Having health insurance improves your overall health and financial security, however, it can be a difficult decision for many in the short-term. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also commonly referred to as “Obamacare,” caused the rate of those uninsured by health insurance to drop to under 6% for both Washington and Oregon residents by 2018. When the tax penalty associated with the ACA was reduced to $0 for the 2019 tax year, thousands of Americans dropped their health insurance, largely due to the high cost of monthly premiums.
In Washington state, healthy young adults are the highest demographic to choose not to seek health insurance unless it was part of their employment benefits, but they are closely followed by middle-class families who have decided that the cost of premiums is too high. Whether you are young or young-at-heart, in good health or suffer chronic illness; health insurance benefits are worth the cost. With available coverage options, the cost may not be as high as you expect. If you, or someone you care about, is struggling to decide whether or not to have health insurance, take time to consider the peace of mind, benefits, and options that come with coverage.
Expect the unexpected
Being prepared for a health crisis is the main reason you should have health insurance. If you knew for a fact that you would have a health crisis this year, getting health insurance would be an easy decision. Why? Paying for emergency or unexpected medical care can bankrupt you. The cost of the average hospital stay for three days is about $30,000. The cost of an ongoing condition such as cancer can run into tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars for treatment. Having health insurance helps mitigate the cost of accidents and unexpected illnesses.
Preventing financial ruin in a health crisis is a great reason to have health insurance, but it is not the only reason. Studies have shown improved mental and physical health in patients with insurance that covers primary care visits, annual testing, and preventive care. One study conducted in Oregon showed that after one year of health coverage, participants were more likely to report having “good” or better mental and physical health. Reducing out-of-pocket medical costs with insurance can lead to improved financial, mental, and overall health.
Take advantage of preventive care
Health insurance benefits are not limited to emergencies. In fact, the odds of needing to use emergency services can be reduced greatly if you take advantage of preventive care and other benefits available through your health insurance provider. Benefits vary from provider to provider, however, we have seen a growing focus on preventive care in the health industry in recent years. Preventive care is offered at little or no additional cost to you. Immunizations, well-child visits, screenings, and routine physicals are all examples of typical preventive care. Health insurance providers offer resources and classes with a focus on helping you with at-home self care as part of their preventive care programs. Kaiser Permanente, for example, offers a virtual library of information about health and wellness, as well as free classes for members that cover everything from “Tool Kit for New Parents” to “Parkinson’s Disease: Exercise is Medicine.” Eating right, exercising regularly, and generally taking care of yourself improves your overall health and increases the likelihood of good health over time.
Routine medical check-ups, immunizations, and timely screenings for potential health risks increases your chances of catching a problem early and remaining healthy longer. Early detection often results in a lower cost for treatment. Immunizations can keep you from getting ill in the first place, and are often free with your health insurance. A flu shot, for example, usually prevents you from getting the flu, but may also reduce symptoms if you do get sick.
Taking medicine as prescribed is a key part of preventing a health crisis tied to a known medical issue. If you have an existing condition that requires medication, having health insurance can help cover the cost of your prescription. Working with your physician and pharmacist to find a generic drug can also lower the out-of-pocket cost.
Shop for the right health insurance
There is not a one-size-fits-all solution for health insurance. Your needs and priorities change over your lifetime, and your health insurance solution should reflect that. Health insurance for a college student in good health should not be the same coverage you get as a young family, or when you are nearing retirement age. Understanding your options and finding the right provider for you is easier when you work with an independent insurance broker.