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Boring But True...I Am Grateful for Health Insurance

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Boring But True...I Am Grateful for Health Insurance

Today we received four medical bills.  One for Charles (technically, it was the dentist) and three for Claire.  That's not the kind of mail I like to get.  As I was writing out the checks for them I found myself thinking "Insurance is such a pain."  It is.  Insurance is a pain.  But I am grateful (so grateful!) for insurance on SO MANY LEVELS...I felt it deserved its own post.

The first reason I am grateful for insurance?

I had a job because of health insurance (job = good).  Until July 1st (right before Claire was born), I worked at an insurance brokerage in Dallas.  My job was to find insurance coverage for small groups (in this case, a "small group" was a company with 2-20 employees).  I would then help them implement the policies they chose by educating and enrolling all of their employees and getting the group set-up with the insurance carrier(s) they chose.  In addition, I was the "go to" insurance person for the group (employer and employees) and answered benefit questions, helped with claims issues, etc.  

You know how someone comes to your work once a year and tells you about your benefits?  I was *that* person.  The irony of that is the one day, about ten years ago, I was listening to the "insurance girl" at my place of employment and I thought, "How the heck does anyone ever decide they are going to talk about insurance for a living?  Does it get any more boring than that?!"  And then, ten years later, there I was...telling people about insurance for a living.  And I wasn't even bored (just another example of how you really never know where you'll end up or what you'll end up doing).  

One thing I learned while working as an insurance agent (besides a whole lot of acronyms) is that people have really, really, really different attitudes and expectations when it comes to their health insurance.  

Case in point.   I was at a meeting one day telling a group about their new insurance plan.  Due to a very large increase to their rates, their benefits were being "reduced" drastically, and the cost to the employee was going up as well.  I had to tell them that not only was their deductible increasing by $2,000 (per person, per year), but also that they no longer had co-pays and would have to pay everything out of pocket until they reached that new deductible.  The group was...shockingly...grateful.  I spoke with several employees after the meeting who said they had never even had insurance before and they realized it was expensive and they were grateful their employer offered it and that they were able to have it in case of an emergency.

Around the same time, I had to tell another group that their deductible was increasing as well.  From $250 a year to $500.  Their co-pays were also increasing.  From $15 to $20.  You would have thought I was telling them that they no longer had insurance and that they were all getting pay reductions.  Seriously.  I feared mutiny on the deck.  This group was pissed.  In their words, "what was the point of health insurance?" if they had to keep paying more (and on a side note, employees who felt entitled to health care and complained about their coverage also tended to be the same ones who were opposed to government-run plans, and many times blamed the government for their company's crappy plan...).

For some perspective, the first group was comprised of hourly employees who brought home about $20,000 a year.  The second group was a group of "white collared" workers who were in many cases bringing home 5x that.  

It boggles my mind that people would be ungrateful for EMPLOYER-PAID HEALTH INSURANCE.  

I am grateful for my job.  I loved my job.  I learned a lot (I didn't even know what a deductible was when I started, and I cried on my commute home the first day because I didn't know how to use Outlook, create a spreadsheet in Excel, or even send a fax...I used to work with horses and they don't require any technology) and I am so, so thankful to those who gave me the opportunity. 

When I was employed, I was grateful for health insurance because not only was it my bread and butter (well, let's say "butter" only because Charles works too), but because it was there in case of an emergency.  It was there when I had Jack.  It was there for most of my prenatal care with Claire.

When I left work to be a full-time Stay At Home Mom, I switched onto Charles' plan.  He works for a very (very) large company.  Due to their size, they are able to offer several health plans, and the "cheap" plan is much richer in benefits than many of the plans I used to recommend to local small employers.  We are very lucky.

It's been four months since my last day of work.  Insurance rules and regulations are already different than when I left (I don't actually know this for a fact, but I am pretty sure it's true because the one thing I learned about insurance is that it's constantly changing).  My brain is foggy from all the Staying At Home and Momming (I think I just made up a word).  When Charles asked me a question about his coverage the other day I answered him, then thought, "Wait, is that right?" and ended up telling him to call his benefits department.  I mean, seriously...I AM THE BENEFITS EXPERT AND I TOLD HIM TO CALL THE BENEFIT DEPARTMENT.  Lame!

But today, I am not just grateful for insurance because it gave me a job.  I am grateful because for the first time ever, we actually need it.  We are using it.  We are taking advantage of it and seeing it's benefit and saying "Thank God we have insurance" each time we leave the doctor's office.  

It would be easy for me to feel entitled to great healthcare.  To think, "We worked hard and we live in America and we deserve this!"  But I'd be lying to think I am where I am today just because Charles and I worked hard.  I owe my situation today to hard work AND to circumstances out of my control.  To my parents, to a little help from the Universe, to a fateful trip to Las Vegas in 1999 (where I met Charles at a blackjack table), and to countless other itty bitty circumstances that are out of my control but in my favor.  

What about all the millions of people out there who haven't been as lucky as I have?  Why doesn't everyone get health coverage (especially children)?  Why is it that I can take my kids to a swanky pediatrician at the first sign of a sniffle and some families are forced to take their kids to the emergency room for a cough that is out of control because they couldn't afford a doctor when their child first got sick?  

I don't know why.  My experience in the insurance industry tells me that it's not as simple as just giving everyone health coverage.  Someone has to pay for it, and it's not cheap.

But I am lucky, so lucky, that we have the coverage we have today and that I can go to the doctor I choose and that my kids will never have to suffer because I can't afford a doctor visit.

And for that, I am grateful.







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2 Comments:

At November 12, 2011 at 2:33 PM , Blogger Charis's Mum said...

I agree with you. I am thankful for health insurance. I am a SAHM, but unfortunately my husband does not have a full time job. Meaning, we have to pay out of pocket for insurance (which thankfully we have been able to do so far). We have an insurance plan where we have to pay the first $X we accumulate-though yearly physicals and well baby check ups are 100% covered! But even if we used the whole deductible this year, we'd still be paying less than we were under COBRA.

 
At November 12, 2011 at 8:16 PM , Blogger Carrie said...

It sounds like you might have an HSA-eligible plan...do you know if that's the case? If so, and if you haven't already, you can open an HSA account to pay for your expenses (with pre-tax dollars). That helps a bit too.

COBRA can be ridiculously expensive...we don't realize how much employers pay on our behalf sometimes until we end up seeing the COBRA costs! To make it even more expensive, employers can charge an additional 2% in admin fees...as if it isn't expensive enough already.

If you can get individual insurance (like you have) you can often get a better deal than going through your employer anyway. Unless you get super lucky and have an employer that pays for it all (but that's hard to find).

Carrie

 

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