I Feel Better Without Health Insurance

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?

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22 thoughts on “I Feel Better Without Health Insurance

  1. Scott @ GenSwiss

    The amount I pay out of pocket for health ‘insurance’ every month is enough for me to take out a mortgage on a small house. Another option is I could buy three modest new cars with that money and comfortably make the payments. Additionally, the company’s share in the cost is sizeable…Despite that, I have a ungodly huge deductible and the things they cover 100% is nil. It is sad that it’s the best plan available for our company. Small business gets the shaft every time. This system is disgustingly broken.

    Good for you for giving them the boot.

  2. Larry A

    We carried that same exact policy with anthem for years. One day, my wife took ill at the young age of 34. She was diagnosed with cancer…I won’t go into what kind. Over the next 2 years, we racked up just over $1 Million in medical bills from surgeries, chemo and radiation treatments. Today, she is a survivor of 8 years because we had that insurance and we’re still in business. Without the insurance, she may not have gotten the top quality medical attention needed and we may have lost everything to the medical bills that would have racked up. Who knows if she would have survived. I’m grateful for that catastrophic policy we pay every month for. We had an out of pocket expense of $4000 each year and everything else was covered.

    I hope the woman writing this never has to go through what we did without insurance.

  3. BR-549

    Too many of the insurance dollars go to administrators and not real health care costs, just padding up those between the care and the payer. Our financially broke government cannot afford one more dollar toward anything. They should get the deficit to zero and then the interest dollars could be used toward medical. And if anyone digs deeper, the doctors are told what they are going to get paid (the insurance company takes their discount first) and with what is left, they have to buy malpractice insurance. Down side there is they are in something called “practice”. People are all different and have slightly different illinesses so doctors stay current by practicing. What we might need is one of those checker pants lawyers to stop chasing ambulances and hanging out in emergency rooms to write a single document stating the patient cannot sue the doctor, perior for any reason. So all of us pay the doctors insurance costs too. Notice, it’s insurance costs, not health costs. Our government has no business getting into health care. All of their programs cost 3 or more times what they project and the $1.4 trillion will not even get that ball rolling. Health care graduates with student loans should be offered reduced payments while they practice on those without insurance (with some help from a seasoned doctor). This could relieve the volume at emergency rooms where those without insurance show up. Plus there is the personal responsibility. If you have gold teeth, a big cell phone plan, tatoos, drug and alcohol abuse plus other socially demanded things, get rid of them and pay for your medical care. And those of us in lower middle class, we get stuck paying for everything.

  4. Nick Bloom

    I haven’t had the guts to do what Emily did but think about doing it all the time. The medical system is effed-up. I got a bill for $3K for a 25 minute office visit to have a “skin tag” removed. This makes no sense. I do not begrudge my subsidizing health care for low income individuals but I do begrudge the medical industry’s outrageous charges and abuse of their authority. Free market capitalism cannot solve this problem because it’s not a true free market. Government has essentially mandated that no one can be denied health care services, therefore those who have the money to pay are subsidizing those who don’t. OK, I’m not happy with this but can understand it. What drives me crazy is that medical costs are being driven up by those who take no responsibility for the cost, including government, employees with fancy insurance programs that cover anything and everything, low income individuals who get health care without paying for it, and most of all, the medical industry itself – who play the system and work every angle to maximize billing. There is no easy answer, though. I’m afraid that this problem will never be fixed and it will factor in to a continual, degrading of our standard of living.

  5. Kim

    I’m also young and healthy, but I do have health insurance. The peace of mind of knowing that if something unfortunate like Larry A’s story happened to me or my family I would have coverage is worth it. Perhaps the difference is the mindset. I don’t pay much, but also don’t expect the small stuff to be covered (and I consider what you’ve listed as all small stuff). I have it for the peace of mind that the big stuff, should I ever need it, will be. Yes, I pay a lot more than I get out of it. But to be honest, I’d rather not be getting my money’s worth – I’d rather be healthy.

    Yes there’s a lot of fluff to be trimmed and I don’t agree with mandated healthcare. Taking the risk is (at least at this point) your choice – I hope you never come to regret it.

