I’m not one of those free spirits who can just cross her fingers for insurance. In fact, if you had told me six years ago that I’d be opting to forgo insurance—not just for myself but for my preschooler and husband–I would have chuckled. I’m a health editor, I’d have said, knowingly. I know how stupid that is. I know better.
Turns out, knowing better doesn’t pay the $1688. monthly COBRA bill. Doesn’t even come close! So this month I’m coasting while I’m “inbetween insurers.” No, it’s not the same as not having health insurance. If I get hit by the UPS or any one of the dozen delivery trucks that nearly eat me and my bicycle on Park Avenue on a daily basis, I (or, more likely, my health care proxy) could retro-activate by paying the $1688. So I’m technically not uninsured. But don’t let the Cobra option fool you—it doesn’t work as insurance unless you pay the bill. In advance. Can’t swing it? You’ll just have to pay out of pocket for share. And at some point, especially if the trucks cooperate, that’s probably cheaper than $1688.
Since I’m switching over to the Freelancer’s Union insurance January 1, I figured I’d try to save myself the pain of paying that $1688 to continue my previous employers plan for another month. Not to mention another set of deductables. (I had to pay double deductibles in 2009, after another employer invited me and some 40 other folks to join the job market, and I’m not sure I can offer the insurance industry that much free money again). So I’ll be a responsible, inspired citizen again in just a few days. Probably touch base with a few providers just to make sure I’m practically as healthy as I was some 30 days ago—or when I was employed and welcome to actually use my coverage.
But what about all the Americans—unemployed or underemployed or the working poor—who don’t have means to get some kind of coverage? How long will those 50 million people delay visits to the pediatrician, the eye doctor, the dentist, to avoid the bill—not just for the visit but for the inevitable tests and treatments that follow? What will happen to the health care system when all of these citizens who haven’t benefited from care during the last two, three or four years of the crap economy, are finally forced to have an emergency root canal or surgery? Chances are, they’ll skip out on the bill—just like I might have to. Just like the COBRA administrator suggested I try if I haven’t been able to make a COBRA payment— “Just get them to bill you,” he said, suggesting I could ask for a bill whether or not I have the intention or means to pay it. In other words, the chumps—stand up citizens who actually pay for their insurance– will eventually absorb it, to the tune $1000+ in premiums per family, according to Families USA, just to cover the cost of care for the uninsured.
So maybe I should thank in advance all the insured citizens who paid their premiums this year… Thanks for the free needle biopsy! Appreciate the antibiotics! So nice of you to take care of my appendectomy!
If and when I skip out on my medical bills, they’ll be the ones paying them.