In my adult life, I've had two short spells where I didn't have insurance from my job. The first time was while working as a server at a restaurant between jobs in 2008, the second is right now, where my new company's insurance doesn't kick in for 90 days. In those times, I have had to find my own insurance or be in scary situation of not having insurance.
Insurance is For “What If”
What if I got sick? What if I was injured? There are so many “what ifs” that could come around while uninsured. Sure, I'm a healthy guy. The few medications I take have generic versions that don't cost much, or an over-the-counter alternative in a pinch.
This time around I'm covered thanks to Obamacare, but the first time it wasn't so easy. After a few weeks of being uninsured, I had to do something. If you do not have health insurance, you are just asking for trouble. Get a plan. Even a bad policy is better than no policy.
If You Have a Job: Look to Your Employer
Did you know that the United States is the only major Western country that doesn't provide free health care to its residents? The systems work differently everywhere, but even many poor countries offer Universal Healthcare. If countries as poor as Rawanda and “bad” as Cuba can do it, why can't we?
But enough with that tangent. We don't have public health insurance in the US, but we do have new laws that require large employers to offer a health plan to full-time employees. Ever since I got my first job out of college, all but 5 months of my life have been covered by such plans. Be sure to contact your company's human resources or your manager if you are not sure what your company offers.
Everyone Else: The Exchange
For those without a health plan from their employer, the place to look is the exchange system. For most people, that means going to the Federal Healthcare.gov Health Insurance Marketplace. For others, like my old home in Colorado, or my new state Oregon, the states built their own exchange websites. At launch, some of the exchanges, including Healthcare.gov and Cover Oregon, had serious technical problems. However, those are being fixed and corrected.
Despite what you may have read, the exchange is a great step forward for most Americans without employer coverage. The new healthcare laws, known as Obamacare, prevent companies from denying you for having pre-existing conditions and require that your insurance company cover preventative care. Those are just a few of the many awesome benefits of the Affordable Care Act.
At the marketplace, insurance companies compete for you. You can select plans rated based on their level of coverage. For my short stint between employer coverage, I picked a “silver” plan with reasonably low deductibles and reasonably good coverage for the price and my needs.
The whole point of the new healthcare laws are to ensure everyone gets coverage. In fact, people without coverage have to pay a tax penalty for forgoing coverage. In addition, a huge number of Americans qualify for discounted coverage through the new system. Check Healthcare.gov or your state exchange for more information.
If you are a single adult without coverage, you are risking your entire financial future by skipping out. If you have any dependents or a family, going without insurance is wildly selfish and negligent. Do your part to ensure you and your family family are protected and get covered today.
Originally published 1/18/2009. Updated February, 2014. Image by ProgressOhio / flickr.