Remember this post? The post where I decide I was fed up paying crazy expensive health insurance premiums and switch to a cheaper but suckier plan? I just wanted to follow up because it’s been 8 months since that post. So did I make the switch? Yes. I received a letter informing me that my premiums would go up $200 to $1650 a month. That wasn’t a surprise. My premiums have been going up roughly 15% every year, but what had been a marginally manageable bill was becoming an increasingly unaffordable monthly expense.
So what’s happened in the 8 months since I made the switch?
This is what I anticipated. We remained healthy and went to the doctor just a few times for minor checkups.
But I have an extra $5000 in the bank from the $600 that I am saving every month by switching to a cheaper plan. I don’t touch this money except to pay for other health related expenses like visits to the dentist (we don’t have dental insurance), visits to the vet and the euthanization bill for Tobi (which ironically was our biggest medical expense for any of us in 3 years combined). I’ll keep building on this money and eventually pay for things like braces for the girls and other medical bills that might crop up. The money is for nothing else because I’m paranoid about incurring unexpected expenses since we have a higher deductible and insane out of pocket maximums. You can plan for some things, but you can’t plan for everything.
You can say that I came out ahead so far and the decision was a smart one, and yet I can’t help but still feel a bit unsettled. It’s still a gamble.
This year a close friend of mine got diagnosed with early stage cancer. She’s fine now and thankfully had excellent healthcare and excellent insurance through her partner, but it did make me think about a lot of things as I witnessed the diagnosis and treatment process with her. It made me realize that had it been me, if I had been diagnosed with cancer, my treatment and medical bills would have been a different story. That maybe I would have had to make certain decisions based on costs, rather than the best healthcare that I could find. That I might have bills that would have wiped away our entire savings. Is it fair? Hardly.
Recently my mom had to undergo a myriad of medical tests to see if there was an underlying cause to some mysterious ailments she’s been having. She had everything done – stress tests, EKGs, brain MRI, cardiology and neurology tests. It all came out negative, thankfully, however she thought twice about taking these tests because she wasn’t confident that her insurance would pay for it. They’ve failed her in the past, but her doctors urged her that she couldn’t wait. My parents are in their mid-60s, have paid their fair share in taxes (more, I’d say), and have always had to pay for private insurance because they are small business owners like us. Is it fair that their MRIs and certain hospital bills get routinely rejected by insurance? No.
It’s still a gamble, isn’t it?
Posted by Jenna | 34 Comments
I’ve had enough. I’ve decided that this is the year I’m ditching my health insurance plan. When I wrote my check a few days ago for the month of February, I decided that this was the month that I was going to make the change. If you’ve read this blog long enough, then you know that health insurance is the bane of my freelancing existence. It’s bad enough for anyone in this country, but if you live in NY and are self employed, the premiums are downright criminal. When I think back and calculate the absolute total of what we spent over the last 2 years in health insurance after we got off of Mark’s COBRA (which wasn’t a walk in the park either, but at least the plan covered 100% of everything), it makes me angry. I know it’s supposedly in bad form to talk about the specifics of money (unless you’re Asian. Then everyone in your family is all up in everyone else’s business), but I’m going to tell you what we spent, if only to demonstrate everything that’s wrong with the American health care system. You might want to sit down for this.
No, that’s not an extra digit there. There isn’t a typo here. The kicker is that it’s not even the best health insurance you can buy. We still have deductibles, co-insurance and co-pays (edit for clarification: annual checkups and such are 100% covered, no co-pays. We haven’t had to pay outside of our monthly premiums for any medical services ). Of that $31,215, approximately $4,000 went towards paying for actual medical expenses in the last 2 years, half of which went to Mia’s ER visit in Seattle last summer.
I’m beginning to realize that health insurance in this country is like gambling. I know we need it. You can’t just coast by without it and hope that you don’t get hit by a car like when you were young, unmarried and without kids. That’s a gamble and I know many families do it, but paying $16,000 a year is a gamble too. No matter how you spin things and say that it’s the responsible thing to do, I feel like the big loser. It’s $31,000 that I’ll never get back (why can’t premiums be like rollover minutes? You know, you don’t use it one month, you roll it over to the next?). I don’t even really know how we paid for it, but we did, every penny and I think I guilted myself into thinking that if we didn’t have the best insurance plan on the market that we could (not really) afford, that I’d be gambling away our health and finances. But with our premiums expected to go up another $200 a month when it’s time to renew our policy in the spring, I’m left with no choice but to make a big change. I’ve decided to switch carriers and go with a plan that has higher deductibles, co-insurance and co-pays, but is $500 less a month (well, actually $700 less with the annual increase in our premium). When I realized that I was finally ok with taking on the gamble of a higher deductible plan, I suddenly felt much lighter. I whipped out the calculator and did the math. I made comparison charts. I mapped out various medical disaster scenarios and wireframed it on paper. I’ve concluded that even if we were to have some medical issues and emergencies and had to pay out of pocket with our own money, we still come out ahead in most cases. This realization is like freedom, it’s unexplainable, it feels like I’m taking matters into my own hands and making a decision that’s right for us based on our healthy medical history instead of blindly paying a bill we can’t afford because I think it’s the right thing to do. I’m taking that extra money and putting in in the bank every month just in case, god forbid, something does happen. And if another year goes by and we don’t need that money for medical bills? 7k pays for a pretty nice vacation.
Posted by Jenna | 54 Comments