Ah…the ELEPHANT in the room. Health Insurance. The invisible handcuffs of the 21st century in the United States.
I am willing to be that some of you reading this article LOVE the idea of the lifestyle I am suggesting – work (possibly really HARD) for somewhere between eight and ten months a year, and take the other months OFF. Big blocks of time off – not a week here or there. For important things like playing with grandchildren, traveling the world, or writing the novel that’s rattling around in your head begging to be realized.
But…there’s the elephant. You currently have employer provided health insurance, and you think you can’t possibly afford to buy it yourself.
You might be right IF you are married to the idea of having a low/no deductible policy and being able to see a doctor for anything, anywhere, anytime.
Love it or leave it – we are where we are in the U.S., and the cost of healthcare can be enormous.
Is the situation hopeless? No it isn’t. You do have choices. Today I will outline some of those in an overview.
Basically, this is choosing to go without insurance, pay the tax penalty, and just pay for medical care as you go. Reward? Well, if you don’t have a catastrophic health care incident, you will save a lot of money. There are some tricks of the trade here – you can utilize fixed fee private clinics for basic needs. A typical appointment for something like a sinus infection would run about $50. Mole removal typically costs $25- 30. These clinics usually have a price-per-procedure sheet available. You can also negotiate rates with doctors and hospitals. Skipping insurance altogether is what many young people are doing, and it is one of the reasons that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is having some struggles.
Risk Level – High.
Many countries have private medical care that is available for purchase by foreigners. Partially because these countries don’t have our tort legal system, the costs are lower because the doctors don’t have to purchase malpractice insurance. Many of the facilities have brought in U.S. trained doctors, and also obtained JCAH certification. This is the process U.S. hospitals go through every four years to keep remain certified. Articles abound of U.S. citizens traveling to places like Thailand, Mexico, and Dubai and having high risk procedures like coronary bypass surgery for 10 – 20% of the cost in the U.S.
Risk Level – Moderate, if you do your homework on the facility and practitioner.
Re-Evaluate Your Policy
This is what we did. For years, we paid several hundred dollars a month for a no-deductible, no out-of-pocket, “cadillac” policy. Offered by my employer, it was a sweet deal, as they paid 75% of the premium cost. When I changed positions internally in January, I had to change insurance. Doing the math I realized that we could move to a high-deductible policy and put the cost difference into a HSA (healthcare savings account) to pay costs prior to meeting it. This type of account rolls over and doesn’t have to be used annually. This HAS changed our healthcare behavior, however.
Risk Level – Moderate IF you can bank the deductible and sit on it for when/if you need it.
Well, the reality is that we ALL need to do this anyway. But if you are going to decrease your insurance coverage, it can’t hurt to do everything possible to avoid needing health care.
Refined sugar, we know, is crazy bad for us. Most of us are very addicted to it, and don’t even realize how much of it is in our food. I’ve cut WAY back, and after about three weeks noticed that some things have a natural sweet taste that I didn’t get before. I am not perfect, as my weekly frozen cola treat proves. But, less is better and none is best.
Exercise more. Every day. I am working on that.
Sleep more. Every day. Working on that too.
Bottom line, opting for an independent-of-long-term employment lifestyle requires a different approach to many things. Healthcare and health insurance are probably the biggest and most expensive of those.