Thing I Do Right: Have Health Insurance

Sometimes even people who don’t do very many things right do things right. What do you do right? Here’s a thing I do right.

I’m bad with money, hardy har har har, but: I’m not bad at everything. It’s important to give ourselves credit for the things we do right, and one thing I do right is that I have health insurance.

After I graduated from college, my dad paid for coverage for me for nine months. Then my job gave me insurance. Then I quit and paid for COBRA. Then I got another job that gave me insurance. Then I quit and got independent insurance, and that’s what I have now.

My current premium is $132/month, with a $5,000 deductible and a $30 co-pay. This is … fine. It allows me to go to the doctor when I’m sick, but doesn’t let me indulge in the personal cancer-scare-mongering I was so fond of in my youth (I tried that once with this plan, positive that I had ovarian cancer, you know, the symptomless cancer, and it was the one year I met my deductible). My plan doesn’t have mental health coverage, which is a hassle because it means I can only go to therapy when I’m flush and that I have to screen general practitioners based on their willingness to code my “depression” as “fatigue.” One day I’ll be able to afford the good stuff.

The reason I do this good thing for myself while forgoing other good things for myself is because my parents trained me to believe that it was The One Rule That Was Never To Be Broken, and for whatever reason, I chose to believe them. (Other rules that were never to be broken, but were broken: keeping a balance on credit cards, spending money without knowing where your next money was coming from, quitting a job without having a new job, buying plane tickets while unemployed, making life decisions based on a dude, etc.) This one, however, stuck, and I’m glad it did. It reminds me that I am capable of holding things together. Or at least this one thing.

Photo credit: flickr/aslakr

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25 Comments / Post A Comment

RosemaryF (#345)

I’m considered “good with money,” but what I really am is “tight fisted,” and I’ve never been willing to pay for COBRA.

Also, I like hearing that you are doing things right and I think you should post at least one of these a week to counterbalance the others.

nonvolleyball (#305)

let me chime in here to commend you for having health insurance & plead with EVERYONE reading this to have, at the very least, something that covers emergencies.

signed, someone whose appendix burst when she was 27 & perfectly healthy, & who would have >$200k in medical bills if she’d been uninsured, except not really, because she probably would’ve waited longer to go to the hospital if that were the case, & thus would actually be dead now.

NoReally (#45)

You know the number that is much more important than the deductible? The Out of Pocket Limit. Many programs will have you meet your deductible, and then you’ll keep paying a percentage of the charges, until you reach the out of pocket limit. That can be the same as your deductible, but it might also be a hell of a lot higher. People who are selling you insurance, or telling you about the benefits they offer, always refer to the deductible, but the out of pocket is what matters if you actually need a doctor someday.

And yeah, get some kind of coverage. When you’re the one in the hospital bed, it will be your family they’re making pay before they patch you up. And it won’t be a signature they want, it will be actual money. And they will really truly refuse to treat you. The emergency room has to put a cast on your arm if you show up there, but when what you need is chemo, they will go on and let you die, waiting for you to “arrange payment.”

This is like, super embarrassing, but I figure this is a safe space. I’ve been on my parent’s health insurance all my life (they are both teachers), and this year I will most likely get my own teaching job and therefore my own insurance. However, I know absolutely nothing about insurance. I know the co-pay is what I pay for a doctor’s visit. But what is a deductible, exactly? And this “Out of Pocket Limit”? I’ve had sooo many conversations with friends and family members about doctors visits and insurance lately (minor health scare, everything’s cool) without knowing what the hell I’m talking about. I’ve gotten this far because I, thank goodness, have generally excellent health. Any kind souls out there want to knock some sense into me?

Redacted (#326)

@Pete Quinn@twitter A deductible is basically the minimum amount that you’re responsible for paying for before your insurance kicks in. So, for example, Logan has a $5,000 deductible, so if she has a hospital visit that costs $7,000, she pays for the first 5K and then insurance pays for the balance. Higher deductibles = cheaper insurance, because they pay for less. My impression is that most work-sponsored health insurance plans have a much lower deductible, but I would not know about that.

Okay so someone fill me in on the Out of Pocket Limit now..

Where do you get health insurance so cheaply??? I’m so jealous.

jane lane (#281)

@Sarah Rain@facebook the fact that $132/mo is considered cheap is about to give me a panic attack. I REALLY need the thing where I can stay on my parent’s health insurance until I’m 26 not to overturned because I don’t really make very much and I definitely haven’t figured paying for my own insurance into my budget, even though I subscribe to the same thing about it being the rule that’s not to be broken.

Also: I don’t understand deductibles. Can we next get deductibles explained?

