by Jenny Smedra
After the coronavirus pandemic and the economic downturn that followed, the American healthcare system came back into focus. As many people remain unemployed or have fewer hours, they now have to worry about their health insurance. Although the American Health Care Act (ACA) aimed to expand Medicaid coverage and provide subsidies for low-income citizens, there are still major gaps in coverage. The high premiums and eligibility requirements have not insured many non-senior citizens, including myself. What I would like to answer, however, is the real cost of health insurance?
Reasons for not having health insurance
There are numerous reasons why people do not have health insurance even though they live in one of the richest nations in the world. In the first place, many employees receive these benefits through their employers. Unfortunately, those who are unemployed or only work part-time may no longer be eligible for health benefits.
Although the ACA has greatly reduced the number of uninsured Americans, current legislation seeks to overturn the program. This can lead to widespread loss of cover for many dependent citizens. Even with the program, many respondents say they still cannot afford the high costs. Others will still not be eligible for Medicaid benefits and financial assistance if they live in states that do not wish to expand these programs.
However, my situation is a little different from that of most Americans. I’ve lived abroad for the past decade. So I didn’t need any medical care in the US. As part of my stay abroad in Taiwan, I received full national health insurance. This gave me access to every major hospital and general practitioner for a monthly tax of about $ 25. In addition, I was able to visit specialized clinics for vision, dental and dermatology services. The $ 5 surcharge included the cost of the doctor’s visit and the price of all medication.
While I still have my national health insurance, travel restrictions make it impossible to come back and seek treatment. As a result, I am now facing the same battle as thousands of other Americans who cannot afford private insurance. I also missed the open registration to qualify for ACA benefits. My last option is to apply for government benefits. Until my application for Medicaid can be processed, I will have to pay for all my medical expenses and medication out of pocket. That is, if I can afford to get medical treatment.
Health expenses out of pocket
Like many other uninsured Americans, I don’t see a doctor unless it’s a life or death situation. This focus on curative versus preventive health care can turn small problems into bigger ones quickly. However, living in a state of constant worry and vulnerability has resulted in increased stress and many sleepless nights.
Fortunately, I’ve remained in good health since my return to U.S. health insurance wasn’t a problem until I needed eyesight insurance to replace broken glasses. Unfortunately, my Medicaid plan did not include vision coverage. Given the full cost of new glasses (around $ 300 to $ 500), I decided to schedule a free consultation to talk about laser correction surgery. I had thought about it for years and even saved a sizable nest egg to use in the procedure.
After my first appointment, I discovered that hardly any insurer would help with laser correction procedures. However, I decided it was time to invest in my health and eliminate the need for future eye exams and low vision aids. While I had enough to cover the lion’s share of the operation (about $ 4,500 total), the remaining cost would be entirely out of my own pocket.
The price of drugs without health insurance
When I realized that drugs were expensive, I started looking around. I’ve done some price comparisons between the largest pharmacies. Surprisingly, I found that CVS had the cheapest prices overall. After nearly half a dozen phone calls, an extremely helpful pharmacist referred me to a website that completely changed everything. He suggested that I visit Goodrx.com and look for free coupons to make huge savings on my medication. Although I was skeptical at first, I was overwhelmed by how much money it saved me.
Just like using coupons at the grocery store, simply show them to the pharmacist when you pick up your prescriptions to get your discount. They put the numbers into their system for instant savings. Note that actual prices may vary slightly due to state sales tax. So you won’t know the exact price until payment is due. If your pharmacy has difficulty processing the voucher, a number will be provided to call for help.
The most convenient feature of the website was that I could compare prices between all the major pharmacies in my area. The coupons can be used on all prescriptions at any participating pharmacy in the US or Puerto Rico. Not only do you pay less than the retail price, the coupon price may also be cheaper than paying your insurance policy. However, you have to choose one or the other. You cannot use the voucher to reduce the cost of your co-payment.
After comparing my drug list, Goodrx.com saved me a total of $ 228.25 on my prescription drugs. This was equivalent to about a 77% saving by simply doing my homework and looking for the best deals.
Places to compare health insurance plans
If you need health insurance, visit Healthcare.gov to see if you are eligible for immediate assistance. You need to create and bill and apply first. You may still be eligible if the period is outside the open registration period. Although I didn’t have access to federal aid, I was referred to the DHHS to apply for state programs. Fortunately, I was able to get basic insurance through Medicaid for medical emergencies. While this may not be the ideal plan, it does provide at least some level of security. In the meantime, I plan to continue looking at private insurers to supplement my coverage. All this experience taught me how valuable your health is and that the cost of health insurance is way too high.