We live in strange times; we will talk about the most intimate details of our sexual lives with virtual strangers. We will share pictures of ourselves and our families with any and every one (I am on Instagram, so I am guilty of this myself). Yet we will avoid talking about our financial lives because well…it’s not polite, it’s tacky, etc. This inability/unwillingness to discuss fiscal matters means for some of us we are living in a silo of shame because we assume everyone else is far better off than us and has mastered financial matters when in fact many of us are hiding some type of private shame when it comes to our economic status or handling of money.
Living in the shame closet is painful and frankly it is tiring, so I am taking the door off the hinges. I recently had a conversation with a friend where I divulged that I don’t have health insurance. It turns out neither does my friend nor do several other friends we have in common. What made me pause was the fact that my friend is a business owner and holds advanced degrees…just like the Man Unit and I.
For those who are privileged enough that they have access to health insurance, the idea of not having health insurance seems scary and even irresponsible. I used to be one of those people until life brought me to a state where things were no longer simple and straightforward. In Maine, unless you have employer sponsored coverage, your options are extremely limited when it comes to healthcare. Pretty much there is only one game in town and that is Anthem and they make you pay dearly for buying an independent policy. The cost of coverage is just high enough that most people who do buy coverage opt for a high deductible policy, which as I learned the hard way is only marginally better than no coverage. In the years we had a high deductible policy, I accrued a number of medical bills because I never reached the deductible (not even when I ended up giving birth in a hospital which I had not planned) in any given year so I was out of several hundreds of dollars every month for a policy as well as the out of pocket expenses including my allergy meds that run $2500-3000 a year. In the end our finances couldn’t handle that so we made the painful choice to go without insurance.
Choosing to go without health insurance is not a decision that one makes lightly, in fact I have had many sleepless nights over this decision. Yet real coverage for our family is cost prohibitive and would mean that we would not be able to weather the storms of life that always happen…squirrels in chimneys that need to be removed, ailing parents and so on. So we simply pay out of pocket for our medical needs, thankfully some providers are happy to accept cash. Though, with our family doctor going back to a group practice it remains to be seen whether or not he will continue to be used. I have learned over the years, bureaucratic medical facilities are the most annoying about accepting cash. After all no one knows what anything costs, there is a great piece in today’s New York Times about this practice.
If you have never experienced the joys of not being able to be told in advance what a medical procedure will cost, well you are lucky. This has been my one complaint since accepting our uninsured life (funny thing is while we lack health coverage, home, car and life insurance are still affordable and accessible for us) is that getting a price quote or even a range at times is damn near impossible. There is also the fact that at some facilities trying to access care without coverage is also hard. Hence I am in need of a mammogram but since I am not low income, simply uninsured yet willing to pay for it, my referring doc is stumped on how we can make that happen. Um, make an appointment and send me a bill. Sorry, that is too damn easy.
Thankfully there are healthcare providers like this physician in Maine who are also tired of dealing with the bureaucratic bullshit as well and decided he no longer will accept insurance and he actually posts the prices on his website. Apparently this simple and straightforward approach is now so revolutionary that the good doc has been swamped with media requests from all over the country.
If you think you hate insurance companies, well you aren’t alone; most physicians don’t care much for them either. Since in the end the insurance company pretty much sets the price they will pay and in most instances the good doc if he/she participates in that plan, really has no say. Clearly this country needs healthcare reform and while the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare will help many, it is just the beginning.
So my secret is out of the bag and its okay because I am still me. That said, if any of y’all have a mammogram machine I can borrow, bring it on over! Seriously, financial issues are loaded yet living in secrecy over matters beyond our control is also loaded because of the damage it does to our psyches.