@jane lane I pay about $460 a month. Through work. For just me. Yippee

andrewcarl (#5,308)

My mother is so glad she had a good health insurance policy, she paid a lot for it and often complained that she spends money in vain. When she got diagnosed with chronic diabetes a lot of things changed for her, now she is staying at the Buena Vida Estates living community and enjoys spending time and having fun with her new friends.

frenz.lo (#455)

Another thing that even cheap, crappy insurance offers is the UCR, the rate the insurance company decides the doctor is allowed to charge for whatever visit or test or procedure, even things they don’t really cover. Even if you end up paying mostly out of pocket, it’s still less than it would be without insurance, even though the insurance company is also not paying it.

How to get this health insurance on ones own?? I desperately want to be on health insurance, but I have no idea how to even start the research. I’ve never had to pay for it on my own!

Redacted (#326)

@Brenna Foster@facebook Depending on where you live and what type of job you do, the Freelancers Union is cheaper than others and they’ve always done well by me. I think I pay around $380/month in New York State.

That sounds so sad thinking about it now, though.

@Redacted Yeah, 380 a month is double what Logan said she is paying. I have looked into the freelaancers union, too, but it seems so absurdly expensive! 380/month is 4560/year which is a huge percentage of some people’s income. That’s like half a month of rent. For some people. …

Ben E. Fitz (#459)

Hey folks, new poster here, but I’ve worked a few years in the benefits / insurance field. (Don’t worry, I’m not here to sell anything to anybody. pinkie swear)

Ben E. Fitz (#459)

@Pete Quinn: Your health plan’s deductible kinda works like the deductible on your auto insurance: It’s money you have to pay out-of-pocket before your insurer will start “kicking in” by helping to pay for covered treatment. So with car insurance you may have a $500 deductible, and that means it wouldn’t be worthwhile to call up Geico if you scratch your paint job pulling out of a parking garage… same thing with your health plan. It’s in place to make sure that you’re not going to contact Blue Cross over every teeny little thing, you’re gonna hold off until you have a serious medical issue. (contd)

Ben E. Fitz (#459)

(contd) In the original post, Logan said she has a $5000 deductible, which is fairly high even for an individual plan. Under group plans, like you get from your employer or, say, the Freelancers Union, your deductible would likely be between $500 and $2,000. (Some plans even have zero-dollar deductibles, which, yay.)

One way that the health insurance / car insurance analogy differs is how often you have to pay your deductible. With auto insurance, you pay your deductible every time something happens to your car. With health plans, the amount resets annually, usually by calendar year. Deliver your baby in December? You’re probably going to reach your deductible, if you had not already reached it for that year. Slip and break your foot the following January? Sorry about that, but new year = new deductible. And the “Out Of Pocket Maximum” amounts that @NoReally mentioned usually work the same way.

Ben E. Fitz (#459)

Now Logan also mentioned her plan has a $30 copay, which isn’t bad. You can think of copays (short for copayments) as your “price of admission” to see a health professional one time: regular doctor, specialist (e.g., ob-gyn), chiropractor, physical therapist, acupuncturist (if that’s covered under your plan; it pays to ask about those details).

Keep in mind, the full-ticket price of these visits (what someone with no insurance at all would pay) is usually much more, say $100 per visit, maybe $200 or more. But that’s part of the benefit of having insurance, even a crappy policy: The doctor’s office still quotes a charge of $200, but Blue Cross chisels that down to $120, then they pay $90 and you pay $30 via the copay. Simple, right? :-)

@Ben E. Fitz You’re a mensch. I feel much more equipped to live as a grown-ass person now. Thank you so much.

Ben E. Fitz (#459)

(again, I’m not shilling for Geico, Blue Cross or any other provider. just use those as shorthand for “car insurance co.” or “health insurance co.”)

cmcm (#267)

I would just like to say that as someone living in the UK this conversation baffles me a little bit. Universal free healthcare for all!

ru_ri (#217)

I have a high-deductible plan like Logan, but it also allows me to open an HSA, which is a bank account into which I can put money, tax-free, to cover the things I pay for before I reach my deductible. This means that as long as I document my expenses, the part of my income I use to pay for my health care (including chiropractic) is not taxed. And also, thanks to the Affordable Health Care Act or whatever it’s called (which my state representative is for some reason trying like mad to get rid of, the asswaffle) I get annual checkups absolutely free.

DillyBean (#483)

@ru_ri Health care spending accounts are the best!

@Everyone Take advantage of your HSA account (sometimes HCSA) if it’s available! You want to budget conservatively, since you can’t get the money back, but it means that co-pays, transportation to doctor’s offices, glasses, prescription sunglasses, the dental stuff that isn’t covered by my dental insurance because dental insurance blows, all that stuff is at basically a 30% discount because the money isn’t taxed.

Ben E. Fitz (#459)

@Pete: Happy to help! and please, call me Ben

@Ben E. Fitz Hey! On the off-chance you will see this, I am a little confused.
Okay, Logan has a $5,000 deductible. Does this mean if she goes to the doctor, pays her $30 copay, does that mean she has to pay the $90 or whatever that the doctor appointment costs because she hasn’t reached $5,000 first? Thanks!

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