What do San Francisco sex workers and President Obama's Affordable Care Act have in common? The answer is: More than you think. While many people are frustrated and complaining about not having access to the health insurance marketplace website at HealthCare.Gov, the website has its fans: this city's so-called "sex workers."
CNNMoney reports that they held a rousing registration drive in the City by the Bay recently, signing up at least 40 male and female prostitutes, masseurs, dominatrix and those more politely known as "escorts."
And they did it mostly the old fashioned way: Manually filling out paper applications. But let's be honest, they were highly motivated. Most prostitutes don't earn a lot of money, endure an enormous risk of both violence and disease, and operate -- with the exception of the infamous Mayflower Madam -- in an all-cash environment.
Since they show little or no income from their work, these sex workers are eligible for the huge subsidies offered under Obamacare. Sex worker "Jolene" told CNN she would likely pay only $36 a month, much less than most of us put out in co-pays alone. And what makes it even more lucrative is that none of the sex workers actually have to report what they do to earn a living.
The news about these sex workers' success inspired me to try to find out what, if anything, you could actually get away with under Obamacare. I may not be a sex worker, but I am a freelance journalist, which some say is an even less reputable way to earn a living.
What about my health insurance status? To paraphrase a well-known insurance company's commercial jingle: And like a good government, Medicare is there. Having reached the rite of passage, it's the single payer system for me.
But then there's my wife, who is too young for Medicare. Her current health insurance plan will be canceled as of Jan. 1, 2014 and despite our President's vaunted promise to the contrary, she could wind up in a health care dilemma or medical mishap.
Less is more
So I decided to log onto the much-despised health insurance marketplace website, which no longer displays the smiling face of that unidentified lady … who may not be smiling anymore. By plugging in different numbers, such as lessening the amount of income earned and forgoing a mutual fund distribution, I found that my wife could qualify for a Medicaid subsidy, making health care more than affordable.
I also discovered that despite the fact that there were only three insurance companies offering plans through the New Jersey health exchange -- one of 33 run by the federal government because these governors wanted no part of them -- the silver plan I chose for her includes almost all of her current doctors. My conclusion: This could actually work.
Since we've paid thousands of dollars annually for health insurance in recent years, I've yet to figure out who's going to pay for all the people like my wife who are now eligible for these lucrative subsidies. Could it be the unlucky 10 percent who'll have to pay more and get less because they and their families will earn more than $94,000 next year? Or could it be the younger people supposedly being forced to sign up even though most are not in need of much medical care? Or will we simply run up the deficit even higher?
My advice to freelance workers nationwide: "Go on, take the money and run." We will.