  6. Bob Worzalla

    Until about a year ago I was on my wifes policy that was provided by the midsized that she for. Between what the company paid and our contribution the cost was about $950/month. The coverage was good. We live a healthy lifestyle and are both physically active but have conditions that make it impossible to get affordable individual insurance.
    The company that my wife worked for was sold to an investment group and went from a very good place to work to someplace you did not want to go. My wife now works with me whichhas been a good thing

  7. Rick Miller

    I just had an out-patient “procedure” which our insurer would not cover due to pre-existing condition. Our option was to pay for the service in advance, in cash, without benefit of insurance. It cost us $3800. When I inquired about the insured cost from the hospital & other providers, this same procedure, billed with insurance, would have cost at least $20K.

  8. Peter @ Polygon

    I’ve been more and more interested in self care and natural medicine as an alternative to ‘big’ health and to take advantage of preventative care. Our family has offset our helath care expenses with alternatives that have less side effects and seem better for our environment. I think the health insurance companies are tapping in to the trend, promoting new wellness visits as preventative, but the less costly solutions I’m finding probably don’t fit their business model.

  9. Bob Worzalla

    That said we had to purchase substandard but still expensive insurance. Last summer I needed to go to the Emergency Room for my pre existing condition. The ER doctor asked me if I had insurance I said no (my condition was not covered by my insurance) The doctor then said no problem you own a business. I would have walked right then my condition is not life threatening. instead I found myself in a very expensive extra care room on the 8th floor waiting 2 days for a 15 minute proceedure that has always been done as a walk in proceedure. Thousands of dollars for nothing.
    This is one reason insurance is so expensive. I have been treated in the ER for my condition numerous times the cost was between $1000 and $1300 each time. But this doctor had an empty room to fill and ran up a bill for me.
    I cancelled my insurance waited 6 months without insurance and have applied for a state guaranteed program for people with pre existing conditions. Next time it comes up I hope that I will be covered.

  10. Jim

    Health coverage and retirement planning are going to bankrupt the country. The reasons for example for government retirement policy’s are they use a defined benefit plans. The reason for health insurance is cost out weighs revenue.
    State Governments continue mandating insurance to include a boatload of coverages that the individual doesn’t need or want.
    The problem is compounded by the subsidies by the employer whether public or private. This issue is the user doesn’t know what the insurance costs or cares. Buyer beware is really the only fix to the system. If the state and federal government would get out of the health care business, oversee is fine but don’t compete, that would be the first good thing, there costs are out of line. The second thing is the user/individual pay 100%, like car insurance. The benefit is the buyer will buy only what they need and the cost will become more competitive as there will be personal review of every coverage and the consumer will demand more efficient pricing and more effective services. People can and will do a good job policing there policy. Lastly, by the private citizen purchasing what they need, mandating insurance is no longer necessary. The federal government should NOT MANDATE COVERAGE FOR EVERYONE, this is unconstitutional.

  11. trashcup

    Unfortunately there are some really stupid people out in our world. These same people smoke packs of cigarettes, get cancer and expect the “system” to take care of them – whether they have insurance or not. Instead the “system” is you and me paying for their care in the form of increased premiums and increased costs when WE visit the ER. George Bush said we already had a health plan for the poor – it’s called the ER.

    I guess when this woman has a bus or truck run into her car and breaks her legs, bruises her brain or worse, she can just go to the ER and they will take care of her – no worries. But maybe she’s planning on living in a bubble and never getting in a car and never having lightning strike a tree in her yard crashing down on her house or never finding a lump somewhere on her body. Good for her. I hope it works but I don’t think so. Lousy plan.

    Some of these health care folks are serious about getting paid, but she’ll find out when they go after her car, her house and her wages.

    She needs to thank the rest of us who are carrying the burden of her health care for her.

  12. Jack

    Your question is: “Should the government cover everybody?”
    I would say YES the government should make insurance available to everybody.
    It would be up to the individual to decide if he trusts the government with his healthcare decisions. The government plan must follow all the rules that it mandates to private insurance companies. It is ok if the government can run a non profit insurance company. But it must be run as a business. It can’t be subsidized by the tax payers. The insurance must be paid for by individual premiums.
    Personally, I like the idea of a (tax deductible) medical savings account. I think the individual should be in control of how much and where he spends his money. The government should set the rules for all to play by, including Senators & Congressmen. The Dr.’s and Hospitals should be required to publish prices or give a good faith estimate of a non emergency procedure. It’s not right to get a bill six months after your hospital stay, from a doctor you’ve never heard of, just because he sticks his head in the room and asks, “how are you feeling?”

