My husband is employed full time and has the option of participating in a group health plan through his employer and we have always participated. Typically, we had a $30 co-pay and about a $1000 deductible per person. We have 8 (no that isn’t a typo) children ages 10-22 and my husband survived a major stroke in 2008 so having access to good healthcare has always been a must in our minds. This year however, we were told that the cost of premiums (money out of our pockets) was going to increase from approximately $16,000 a year to about $20,000 per year with less benefits which meant higher deductibles and co-pays. We discussed it, did the numbers as they say and decided we would go this year without any health insurance for the children and I and instead put money into a Health Savings Account. My husband is covered free of premium costs through his company so we signed him up in case he were to have another stroke because his first stroke cost about $50,000 which the insurance policy paid for.
Can you imagine what you would do with an extra $20,000 a year? Exactly! We could pay off our house quicker, pay off the credit card debt and put money into a fund for our kids’ college. It seemed like a no-brainer despite all of the recent hype about “Obamacare” and how citizens are dying without health insurance. In the back of my mind I know there are laws that mean if one of us were to be hurt or sick we could go to the Emergency Room and they could not turn us away.
I can’t say it has been easy. I have worried that my son, who is heavily involved in school-sponsored sports, might be injured. He did break his arm last year playing football and watching him bound over those hurdles in track leaves me clenching the edge of my seat. I worry when my very active 13 year-old daughter goes out and climbs trees or that my 10-year-old might get hurt on the playground at school. We have had a couple of bouts of flu like illnesses over the winter and some sore throats this spring thanks to the pollen. I have been able to successfully treat these illnesses at home without going to the doctor using home remedies and over the counter products even though my motherly instinct was to rush them to the ER or doctor at the first sign of a high fever. Most doctors however will tell you that a fever is not always a bad thing in a lot of cases. It is the body doing its job to get rid of the infection or whatever is invading the body.
Thankfully, we have made it through the first quarter of 2012 and no one has been injured and we have not had to visit the doctor. My son needed a physical to participate in sports next year and we opted to pay the $20 for him to get his physical at school which is even cheaper than the co-pay I used to pay to get his physicals when we had health insurance.
This experiment is not for the weak of heart. It’s not for people who have no savings, live paycheck to paycheck or have pre-existing conditions requiring frequent doctor visits. It has taught me a lot though. When we come to depend on something and then we don’t have it anymore our instinct is to panic, but if you remain calm, do your research and educate yourself and know the difference between a minor illness and a health condition that actually requires a doctor’s intervention then we could save a lot of time and money spent in the ER and doctor’s office only to be told what we already know, that the best cure for most illnesses is chicken soup and the comfort of your mom.
So while the politicians continue to debate and argue over our health care and we wait on the Supreme Court to decide the fate of Obamacare, we continue to use that extra money to pay down debt, raise our credit scores and pray that sometime in the near future the out of pocket medical costs for consumers will decrease.