Money vs. Death

I’m not even sure how to approach this topic, but I’m compelled to write about it.

The situation feels petty but genuine, heartless but frustrating, deserving yet I’m guilt-ridden.

First, you need some backstory. It all began in December 2018 when my now-husband and I spoke to a paintball acquaintance, a health insurance agent, who wanted to get us assistance through the marketplace.

He promised us the world: low monthly payments, big government subsidy, no worries about paying back any premium tax credit (so long as we got married in 2019 which we did). I was hesitant, of course, because I work for an accountant and I very clearly understood how the premium tax credit (PTC) system works. More promises from our agent not too worry about a thing. He has it all under control.

We believed him.

I wish we hadn’t.

We got our insurance cards and had auto draft set to take out the very affordable insurance payments. The funny thing is, we never used the insurance. Not once. We couldn’t get into the accounts for months because he used my husband’s work address as our “home” address and the zip codes didn’t match so the agency couldn’t verify us. That took forever to figure out. Red flag number 1. Against my better judgement, I ignored it.

I called the marketplace later in the year to update our newly purchased home address and marital status information and decided to check our marketplace applications. I never received a final copy of our application and the income he reported for us. Turns out, he never officially finished filing it, but somehow we got the insurance anyway. And as I was speaking to the marketplace agent, I was horrified to hear the income figures he reported for us. They were grossly understated and I had a vision of right now, this exact moment where I’m staring at my 2019 federal income tax return realizing exactly how much the IRS is expecting me to pay back for my advance payments of the PTC. But as I was speaking with the insurance agency and the marketplace and canceling our insurance in October 2019 they assured me they were handling the situation, that I wouldn’t have to pay back any PTC because this wasn’t my fault.

Any normal person would (I hope) read this situation and say, “Yeah, you have a right to be pissed off!” Because I genuinely feel like I do. I want to be mad at this agent who promised us the world and failed to deliver. We never even used the insurance!

But here’s the twist: our insurance agent died in the summer of 2019. Yes, that’s right. He passed away. Overseas, while on vacation, from a heart attack. He was only ten or fifteen years older than us! We grieved the premature loss. Our paintball community grieved for such an upstanding guy, gone before his time.

Then the marketplace scandal unfolded and I found myself torn between being angry at a recently deceased man and grateful that I was still alive.

So as I’m sitting here staring at my tax return and the “bill due” and spending time on the phone with the marketplace trying to resolve the issue, I keep wondering if my anger is justified. Because really, what’s a couple thousand dollars compared to your life? Would I gladly pay this bill if it meant our agent was still alive?

Well, hell yeah I would. That’s not even a question.

Is it fair for me to be angry over a situation when the key offender lost his life? I’m sure he didn’t do it on purpose; he was just trying to help.

My heart screams, “Where is your sympathy?” “How can you even think about money?” “WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?”

But then my brain goes, “I don’t want to pay $2,650 to the IRS.” “You trusted him and he let you down.” “You have a right to be mad.”

And now I can’t stop feeling guilty for being angry, because I’m still alive. And I’d gladly pay that amount to be alive. I would rather have a huge tax bill to figure out than be dead. I can always make more money. Money isn’t the most important thing in this world, although sometimes it feels that way. We need money to survive, after all. If you can’t eat, you can’t live.

And $2,650 isn’t going to break me. I’m most likely going to get it resolved with the marketplace anyway (they already promised me once I wouldn’t have to pay). And if I do have to pay… well at least I’m not dead.

So here I am, feeling bad over a situation that would normally send me through the roof. I’d probably be the biggest bitch in the world if I could bitch at our agent, but I can’t. And so I feel awful. Because he’s gone and it’s not fair. And I have no right to be mad about something as stupid as money, when his family lost him, someone worth way more than a measly couple grand.

This entire happening has really put life into perspective for me. And all I can say is enjoy the time you have with the people you love. Because you never know when fate will be cruel and rip them from your world. You never know what tomorrow will bring.

We live life like we’re never going to die, but the truth is we all die.

In this circumstance, is it okay to be mad at someone who’s dead?

I don’t know. I really don’t know.

Until next time –

Yours for (happy?) writing,

Lady Jenji

Published by Jenni Johnson

Jenni Johnson, aka Lady Jenji, is a writer, artist, and lover to all. She and her husband live in Palm Bay, Florida. They are quite fond of cats.

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