Issue 38: 10th Anniversary Issue

10 Years And Still Looking For Decent Health Insurance

One man dove into America’s frustrating options for health coverage, and (barely) survived to tell the tale

One day back in 2006, my toddler son put a rock up his nose. It was a small rock, and a small nose, and a short trip to the emergency room, where a tall, goofy doctor sucked out the rock with a hose while Elijah screamed like he was dying. But for me, the real pain came later. I was self-employed, and my wife taught college as an adjunct, so we had to pay for health insurance out of our own pocket. Because the insurance company decided my boy’s extraction was “surgery,” and we each had our own surgery deductible, it ended up costing us $600—which was a lot. Not long after, I wrote an article for the first issue of GOOD lamenting how health care for the average middle-class family was a luxury, not a right.

But a year later, I actually hit the luxury jackpot. My memoir Alternadad tapped into a minor zeitgeist about “hipster parenting,” and also told a universal story about becoming a first-time father. The success of the book led to blogs and articles, then to a film option with a major movie studio, where they paid me to write a screenplay. Not long after, I landed a sitcom deal, also based on Alternadad, which qualified me for membership to the Writers Guild of America. The union made sure I had basically free health care. The cost was $600 for the entire year to cover my little family. What I was earning in television money was unprecedented—particularly when compared to what I was used to as an author—but in Hollywood terms, my income was comparatively tiny. The union shaved less than two percent off of what I earned, plus quarterly dues. Those union dues were entered into a collective pool, which also included the WGA fees of mega-successful scribes like Aaron Sorkin, Shonda Rhimes, and Seth MacFarlane, among many others. Matthew Weiner indirectly paid for my wife’s thyroid treatment and my sports-medicine rehab. It was screenwriter socialism. This health insurance was the gold standard.

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Explore China’s Future In 5 Subway Stops

This experimental megacity rose out of farmland in 1979. A few decades and 20 million residents later, is Shenzhen a success?

Shenzhen rose out of farmland and fishing enclaves in 1979, the first of China’s self-designated “special economic zones” designed to catapult an isolated nation into the 20th century. A proving ground for China’s grand experiment in market capitalism and its first city to allow foreign investment, Shenzhen became the nucleus of the country’s almighty manufacturing sector.

GOOD sent me to track the city’s remarkable growth back in 2008. Now, with the emergence of a middle class and government efforts to kickstart an innovation economy, the city is once again a bellwether for China’s lofty ambitions. But the past and present are colliding, a housing crisis is brewing, developers are pushing subway lines into once-remote villages, and Shenzhen is searching for a new identity.

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How Catastrophe Inspired Brilliant, Livable, Affordable Housing

After Mexico, a look at a seaside town in Chile that came back from one of the biggest earthquakes in history.

Tremors erupted in the darkness before dawn, two miles off the Chilean coast, shaking much of the city of Constitución to rubble. It took less than three minutes. The 8.8 magnitude earthquake was the second strongest recorded anywhere in the world in nearly 50 years.

When the quake and ensuing tsunami hit on February 27, 2010, Chile’s undersecretary of housing, Andrés Iacobelli, had only been on the job for a few days. One of his first official phone calls was to a former colleague at Elemental, the Chilean architecture firm that he co-founded. That conversation set into motion one of the smartest city reconstruction plans in recent history.

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