Sunday, April 24, 2016

Obamacare Alternatives

It isn't the worst problem to have: to be so healthy you don't need medications or regular medical care. Even so, in the US under Obamacare, you are required to have a medical maintenance plan through a health insurance company. Not traditional insurance that protects you against catastrophes like accidents and serious illnesses, but a maintenance plan that covers, among other things, childbirth, drug and alcohol rehab, and prescription medicines, regardless of whether you need or want any of those things. Scofflaws are subject to the smug-sounding "shared responsibility penalty" regardless of whether they cost anybody anything by giving birth, drying out or needing pills.

Lest anyone think uninsured people are all deadbeats, I for one paid all my dental bills from my bike accident a few years ago that weren't covered by my insurance. So far, those bills have been about $8,000 for braces (not covered), a dental implant (not covered), a tooth extraction and a root canal (the last two only partly covered). Long ago, I was charged full freight and paid cash--my life's savings at the time--for an emergency room visit. I have never dodged any bill that was legitimately charged to me.

So I know the value of being insured against catastrophes; I just don't need a maintenance plan, especially at $400 a month through COBRA (continuing my health insurance through my last regular employer) or $385 a month through Obamacare. That kind of money, even earning just 1% in a savings account, would amount to over $50,000 in ten years. That'll buy a house in Indianapolis. (Four hundred a month will also go a long way here towards a higher-quality diet, safer neighborhood and better schools for your kids--in other words, staying out of the ghetto.) Invested in the stock market over 20 years, assuming 10% annual returns, that's $300,000, or a big chunk of a retirement plan. Healthy people need money to retire on.

What to do? A blog called Self Pay Patient has a few suggestions: short-term insurance, joining a health sharing ministry, and alternate insurance products like accident or critical care insurance. I chose short-term insurance. It covers major medical expenses and some prescriptions after a deductible and cost less than $300 for six months' coverage. It's almost exactly the kind of coverage I used to buy as a student at $50 a month before the great state of Colorado dictated that health insurance had to cover a variety of procedures and medications whether consumers wanted the coverage or not--and regardless of the fact that such insurance was already available for those who wanted to buy it. After changes to the law, I couldn't afford health insurance at $300 a month as a laid-off engineer making a living doing odd jobs. Not if I wanted to buy groceries or keep the utilities on.

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