not much, but brought some trivial comfort. I decided I could not jump to conclusions. Yet again, my phone buzzed with another text from some data processing center letting me know I should be excited about getting enrolled and that date was just around the corner. How could they do this?
I did vote for Obama and generally support the ideas surrounding the Health Care Act – still not sure about the Affordable part. The whole thing felt flawed and needed to be resolved to be a more sustainable function of life. It felt very Orwellian and somehow undermined our principles on one hand of a free people, yet was pitched as being highly beneficial from an economic and human perspective where the health of a nation is critical for both economic vitality and national defense. This paradox created within the folds of propaganda kept reminding me through texts slowing pushing me to some action.
So I sat down in the back room with large windows where I could watch the snow fall. I felt very quiet as I decided to go ahead and place another call to the hotline. This time, it only took about 20 minutes and so I sat there with speaker phone and listened while sipping my coffee. My thoughts ran to various situations. How would I truly budget for a third of my income to go toward a mandatory insurance policy? So much would need to be compromised so the insurance company would get their money as promised and the government administrators would save face and have a successful project launched. For whatever the underlying reasons, this had more to do with things we did not understand, which is not to say we are incapable of understanding, but would never get the full scope or strategy of how this might change the face of our country and the economic prowess of those in power – expanding the gaps.
Finally someone answered. It was a very nice lady named Claire. She was properly trained and friendly – personable even. She patiently listened to my concerns and helped me navigate through the website to get to the main page of what was needed. Much was not accessible because I had to first input the general information about my family and income. As I did this, various other questions and options arose and the system inherently took over and guided me along. At the end, I learned something about tax credits and a plan in the platinum option where my premium was slightly higher but my deductibles were much lower. At the same time, I was notified that I might qualify for my states OHP plan where much was paid for whereas my income on unemployment was too low. But the system only said it had passed my information on to the state for their review. In the meantime, I was still bound to having to select a plan and enroll my commitment.
I sat for a long while with this window open on my lap top. Snow continued to fall and I sipped more coffee. I took my slipper off and decided they were too cheap to worry about. When I went for a refill, I received another text – this was insane! It was like they knew my moves and were following me around in my house pushing me to finish the application.
When I returned to the window room, I saved my work and closed the window. I was going no further no matter how many texts I received. I would wait to hear from the state in order to decide what to do. I am not sure what this means whereas the deadline was upon me, but I am not comfortable entering into any contract without fully understanding the ramifications. Claire had politely encouraged me to complete the application so that I would be fully enrolled into a plan. Of course, she did not know anything about the state side benefits that might be available but she was nice at least.
I sat there admiring the beauty of the scene through my windows, breathing. About an hour must have passed and another text came through. It was then that I went back to bed after meditating myself into a lulling calm that drifted in the early morning glow of snowfall.