We knew a year in advance that my husband's job would end this fall. So he conducted a fairly typical job hunt for a while, but the hunt hit high gear when we found out that our insurance payments (COBRA) once his job ended would be $1500 a month. His job hunt became an insurance hunt.
This insurance problem began because he could only apply to jobs that came with insurance, and many top institutions on my husbands list did not even have an insurance plan. People who felt unconstrained by labor laws offered advice in interviews like, “Can't your spouse provide insurance?” (The answer, of course, is no. I work freelance and we need more dependable insurance than that for our son.)
So, it was two weeks before my husband's job ended, and he had no job. And I started throwing a fit. I threw a fit that he was irresponsible, which is not actually true, because he is a good job hunter and he had had more than 20 interviews. I threw a fit that he was ruining my reproductive life, which is not totally true, but I want to get pregnant again, and I am over 35, which is old in fertility years, and I cannot imagine getting pregnant without any insurance. I threw a fit that we absolutely cannot have a special needs child without good health insurance. This last part is true. I probably should have started there, but emotions run high during a job hunt. And besides, I never, in a million years, imagined that I would be someone dependent on my husband for anything. But we need insurance.
So my husband decided to get a stupid job at a big company so we could have health insurance until he found a job on his career path.
I told him to start at Starbucks because you only have to work 20 hours a week to get insurance, but my husband said he couldn't imagine himself doing a service job.
I thought about how much it takes just to get him to clean up the cat litter, and I agreed.
So he started at Old Navy. My husband has held producer positions at top entertainment companies and he has a master's degree from a top film school. I asked him if he left all that off the applications when he applied for a job at Old Navy. He said he couldn't even find the application. The Old Navy store manger said you have to apply online. The web site says you have to apply in store. My husband said, “I think the store manager gave me the run around.”
I said, “Maybe you have to have a friend at Old Navy to get a job there.”
My husband went to Target. He said there was a line to use the kiosk to apply for a job even though the sign above the kiosk said, “We have no jobs.”
It was a depressing day all around. It's one thing to search for entry-level jobs after a fruitful, fifteen-year career. But to be searching for them unsuccessfully, that is very sad.
Fortunately, the job nightmare ended the next day, when two offers from great non-profits came in. And the next day, two more offers. Then he weighed offers. At one, the pay was low, but the insurance was covered. At another the pay was high but the insurance was so bad that we couldn't really use it. One company had a great insurance program and good salaries, but the premiums, that we would pay out of pocket, were sky high. For that we may as well buy COBRA.
So my husband did something that we would have never have thought of doing before our insurance crisis of the past months: He asked for a 20% increase in salary to offset the costs of insurance. At first the company was shocked to hear the request, but in fact, so few people actually used the company's insurance that no one knew how expensive it was. And, in the end, my husband got the 20% increase.
Insurance is worth a lot of money. It can change an offer, and it can break open the door for salary negotiations. Insurance premiums are to a job offer what shipping is to an online purchase: You don't know if it's a good deal until you see both numbers. So read all the fine print for your insurance package, and then don't be afraid to negotiate, because the cost of the company's insurance shouldn't kill your paycheck.
Meanwhile, things have settled down for us: My husband is not loading boxes at Target, and I am not throwing fits — at least not about the insurance.