Penny Wise, Pound Foolish: Health Insurance
Last week, I started a series on Queercents on little expenses that we often overlook that end up costing us money over the long run, even if they appear to save money in the short run. Now, today’s topic is awfully controversial, but I posit that it is also undeniably necessary. Until there’s universal healthcare, you need health insurance!
Trust me. I know it’s expensive. I know that it costs more than virtually anything else you’ll spend money on monthly. I know that right behind rent, you will pay more for health insurance than you’ll pay for food, your phone, your utilities, or your car. But you know what?
You need health insurance. It is the one expense that you are guaranteed to incur in your life, no matter what. Sure, homeowner’s insurance can be something of a gamble: if you live in an area where earthquakes are frequent, flood protection seems stupid. Life insurance can also seem to be a waste, as most healthy adults will not die prior to retirement age and therefore that’s money you’ll never get back. But health insurance? Even if you exercise every day, eat well, and have genetics to put athletes to shame, you will still get sick. You still run the risk of getting heart disease, lung disease, cancer, or any other host of ailments that can strike in a lifetime.
So what to do when you’re cutting expenses? Well, if you’re young or if you’re in good health, you don’t have to pay for the higher premium if you pay for health insurance through work. You can go with a healthcare plan where you pay a higher copay every time you go to the doctor.
But how much sense does that make? Sometimes it’s a savings of $20 to $30 a month, true. But the deductible on these plans is often much higher so if you have to have work done, you’ll end up paying out of pocket anyway. It makes more sense to pay a little more in to the system to get a greater yield. I’ve found that paying a bit more for health insurance, I go to the doctor when it’s necessary but also when it’s preventative. Knowing that every procedure is covered 100%, I am more willing to press for having work done that could save my life.
If you are self-employed, there’s a strong temptation to fly without insurance. Trust me, as a freelancer, it’s easy to overlook the cost of health insurance when you’re comfortable with your earnings. Imagine what the incredible expense would be without insurance though. Even something as simple as an urgent care visit can be upwards of $1,000, not to mention the lost wages from not working. There are plenty of resources out there if you’re stuck. I recommend starting with the Freelancers Union if you need resources. Also, your state health department often keeps a list of health insurance companies. If you’re having trouble making ends meet, at least consider paying for basic health care or an indemnity plan. Simply put, an indemnity plan is crappy insurance. It doesn’t cover much, but it covers something. And frankly, something in this case is better than nothing.
Don’t forget–all you partnered people out there can frequently get coverage from your partner’s insurance. There are tax penalties for this since you’re not technically married but, well, political issues aside, you need coverage. Some employers, such as Google, actually compensate their employees more to make up for the tax penalty, but that’s rare as hen’s teeth. If you have an employer, be sure to also look into a tax-free health expense account. It’s like a savings account so you can pay for routine health care expenses such as doctor’s visits and other care without paying taxes on them. The only catch is that you have to spend all of the money by the end of the year, so it pays to play it a little conservative. For young adults who don’t have routine expenses, a couple hundred can go a long way.
What’s your health insurance situation? Have you been overlooking some much-needed care? Let me know in the comments below!