Death Cab for Cutie’s Chris Walla Recruits for Obamacare, Signs on Himself

Obamacare has possibly its first celebrity enrollee and evangelist: Death Cab for Cutie’s Chris Walla. The 38-year-old indie rock guitarist, having signed up on Washington Healthplanfinder.com almost as soon as it went live, says he wants to do what he can to counter the negative publicity that the Affordable Care Act has been getting.

He will be on hand when the Healthplanfinder’s roving sign-up bus, which has been touring the state, comes to Seattle tomorrow, stopping at the University of Washington’s Red Square between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m,

Walla, talking with Seattle Weekly today, says he has long felt passionately about the need for health insurance reform. “I’m a capitalist,” he says. “But whoever decided that health care is something we should make money on is totally fucked.”

Yet his decision to shop for health insurance on Washington’s online marketplace was as much practical as ideological. Like most band members, famous or not, he’s self-employed. And so is the woman he married in February, a 25-year-old knitware and graphic designer.

He already had insurance, but learned its limits a few years ago when he was working on a record in Los Angeles. A migraine sufferer, he had an episode so severe that he lost his vision and his hands went numb. He went to a local hospital’s emergency room, where he had a battery of tests including a CT scan and spinal tap. Doctors suspected a stroke, but didn’t find anything beyond his migraine problem.

“That was scary,” Walla says nonetheless. And in its own way, so was the bill. His out-of-pocket charges: $11,000.

As a successful rocker, he could afford to pay it, but he still felt burned. He also objected on principle, given that the bill would have wiped out many others.

So in early October, Walla and his wife logged onto the Healthplanfinder to see what plans it had to offer. He says they took advantage of the comparison shopping feature, which works something like Expedia.com, showing at a glance the attributes of multiple plans.

For their provider, they bypassed big insurance companies like Blue Cross and Group Health and chose Community Health Plan of Washington, a non-profit carrier that’s affiliated with health clinics throughout Seattle catering to underserved populations. Together, he says, he and his wife will pay $488 a month.

He can’t remember exactly how much he paid for his old plan, but thought the cost was comparable. Under the third-tier “bronze” level plan he and his wife opted for, they’d have to pay $45 per office visit and $500 for an ER visit after a $5,000 deductible, according to Julie Keeffe, director of exchange strategy and implementation for Community Health Plan.

That’s far from cheap, but still Walla’s ER visit, with this insurance, would have cost him considerably less than what he paid. (With either the silver or gold plans under the same carrier, only moderately more expensive, an ER visit costs merely $250.)

Walla says he’s satisfied. “The process of applying for and getting insurance is so much better than it was before Oct. 1,” he says.

And Healthplanfinder Bethany Fry says administrators are hopeful that the musician will help reach the market of so-called “young invincibles.” She says of Walla, “he’s exactly the kind of influencer we need.”

 
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