Even though I am a 30-year-old homeowner who is financially stable and university educated, I have no health insurance. And now I’ve completely given up on the whole business.
I tried for years to be a responsibly insured person and the experience was frustrating. Because I work as an independent contractor I am not offered health insurance through work, and I don’t qualify for any state assisted programs because my husband and I make too much money.
I used to worry constantly when we didn’t have insurance. We listened to the horror stories in the news of people’s life savings being wiped out by an accident or unexpected illness and took the message to heart − you must have health insurance or you will eventually regret it. That fear led us to purchase a $180 a month individual health care plan through Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield of Indiana. The plan’s $11,000 deductible left a lump in my throat as I wrote the check every month to the for-profit insurance giant that wouldn’t cover basic doctor visits and whose monthly premiums didn’t nearly offset any prescriptions.
A recent visit to the endocrinologist for a basic blood workup that I had been led to believe would be covered under the policy’s “preventative care” clause resulted in a $250 bill for the five minute appointment and an additional bill of $650 from a hospital that the doctor’s office had outsourced extensive blood work to that I unknowingly authorized. When I called the doctor’s office to ask why I was receiving a bill for services I didn’t even know were being ordered, they told me that they had a poster on the wall in the waiting room that stated they may send work out, so I was responsible for the charges. My disgust at the whole system and the feeling that I had been cheated led me to make a five minute phone call to Blue Cross requesting that the insurance plan be canceled.
My husband and I, 29 and 30 respectively, with no medical problems or regular prescriptions, are for the time being wholeheartedly willing to take the risk of living without insurance. We tried to play the insurance game. We tried to be good Americans contributing to the good of the whole. But we lost, and we’ve quit the game until something that’s affordable and works better becomes available.
Even though I am at peace with our decision to live without the false sense of security having that insurance plan brought us, and the $2,200 we sent every year to Blue Cross is now sitting safely in the bank, each time I take my teenage foster son to the doctor or the emergency room a twinge of jealously hits me. He’s never once thought about if he can afford to go to the doctor. He just goes, hands over his Medicaid number, and poof, he’s taken care of.
My experience with kids and their families on Medicaid made me a defender of Mitt Romney’s statement about how the poor were being taken care of in America and the middle class weren’t. In the midst of the tizzy he created, and while the Democrats were making him out to be an uncaring monster, I totally understood where he was coming from. I’ve seen the parents of our foster children rotate in and out of the hospital almost weekly on Medicaid’s tab. I’ve seen the emergency room treated like a rehab facility as the parents kick their habit for a few days. And I’ve heard from my Aunt, a nurse at a huge downtown University hospital for 30 years, about the games people play to stay one more night or receive that next dose of painkiller.
It was a relief when the insurance ties were cut. No more feeling taken advantage of. No more games. If I am sick, I pay for my care. If I have a serious illness or an accident, I will pay what I can each month directly to the hospital until the bill is paid in full. Now if I need to go to the doctor I tell them upfront that I have no insurance and will be paying cash. I ask what the cash discount is and usually get about 25% knocked off the bill. I write the check to the office directly for the services I receive, and it’s satisfying.
That surprise hospital bill that showed up in the mail taught me that as long as they are being paid something regularly, the hospital is content and will basically leave you alone. I send in just $20 a month to be put toward the $650 bill for the unauthorized blood work I’m on the hook for. That’s 32.5 months the hospital will be waiting to receive my payment in full. And it feels good.
Question: Should the government cover everybody?