    You should be able to buy a policy from any company when you are 21 years old. And keep the policy forever. As long as you make your payment they cannot cancel. All 21 year old’s who sign the same year you sign get the same price. If the price goes up for one, if goes up for all. If you drop your coverage or let it lapse you cannot wait until you break your leg to re-insure. You have to make up the back premiums to get back in the group. Or join a new age group at a higher cost.
    I think there should be a limit to how much medical service an uninsured person can receive without paying anything. At some point public money has to be cut off. Once they hit that limit they can be turned away.
    We are all going to die. At some point money does not make any difference.

  13. Steven Balder

    The challenge with health care coverage is that there is more than one major factor driving costs constantly up: 1)Cost transfer- i.e. inner city uninsured walkin gunshot wound victims’ treatment cost passed on indirectly to insured patients at suburban hospital through higher costs billed for services. 2)Litigation expense- i.e. costs carried over to other patients through malpractice insurance and standard procedural treatments to help minimize risk of malpractice exposure for failing to perform all standard tests or pursuing an alternative course of treatment. 3)Increasing life expectancy- i.e. healthcare used to cost a lot less when people died younger. 4)Availability of amazing new medicines and procedures- i.e. twenty years ago your kid would have died, now we have an advanced procedure that will save his life and can be billed to your insurance company. 5)Administrative Waste- i.e. the cost of healthcare not directly related to the products and services provided to make a patient well such as the cost of filing complex paperwork, or *gasp* insurance company overhead and profits. 6)Health issues related to… well.. a person’s health- i.e. the 5 pounds of deepfried fat and sugar the kids have been eating everyday may cause them to have increased need for healthcare services as adults.

    People are unwilling to let the uninsured gunshot wound victim die in the parking lot, accept unsafe or untested medicines, tolerate incompetent doctors, commit suicide when they turn fifty because that’s when their grandparents died, let their kid die when an advanced medical procedure is available because it’s expensive, sit in a waiting room that doesn’t have a custom built saltwater aquarium and the latest copy of Sports Illustrated, or even eat some celery sticks and take a walk. If we aren’t willing to give on any of these things, then the cost has to keep going up. The only thing that can be done is to have higher deductibles, fewer things covered like prescriptions for little blue E.D. pills, and raise premiums.

    I can definitely understand bowing out of the system, and taking the risk.

  14. Harry Pappas

    Fact of the matter is since the federal and state governments got involved in the medical business, medical costs have skyrocketed — just like everything else they’ve gotten their dirty hands involved on — which is the entire American economy. Americans have mindlessly, or ignorantly, bought into their politician’s and government’s socialist schemes and now are paying the price … rich getting richer, poor getting poorer and the middle class rapidly shrinking. James Madison warned in Federalists 48 that government power “is of an encroaching nature.” If unresisted, it produces iniquitous sharing of other people’s property. Hope ya’ll like the socialist gov you’ve created. Now take your “medicine.”

  15. Mike Richads

    Let’s assume that th government is insuring everone. Now, can they say “no” to a treatment? Will we be outraged if they do say “no”? Won’t doctors opt out of the program If the government sets a limit on doctor reimbursement?
    My wife is a sonographer. Most of her patients are charit patients. They are “entitled” to her services and they are very rude and demanding. She believes that people who pay for services are more reasonable.
    So how do we design a system in which patients are motivated to pay attention to costs and shop for appropriate services? How can we become educated consumers of health care?
    Anyone have the good idea?

  16. Paul

    The system is not fully broken, the American people are. It’s always the big greedy insurance companies at fault for the high cost. And if you think the cost is high now wait until the government gets a hold of it. Hopefully they won’t. Oh sure, the cost might become lower for individuals but collectively the government will rack up the cost, already estimated to be over $1T according to the CBO and it will be out of sight and therefore out of mind for most who don’t pay taxes or just don’t care about the dangerous debt this country is ringing up. It’s mind-boggling.

