I am naked: I cancelled my medical insurance. I did this on purpose after seething for weeks over yet another 20 percent premium increase. I took a deep breath and sent what felt like a fatal email to the carrier: Cancel.
I kissed the $1,100-a-month insurance premium and its $80 co-pays good-bye. I stepped off the health insurance grid and there is no safety net.
I am single, have rheumatoid arthritis, am 57 years old, and an average income. RA leaves many bedridden, in terrible pain and, with a statistically shortened lifespan, sometimes dead. An RA diagnosis also means no other carrier will cover me.
This is an all-or-nothing move.
I am not stupid. I am a book author, a journalist, a former college professor, and a paid speaker.
Here's what I'm doing and why:
The health care system, which I've looked to for protection and preservation of my health, and which I purchased to offer me the best health care options possible, does neither. My particular former carrier recorded record-breaking 2011 profits. It's not news to most of us: The vehicle that is supposed to help has instead collapsed into a corporate, profit-generating Cyclops that has little to do with health or well-being and everything to do with pocket-lining.
I am lucky. I am currently healthy. I have no RA or any other symptoms. The carrier I just dropped was not participatory in all that well-being. As premiums choked my checkbook from $400 a month to more than $1,000 in the last few years, I adopted lifestyle efforts like walking and running, acupuncture and yoga, eating well, meditation and rest.
I threw in laughter, love and a sense of optimism for good measure.
The system didn't give a damn. I know that because the actuaries who calculate health insurance premiums don't care to know (let alone factor in) all of those healthy and inspired efforts -- and all of the upbeat results. They maintain an adherence to long-established and relatively easily embraced premium-determining equations.
To do otherwise would just be bad business.
What will I do if I find a lump, break a hip, develop pneumonia or have a stroke as a friend my age just did? What emergency plans do I have if I need help with any of the unexpected and potentially life-threatening conditions possible?
I don't know.
So I've begun working with an off-the-grid holistic M.D., which I pay for out-of-pocket. I've learned where the free clinic that makes you wait all day for a glance from a med student is located. I've looked at RA and cancer and national heart health websites to see what resources exist, should I need information and help.
But I'm still naked. I cannot go to an emergency room with a little blue card that serves as a VIP ticket to care. I no longer have the magic marker that makes doctors' offices personnel smile and nod me on into their inner sanctum of help back to wellness.
Be clear: Pulling the premium plug has nothing to do with my admiration and awe at the strides that technology and research have brought forth. More than a few people I know have survived heart disease with procedures and medicines that give them decades of additional life, for instance. And births that would have caused death 50 years back to either or both mother and child have been made possible.
But I want to stop pretending that handing over thousands of dollars a year to line a corporation's pockets helps my health. The system, such as it is, aggressively works against that goal.
Am I afraid? Many would say I should be. But that's the thing about escaping a captor: The jailer may have provided three squares and a roof, but it's still jail.
So we'll see. It may be I'm singing a different song and pining for the policy when the first inkling of winter's flu or cold strikes. Perhaps a shingles outbreak shows up, or bronchitis knocks me to my knees.
I don't have a doctor or anyone else to run to, should these events occur.
What I do have is $1,100 more a month in my bank account.
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