A Personal Look at Health Insurance
A Personal Look at Health Insurance
Every Thursday night, I meet Catie and Tiff for drinks. It's something we started when Catie and I were in our senior year of college and Tiff was finishing beauty school. We've never let the tradition die, and it's been almost five years now.
You couldn't ask for three more different people, and that's the way we like it. Tiff makes a fortune as a hair stylist. Catie got her dream job as a marine biologist for the local aquarium, and I took all the hours I spent in the darkroom at college and became a free-lance photographer. We all love what we do, and that's part of what makes us such great friends.
We look out for each other, too. Right out of college, Catie was the only one of us with health insurance. She got it as part of her benefits package with the aquarium where she works. At first, we joked about it, because Catie was the fitness guru in our group. The idea that she would need health insurance made us laugh, and in fact we all thought of ourselves as young and healthy. Getting medical insurance just wasn't a priority.
Then about two years ago, Catie found out she had skin cancer. The doctors caught it early and Catie was treated successfully. She's been cancer-free for fourteen months now. Right after that, Catie came to us and made us promise we'd get health insurance. She told us her co-payments alone were in the thousands of dollars, not to mention all the time she'd taken off work had cut into her earnings. Without the insurance coverage, she would never have been able to pay for the necessary treatments.
The three of us went into high gear, researching the options available. Since both Tiff and I were self-employed, we knew we would have to pay the full cost for private health insurance. We found that the prices on different plans varied a lot, depending on how you intended to use them. Some plans had low monthly premiums, but had higher deductibles and co-payments for services. Others were just the opposite.
Tiff decided easily between the Network and Indemnity plans. Because she travels so much and values the freedom to select her own doctors, she chose the Indemnity. I had a harder time. I liked the rates offered by the Network plans, but I too had my favorite specialist whom I always consulted for my asthma.
A few days into our research, Tiff's long-time boyfriend Glen proposed to her, and after we all finished congratulating her, Catie pointed out that Tiff had better choose a policy offering coverage on pregnancy and delivery. After all, becoming a mother was something Tiff had talked about even before she'd met Glen. Now that they were going to be married, a family was probably not far in the future. We got back to our research, more determined than ever.
In the end, I chose a Network policy with a slightly higher monthly premium. It turned out that my specialist was in-network and, with a referral from my primary care physician, I was able to continue seeing her. My health insurance saves me a lot of money on my asthma medications and covers all my trips to the in-network doctors. And though I hope I never need them, it also offers benefits, similar to Catie's insurance, for cancer treatments and other chronic illnesses. As Catie knows all too well, you just never know what tomorrow will bring, and having full coverage makes me sleep better at night!
Tiff chose a plan with a lower monthly premium and a higher deductible. It also offers excellent benefits for mothers-to-be. Glen is self-employed, too, and when they compared their options, they found it made sense to be on the same policy. So now, they share the cost, and Catie's advice is benefiting both of them.
They were especially glad for the coverage when Glen sprained his ankle on their honeymoon and they had to go to the clinic on the little island where they were staying. Because Tiff had chosen an Indemnity plan, insurance reimbursed them for 80% of the cost.
Catie still enjoys the benefits of the plan she receives through her employer. She recently added a supplemental cancer insurance policy that will give her money to pay for regular expenses like rent and groceries in case the disease ever puts her life on hold again.
Our health insurance policies are as different as we are, but at least now when we raise our glasses to toast our health, we all have one thing in common. We really mean it!