I'm never one to tell people what to do, but I'm about to go on a bit of a soap box.
Everyone needs to have health insurance. If you don't have health insurance, you are essentially holding a gun to your own head and clicking through the barrels repeatedly, just asking for the bullet to embed itself in your brain.
I was once young and stupid with delusions of grandeur. I believed I'd never get sick and health insurance was a waste of money I could be spending in far more fun places.
I begrudgingly got a plan -- one I could barely afford with a ridiculously high deductible. I did so because I was healthy and in my twenties. I wasn't ever going to use this insurance, right? So, it didn't matter?
It was essentially "in case I was hit by a bus" insurance and the details didn't matter.
Until the details mattered. Last year, I had a freak medical emergency. I went from (I thought) healthy to unconscious in ICU for days. I lost more than half the blood in my body and required two surgeries. By sheer will of a higher power, I lived to tell the story... but I lived with thousands of dollars in medical debt. Thousands I can't even begin to pay off. And this was with insurance.
There has to be a better way. You may be reading this thinking that my story alone is proof that insurance doesn't pay. It's not. Were I not to have had insurance, my tens of thousands of debt would have been hundreds of thousands. Most definitely more.
What I learned from all this is that you need to have good insurance. You need to be covered. Medical emergencies are, quite simply, expensive. Even if you have insurance, the reality is you can very well end up with a crippling amount of medical debt. Without it? I can't even imagine a way out.
And then there was Obamacare. I read a lot of negativity about the Affordable Care Act, so-called Obamacare. I don't know much about politics and all that. But I will tell you some facts and figures: Under my former health insurance, I had a $5,000 deductible (per year) and that doesn't include a lot of necessary tests, treatments and drugs that are partially covered. Today, though, I got the confirmation in the mail for my new insurance purchased through the Healthcare Marketplace and my monthly payment is half of what it was before -- but my deducible is a way more manageable $500 a year.
I can't do anything about the debt I already have. But were this plan to have been an option for me a year ago, the debt wouldn't have existed. And were my health issues to reoccur -- always possible -- I could work on getting stronger without obsessing about the debt crippling my finances. I've gone through that already, and it makes a horrible situation yet worse.
The reality is that you don't have to have gotten terribly ill as I did. I hope to the heavens none of you do. But everyone needs to be armed and ready. It's very easy for a minor problem to turn into a big problem. People who don't have insurance don't go to doctors. Preventive medicine is what helps to keep something manageable and treatable. It can keep you alive. If you have insurance, a trip to the doctor for a checkup isn't a big deal.
Speaking as someone with a pre-existing condition, were ACA not an availability, it would have been very difficult for me to get a new health insurance plan. When people go through any sort of serious medical condition, they have a difficult time finding health insurance after. Even if you are fine now, you may not be tomorrow. Why wait until your window of options change?
Health insurance is not a luxury. It's a necessity. I know so many people -- intelligent people! -- who say they can't afford health insurance and then spend their money on expensive luxury items, trips, gourmet meals. Obviously, we should treat ourselves. Life is short and should be enjoyed. But don't shoot yourself in the foot. Invest in your livelihood now so you have a livelihood to enjoy tomorrow. There's really no other option.
I'm so glad that under the Affordable Care Act, people who don't have insurance will ultimately face fines. I'm so glad that people will finally be government-mandated to give themselves and their future the consideration they should have had long ago. There are good deals in this marketplace. I have solid silver-level insurance for under $200 a month. That's crazy. But it's good crazy. It's one step closer to the affordable decent health care that's commonplace in so much of the rest of the world.
Don't wait one more minute to take advantage of it.