Health Insurance Costs Too High? Alternative Not Pretty
I hear this argument over and over and it's one of the things I'll debate until I'm blue in the face. "Health insurance is too expensive." Ok, I have to agree. But, at the age of 25 (I know, I know…people aren't supposed to get sick that young) I was diagnosed with a chronic illness and will stand behind my statement that "being sick is way more expensive than health insurance." No way around it. We are obviously not talking about the kind of sick a nasty cold brings. Fine, if you don't have insurance and have to go to the doctor for your cold, it’ll probably be $70 plus meds. But, if something worse happens, you are basically screwed. An ambulance ride is an easy $500. If they have to use sirens, count on an extra fee. If you need a biopsy of something, you not only have to pay the doctor but the lab and the shipping costs. Happen to need an antibiotic that works for a specific condition? It could cost you $500 for a 30-day supply (I know first-hand).
So, let's rethink this. First of all, I had insurance when I was diagnosed and my healthcare costs are still so outrageous you'd probably choke hearing about them. BUT, if I didn't have insurance at all, I'd for sure be bankrupt by now. Like, 3 times over.
One of the issues is eligibility. Because I have now been deemed "uninsurable," I appreciate my insurance much more than a lot of people. I have to pay a lot for it but I'm so glad that I had it when I got sick because now there would be no way I could qualify. I’m too big of a risk and insurance is a business so that leaves me in the dust. I often get the rebuttal line about having to pay for health insurance each month and then wasting it if you don’t have to use it. I say it’s the best thing you could ever hope to waste. It’s the point of insurance. You are transferring a risk. You don't get car insurance praying you'll get in a car accident so you get your money's worth, right? Same concept.
Now, there are a ton of things about healthcare we can complain about, and rightfully so. I mean, after seeing Michael Moore's SICKO, we can't help but be disgusted. The unlucky ones of us who have lived it weren't shocked at all. For everyone else, it was an important wake-up call. But, even though insurance is far less than perfect, it's still something. For instance, not long ago, I needed a $5,000 brain scan. I ended up having to pay $500 of it. So, some would bitch that I shouldn't have had to pay anything, that's what insurance is for, etc. But, I'd rather pay $500 than $5,000. It's a deal!
There is also the theory roaming about that if you got really sick and were really poor, the government would take care of you. Partially true. You could possibly qualify for medical care under social security if you were deemed totally and permanently disabled (after jumping through a million hoops and most likely having to hire a lawyer in the meantime). However, there is a two-year waiting period if you even get approved (which is not easy). Playing devil’s advocate, let’s say that is your back up plan. Very few ever go as far as to research if this is actually a good idea. Government care (at least in America) is not the same quality of care you'd get through private insurance. Pessimists will say that private insurance isn't exceptional care either, but let me assure you that if you feel that way, you wouldn't be happy on the government's plan at all. You wouldn't have to pay but remember as the old saying goes....you get what you pay for. Also, if you are getting it for free, good luck getting anyone in the system to hear your complaints.
If you have a job that offers insurance, don't leave until you have a new job that offers insurance. If you have a choice of an HMO or PPO, choose the PPO even if it costs more now (this will be an entirely different article). An HMO sounds like a good deal, until you are sick and waiting for the insurance company to decide when you get to see the doctor, who you will see, what tests you need and more. You really don't want someone in the business of saving money making those decisions for you.
After becoming disabled and unable to work, I qualified for COBRA (continuation coverage from my old employer's group through California) at a very high premium. It’s the same insurance as I got at no cost when I was working there which is what COBRA laws protect. But, it's the best money I spend every month. After all, there is nothing I'd rather spend my money on more in this world than getting well, or at the very least, not getting worse.
If you are one of the healthy (and lucky) ones, realize it's an amazing privilege to be insurable. And if something unfortunate happens, your less-than-perfect but still-something insurance company will be there to take care of you better than you could all on your own. I promise.
Note: For more information on COBRA, visit Department of Labor's FAQ.