After 13 years of being an insurer’s worst nightmare, I just heard some wonderful words: The insurance company will see you now.

They even gave me coverage. Darned good coverage, in fact, for $430 a month for my single, middle-aged and pre-existing-conditioned self.

Cheap? No. Priceless? Yes — especially after the steady stream of state and federal bureaucratic hassles that have plagued me for the last several months; and, before that, years of individual market coverage from insurers that abandoned me, turned out to be fraudulent or raised my rates into the stratosphere.

My experiences show that the health coverage can be a difficult proposition for a self-employed guy who is fairly healthy but has a heart that beats funny and no spouse. Until recently, my only feasible option to remain insured was to cough up $748 a month for shoddy coverage via California’s high-risk plan.

Then the Affordable Care Act provided new options for folks like me, but only if I went six months without any coverage first. I crossed my fingers, and got through the hiatus without a scratch. That was in 2012.

This coverage, through the California Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan at $265 a month, took me through June 2013. Then it expired, and I had to switch to yet another temporary program, the federally run Pre-Existing Condition Plan, at $287 a month.

And finally, it was Jan. 2014, and I could find a health plan through Covered California, the state’s online insurance marketplace.

After signing up for a Blue Shield of California plan, I received a letter the other day telling me that I could have extended the federally run Pre-Existing Condition Plan through January “to prevent a lapse in coverage.” Too late: I was already covered and therefore ineligible for an extension.

I could have saved $143 by sticking with the federal plan for another month instead of joining Blue Shield. But I might as well get used to it. Yes, I’m now paying $430 a month instead of the $265 or $287 I paid in 2012 and 2013, but it still beats the days of paltry coverage for a premium with a price tag in the $700s.

The transition has not been entirely smooth, though. For instance, after I used the California exchange to enroll in my new plan, I worried over the non-arrival of a bill from Blue Shield that would acknowledge my coverage and provide my policy number. It finally came at nearly the last minute, urging me to pay pronto and mentioning a previous bill that had never arrived.

I’m definitely insured now, though. My payment, which I made online, went through, and my insurance ID card showed up in my mailbox. It was two weeks late, since my coverage began on Jan. 1. But it’s here, I’m covered, and I’m glad.

This story was published jointly with Kaiser Health News. Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at

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