Thursday, February 16, 2012
Life Without Health Insurance
Being in my 20s I was still riding on that "I'm invincible" delusion where nothing could truly put me out. I was young, healthy, and led a fairly cautious life. But as the years wore on and sicknesses, pains, stress, allergies, the flu came and went and came back again, I grew more worried. I started wondering what I'd do if I were ever hit by a car whenever I'd walk down the street, morbidly wondering if the more time ticked on and the more streets I crossed, the higher the chances that this Russian Roulette could do me in.
As a freelancer, I was earning a good amount to sustain my lifestyle, but still not nearly enough to tack on private health insurance. My employers offered coverage to contractors through a third party, but those were just as astronomically high ($1000+ per month!) because of the pay bracket I fell under. I also didn't qualify for state programs typically given to low-income earners because I wasn't bringing in peanuts each week either. Eventually I relented and joined the Freelancers Union solely for their group plan. Yes, I could have gone into a clinic for my yearly check-ups, but I was also seeking ongoing care from a specialist and I didn't want to keep playing with fire. Sad thing is, with the plan I could afford, there's still the potential of having my savings take a hit as the deductible I'd have to pay out-of-pocket is high and the company will only cover a certain percentage after that amount is met. So really what am I paying for each month here?
I came across Kevin Zelnio's post on Scientific American via Boing Boing last night and immediately connected with his fear of living without insurance and how it takes us longer to seek medical care when we need it. In fact, his plight is even more extreme as he has a family of four to maintain. He shows us that the uninsured are not all unemployed, poor, or irresponsible: approximately 49.1 million non-elderly Americans are uninsured and 41 percent of them are 100 percent above the federal poverty level. We work hard, but sometimes it's just not enough to pay the high price private companies have placed on keeping us alive. Why does my health and well-being have to rest in the hands of a company whose bottom line is turning a profit?
I finally signed up for insurance in December. In January, I lost half my income and once again am considering taking a risk with my health just to ease the financial burden. Perhaps now I'll qualify for something cheaper until either my self-employment kicks back up or I walk back into an office - and that's if my future employer offers insurance of their own.
Where do you lie with health insurance? Are you under your employer's or spouse's plan? Or are you self-employed/unemployed and wondering how you're going to make do?
P.S. Here are some options for the uninsured (here, too) and resources for New Yorkers.