Wow, I can not believe Balloon-Juice is over twenty years old.
I was aware of this chunk of the internet during the run-up to the Iraq War. When Watergirl reminded me that the big 2-0 was happening a few weeks ago, I searched the comments and the archives for my first interaction here at the full service cats, politics, rage, laughter, humor, health insurance, geo-political analysis and cooking blog. I think I found my first comment from November 2003 trash talking the Steelers. My next comment was 2006 and then I started to comment here rather regularly after Tim F. highlighted a few things that I had written at other places under names other than Richard Mayhew.
I went down the rabbit hole. And my comments as part of the Jackalariat were under the theme of “let’s do the math to figure out if the desired end state is readily achievable….” And sometimes it was, and often I was a wet blanket on hopes and dreams. I stuck around and kept on pointing out that healthcare reform would be determined by 218-51/60-1-5 so that while Lieberman was a douchebag, the marginal vote in the Senate was either a douchebag or someone representing a state/district that went landslide for McCain and that significantly constrained the possibility space. Tim and I went to a couple of Steelers games and we kept in contact even as I was switching careers from program evaluation to health insurance. I kept on reading Balloon-Juice through the first decade until the summer of 2013 where the ACA had been passed and everyone in comments was going “WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT MEAN TO ME???”
And that is an awesome question. It was a question that I could answer. So I reached out to Tim, and he reached out to John. Three days later, I started to write here and I never stopped.
As I have said before, I really thought I would have been done by December 2013. That was a minor underestimate a million words later.
This place is just fundamentally weird. I get to geek out on something that fascinates me. All the other front pagers geek out on things that fascinate them. And then the comment section in almost every post does its own thing within thirty posts. And somehow this all works in a community.
And this geeking out has led to another career change to academia and significant policy impact. The past year, my research has led to West Virginia to change how they instruct insurers to price for the Cost-Sharing Reduction (CSR) benefits so that premiums are much cheaper for most buyers now. California has passed a significant state wrap-around subsidy with details that are directly lifted from a working paper that my co-authors and I are trying to get published at this moment. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services is responding to significant chunks of my research in their 2023 rulebook for the ACA marketplaces. The Assistant Secretary of Planning and Evaluation at the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) recently cited a Balloon-Juice post and made “silver spamming” a term used in a federal document. I can’t even imagine that being in my possibility space from 2013 when I started to write here.
And that is not the coolest part of writing here. Instead it has been the e-mails with all of the Jackals here as people are trying to figure out the almost impossible to navigate US health finance system. We’ll mutually bang our heads into the wall and then figure out a pathway forward. I know that these conversations have led to people savings tens of thousands of dollars, I know that these conversations have allowed people to retire safely. I know that these conversations have allowed people to get the care that they need. I know that we help each other out. That is the most amazing part of the Balloon-Juice community. We help each other out.
That still blows my mind. I am still amazed that you all came through to help Claire and her family out with over $25,000 in under a day. As a quick update, she is doing great. We saw her and the in-laws over the Christmas holiday and the only thing that she needs to be aware of is that shorts are not always indicated for late December. Other than that she is a happy, healthy kid who has an interesting choice in hair styles and a need to perform on stage.
I’ve rambled enough but given that this is Balloon Juice, we’re always on topic even if we’re off-topic.