From The 1% To The 99% In Insurance Coverage

Well, now I know what it’s like for the other half, or rather, I should say, the other 99%.

In my first stint in graduate school, I had health insurance through the school as part of my funding package.  And although it was health insurance specifically for graduate students, it was of the same caliber that faculty had.

My co-pays were totally reasonable, and I never had to ask how much something was going to cost me.  I always went in to every test and procedure, never concerned that I would get a bill for an amount of money that I couldn’t afford.

I used to marvel when the statements came, and I saw how much everything actually cost, but I never paid a penny of it.  And eventually, they simply stopped sending statements unless you owed money.

So I was totally spoiled by my ignorance and my good fortune.

Now, in my second stint in graduate school, I have student health insurance, which is solely for students.  My appointment copays are about the same as they were with my old insurance, but everything else is more.  I paid $1,300 to start in contrast to paying nothing.  And my prescriptions per month are double what they were before.  And although I have a very low deductible – $150 – since I’ve met that easily, I now pay 20 percent of everything and my insurance pays 80 percent.

I recently got a bill for $950.  And I totally freaked out.  There was no way I could afford it.  It turned out that the hospital sent the bill for lab work to me, before they put in the insurance payment.  So in reality, I owe about $80-$100 on that bill.

In reality, there are still people who are a lot worse off than me as far as insurance is concerned.  There are people who don’t even have insurance, my parents included.  In fact, if it wouldn’t have been for graduate school stint number one, I wouldn’t have had insurance when I got sick, and that would have been catastrophic and potentially devastating, both physically, psychologically, and financially.

I guess it’s all relative.  There are some people who pay everything out of pocket, so any little bit from some other source feels like a lot.  But when you are used to paying practically nothing, and you’re not currently working a steady job, it feels like any bill makes you burn through limited funds even faster.

I admit, I know I’m one of the lucky ones.  But the fact that anyone in this country is potentially one health crisis away from total ruin, is really disgraceful.  I know that the point of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is to mitigate some of this.  But there are still holes.

I have looked into what insurance I would be able to get through the ACA, and really the only thing I could afford right now would be Medicaid. Do I really want to be on Medicaid if I have some other type of insurance?  I guess not.

So for now, my student insurance is okay, but when I get a job, more important than salary will be the health insurance.  It’s not a good feeling to have heart palpitations every time a doctor’s bill comes.

When you have to consider whether or not you see a doctor because of how much it is going to cost you, is just plain dangerous – but that’s a post for another time.

I’m good, for now, until the next bill comes or the next time I have to go to the doctor.

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