I've been a little gun shy about the internet for the past month (specifically Twitter), after a run-in with the nastier side of the online world.
A little background: this fellowship is fantastic but it does not come with health insurance. Since I left my job to do this - and COBRA was prohibitively expensive - it made the most financial sense for me to take advantage of Colorado's shiny new healthcare marketplace, which was set up in response to the Affordable Care Act.
It went into effect in August and, while it's certainly not the best coverage I've ever had, it's way better than not having coverage at all. I can get a flu shot, go in for an annual exam, or deal with a stomach bug without breaking the bank. I don't LOVE it but I'm glad I have it.
Then, in early March, I received a notice from the healthcare exchange, saying my coverage had been terminated. Out of nowhere. I got on the phone and kicked off what became a days-long hold process. Hold times were over an hour, every time I called. I tried direct-chatting with one of the exchange's online representatives. The representative could do nothing and directed me back to the phone. So I took to Twitter, as I and so many other Americans have when complaining about customer service issues with companies like Verizon, American Airlines, Comcast, etc.
Success! I got a much better response via Twitter than I did using any other form of communication. It still took way too long to get resolved (hours on the phone, even after I had their attention, and an untold number of emails) but the people at Connect for Health Colorado got it fixed.
Here's where the unintended consequences come in: because I was publicly complaining about healthcare, because I tweeted that I still believe in the ACA and because my bio says I'm a former NPR journalist, I made myself into a ripe target for anyone who's unhappy/angry with Obama, Obamacare, the government, liberals, journalists, women, etc.
In three days, I received hundreds of tweets calling me an idiot, a bitch, a freeloader. Some, like the one pictured up top, hoped I broke my leg (although I did have a defender. Sort of). I also got called out publicly on a couple of conservative websites. It was embarrassing, horrifying and made me want to crawl in a dark hole. And this was nothing compared to what some people have endured.
It was also eye-opening. I was lucky - I was in a position where I had the time to sit on the phone and hash this out to get it resolved quickly. That's time that someone with a full-time job (or two or three) or kids or serious health issues doesn't necessarily have. It was such a long, convoluted process. I only got a brief taste of the frustration that people must feel over this - people who have to jump through all the red tape, who lost their insurance, who are paying more for less. I'm sorry for anyone who's gone through this mess or will go through it. It's maddening.
Here's the deal - I don't love the ACA. While it has allowed me some peace of mind and a level of flexibility that was hard to come by before its creation, it's far, far from perfect. There are some real problems with it that need to be worked out. I also think it's a start and we had to start somewhere. The existing system was unsustainable and it was bankrupting everyone. So let's work on it. Let's amend it, change it, improve it. But how can we have a conversation about fixing healthcare if it devolves so quickly into name-calling and mud-slinging? The level of vitriol surrounding this topic, of which I got a small dose, makes me wonder if that conversation is even possible.
So for now, I'll be keeping healthcare out of my Twitter feed.