ACA and HAMP, government programs for health care and housing. Before you think I’m about to either praise or vilify them know that I am an extreme moderate independent. I am (extremely) certain that solutions are in the middle (moderate) and I am unimpressed with the two main parties (independent). The grander the plan, the greater the chance of unintended consequences. In the midst of seven day workweeks, I am devoting time each day to thoughts of how to answer my required responses to the Affordable Care Act, the Home Affordable Modification Program, and somehow get around to figuring out my business taxes. For a person that wants to be healthy, housed, and responsible, there’s a lot of work that takes away from work which leaves less for life – at least in the short term.
I welcomed the Affordable Care Act. Was sad to hear about the early implementation. Was glad to hear that Washington State’s site was running well. Was gladder to learn that I’d save about $300 from the update planned by my provider. Then have been dismayed to find that, despite qualifying for the state’s version of Medicaid or for a tax credit, I’d be paying the full rate. Not only would I be paying the full rate, but that it would be extracted automatically from my account. I’m sure that all that is required is for a switch to be switched. An option checked or unchecked. Three weeks of phone calls, emails, and tweets and I’ve been led back to where I started. This could be good, but in the meantime it is painful.
HAMP helps homeowners avoid foreclosure. I’m told that HAMP, other aspects of the Make Home Affordable Program, and various Washington State programs are why I am still in my house despite not having paid my mortgage since fall 2012. I suspect that if it wasn’t for those programs, and the counselors at a state grant funded organization called Parkview Services, I wouldn’t be so close to regaining control of my debt, my mortgage, my house, and my home. The cost in time has been preparing paperwork, cajoling faxes scanners and printers to properly replicate every letter and note delivered by the mortgage servicer. The cost in money has been certified postage, overnight deliveries, and a cost I decided to bear of a co-work slot that got me away from the distracting traffic of debt collectors. Fortunately, thanks to some appreciative clients, I might be able to pay a modified mortgage enabled by the government programs – as long as I can keep my monthly income up and my monthly expenses down.
HAMP, meet ACA. You two should talk. Without the monthly tax credit my healthcare costs will be my largest non-discretionary expense, and therefore the largest cost influence on my ability to meet a modified mortgage.
And, it is January. Tax time for Washington State businesses. 2013 was a record year for my consulting business. It had to be, and it was. Instead of worrying more about book and art sales taxes, I am now wondering how much I’ll have to pay for my consulting services. HAMP and ACA, meet DOR, the Department of Revenue.
At this point I think I’ve provided ammunition for both political sides. “Here’s proof that there’s too much government intrusion!” “Here’s proof that government programs work!” My point is that there is more than one point.
Here’s my side. I’m tired. I’m thankful for the benefits. I’m very aware of the costs in time and money. I can’t ignore that the time required to rectify my health care issue, plus the time to answer the mortgage modification process, plus the time to calculate my taxes leave me with less time for work, and shrinks the life segment of my days down to a hour or two. Even writing this blog feels like an act of playing hooky, and I’m posting this near 9pm. The dishes will get done later.
One of my clients is the New Road Map Foundation, an organization with a lot of overlap with my dedication to valuing life over money while acting responsibly. The title of my book is Dream Invest Live because Dreaming and Living are the beginning and the end. Investing is merely a bridge between the two. Both efforts have drawn me to the studies that show how much time is really required to maintain a reasonably sustainable lifestyle. The answer: three hours. Aboriginal cultures tend to work about three hours a day to attain everything they need. Even in medieval times, the peasants worked long and hard – except for holidays. Almost every other day was a Holy day. Praise be.
Every day I see the irony in my life, a life that is largely out of balance. The optimist in me sees the imbalance as temporary and the effort as foundational for the future. The pessimist in me sees a foolish effort to please the authorities.
Yesterday was my birthday. I was asked, “What do you see your next birthday looking like?” The answer that flashed to mind was “I’m just going to try to make it through tomorrow.”
Today I started back at the State’s web site, trying to resolve my health care bill before the money is automatically extracted. I dutifully scanned, emailed, and printed copies of the latest letter and envelope from the mortgage servicer. And yes, I have to make a copy of the envelope as well as the letter, scan them, email the scan, then print the scans, put them in an envelope and mail them to the counselor – all in a good cause. By the way, the letter was actually the first bill I’ve seen from the mortgage company in months. The amount due by the end of the month is – ah, well, large. And then, of course, there is the tax issue, but hey, I’ll get to that any day now.
Would I trade this level of health care (and resultant lifespan) and this quality of a home (with its utilities, comforts, and shelter) and these governments for an aboriginal lifespan, exposure, and tribe? Evidently, not. But now that I think of it, I don’t recall anyone making me that offer. Hmm.
For now though, it is me and HAMP and ACA – and hope that next year at this time it will all be better. Hey, I can dream, eh?