The Catch-22 of the American health care system is that while many people work 'for the insurance,' when they become too sick to work and are most in need of that insurance, they are most at risk of losing it. This is particularly true of workers at small companies, which are not covered by existing law. (The Family and Medical Leave Act, for instance, only applies to workplaces with 50 or more employees.)
One employee at such a company, who asked that her name not be used because she feared retribution from her former boss, learned the significance of this distinction the hard way when she had a brain tumor removed five years ago. Her employer, she said, 'told me that my tumor came at a really bad time for the company.' The woman had recently received a significant raise, $20,000. Her workplace was small - about a half-dozen employees - and a few months after her illness was diagnosed, the group's insurance premiums jumped. 'My raise was rescinded, to cover the increase,' she said.
At the very end of the article, there's a mention of an issue that's a big deal for me and probably for lots of people with MS. It's about the conundrum of working part-time, maybe to hang onto insurance or, in my case, to accommodate increasing fatigue, versus the resulting decrease in one's disability coverage.
I would love to go from full-time down to about 80%, maybe working half days a couple days a week. As it is, I sometimes feel like I'm only working at 80% even though I'm present at my desk for the full 40 (or more) hours each week. The problem is that going 80% decreases the amount of protection I have in the event I need to take disability. My disability benefit is calculated as a percentage of my income at the time I stop working. While I'm working full-time, my benefit would be 80% of my current salary. If I go 80% part-time, my benefit would be 64% (80% of 80%) of my current salary.
So the question becomes whether I think my family and I are better off if I work full-time until I keel over entirely or if I work part-time, cutting both my current income stream, and the income I'd get on disability. Fortunately, I'm confident that the decision is mine to make, that my employer would allow me to go to 80% if I chose. But I go back and forth: am I better off protecting that income stream, or do I stand a better chance over the long haul by reducing the energy I put into work and increasing the energy available for taking care of myself?
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