    Can the system be improved? Absolutely. But Americans need to fix themselves first. 60 percent of Americans are overweight with over 35 percent obese. http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/facts.html Since 1985, the obesity rate went from roughly 10 percent to over 35 percent. American diets are filled with empty high calories, high sodium, insane sugar amounts and most don’t get their daily or weekly work out. Our portion sizes at meal time are twice to three times what is necessary. Yet no one wants to talk about this weight epidemic. The cost and health consequences of being obese or overweight are enormous yet those greedy insurance companies are so bad. Further, we demand the best quality care with the best products and technology available. We have huge litigation issues, huge administration cost, etc. We are also a huge pill popping nation – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2142481/Americans-consume-80-percent-worlds-pain-pills-prescription-drug-abuse-epidemic-explodes.html

    As Jim states, the government needs to stay clear of our health care. I should be able to get health insurance ANY where in the country with all insurance companies competing for my business. Insurance should NOT be tied to employment but rather employers could offer insurance contributions similar to a 401K contribution or retirement. My insurance company should be able to or be encouraged to offer me discounts similar to my life insurance based on my healthy life style, where I choose to live, etc.


    Life must be really difficult for those at an age with great expectation for a long and well cared for life. My needs are simple. I am more likely to have need for an embalmer than a medical specialist. On the 8th of July I will be 92.
    The debate about health coverage will not be resolved without a sea-change in the attitudes of a large part of our population. When it comes to health services, stop the greed of both the providers and the receivers.
    Right now, if one wants contracted health services they have to know that they are not only financing their own, but they have been financing Cadillac grade health care for their neighbors and, be sure these neighbors could care less what it costs you. The immodest healthcare of public employees has been the objective of public union leaders to indenture the wealth producing sector of our economy. Just think, if this is so screwed up at local level now what it will cost you administered at the Federal level.
    The effort of the Ruethers to nationalize the auto industry has almost been achieved. Here is not a case of Cadillac grade health coverage, but industry/public financed Rolls Royce grade coverage. The UAW perks almost bankrupted GM and Chrysler, but were saved by Obamas Robin Hood scam that robbed the bond holders of their equity while recapitalizing the auto health trust with a gift of capital to the UAW. When you are looking for health care you can’t do better than that.
    Shakespeare wrote,”first, let’s kill all the lawyers.” Tort reform is needed. Excess and punitive damages should be reassessed. Cut out these lottery level awards and let’s add a large dose of honesty and ethics to the legal profession. Punitive awards should go to the state for correctional programs targeted to reducing such offenses.
    I could go on for a long time, but its 03:13 and my sleep interrupted recess is at an end.
    This wont cost you a penny. Goodluck and goodhealth and if you get neither there is always time to remember, what the hell has happened to this country.

  18. Shackled and Drawn

    No to government care. My co-workers don’t understand that the majority of our pay is for taxes and health care.
    Our son was born 3 months pre-mature. My wife was on bed rest for both of our children.
    The medical bills have exceeded $ 1 million for all three over 15 years. I have given up on
    a career and work nights to watch our children. Be careful about not having insurance.



  20. Jim Goerges

    Everyone has rights it seems like today except for the taxpayer, you know, the 49% of American’s that actually pays taxes. The progressive left is singing to the tune of Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show’s, “Freaker’ Ball”. If you don’t believe me, just look at the homepage of this blog…….

  21. Bill Hopcraft

    Bravo, Emily! The insurance industry has invaded every facet of our lives and I’m sick and tired of it. It’s all based on FUD – fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Tell people how uncertain the future can be, cause doubt about their ability to cope with problems, make them fearful of the potential consequences, and then offer insurance.

    Not until people stop buying health insurance will anything change. The thought of more government involvement sends chills up my spine.

  22. Mark J

    Are you getting ripped off – yes. Insurance Industry, Goverment, Large Corporations – many complain, some, like Emily, bail out all together. I’d often like to. History and examples have showed though that over the long term working in the system, although it is often really messed up, is the simpler option.


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