How Important is Having Health Insurance?

Healthcare and Wellness

Health Benefits Claim Form
Health Benefits Claim Form. teekid / Getty Images

I've been covered by my husband's employer's group health insurance plan for over twenty-five years. When we were first married, not only was I added to his plan but my three children were also included in the family plan. What a deal! All I had to say was "I do" and the four of us had insurance. We paid no premiums, it was a benefit of his employment. That was a pretty good deal for me and my kids.

Love, a new husband, a fantastic step-dad and health insurance!

My children aged out of "dependent status" as they individually turned 23 years of age. His plan reverted from a family plan to a 2-person plan. In 2003 when my husband accepted an early retirement offer. His pension package included continued healthcare coverage for himself until he turned Medicare age. His decision to exit his employment left me without the free insurance benefits, but under COBRA I was allowed to remain on his policy by paying the monthly difference in premiums from a single plan to a 2-person plan. Since I am younger than him by a few years I was also assured I wouldn't be dropped from the policy when he turned 65.

Last month we were informed by his past employer that the two-person plan was no longer an option but I would now be covered under the family plan... but here's the catch. My premiums would go up 60%.

Say What?!? Without going into specifics, that is a whole lot of moolah. Fortunately in the Fall of 2013 when my husband celebrates his 65th birthday my monthly premiums will drop back to their single policy rate. Still, that left me with some decision making... should I continue with the same policy or go shopping for a cheaper policy elsewhere?

I reached out to some friends and colleagues asking for advice and possible suggestions about insurance options for freelancers. I asked "Who do you buy private insurance from?" "What kind of premiums do you pay?"... etc. Everyone was helpful and sympathetic to my plight. Well, not everyone... one work associate threw out a sucker punch. Her response was to forgo having insurance. What? She doesn't see the need for health insurance and informs me she only sees alternative medicine doctors. She is very strong in her conviction against paying for health insurance. Her suggestion to me and everyone in the conversation was to live a holistic lifestyle... WOW! Did she know who she was talking to? I write about holistic healing. Basically, she has taken an angry stance against the heath-care system in general here in the United States, specifically the big pharma companies.

Without taking any sides politically I will say that I agree with her that the healthcare system in this country isn't perfect, it is a big eyesore no matter which angle you look at it from. But, even me, a holistic-centered person, doesn't want to be at risk without health insurance coverage. It would be nice if everyone had the option of having a physician who practices alternative medicine.

What if you don't have that option in the region where you live?

I do wish my current policy covered options like acupuncture, energy medicine, massage therapy, etc. It doesn't... those are out-of-pocket expenses for me. It would be really cool if my health insurance would cover the annual fee for my fitness membership at the Y too! It does cover chiropractic care, physical therapy, and mental health, so that is something.

The woman who sees no reason for paying for health insurance reasons that since she lives a healthy lifestyle (eats right, exercises, etc.) that will preclude her from getting chronic conditions or health issues that demand healthcare at rising costs. That's good reasoning, but that is not the whole picture. I don't believe she is being realistic.

My point is that a person can be holistic-minded and still see the importance of mainstream healthcare (I am that person).

I depend on my doctors to diagnosis my ailments and monitor my overall health. Getting a diagnosis is step-two of my Six Steps from Dis-ease to Living Better. It can be really hard to approach treatment from an ailment when you aren't sure what is really happening. I don't want to be treating headaches with stress management treatments when I really have a brain tumor. An x-ray, CAT scan, or MRI would be needed to determine that. Also, if I am injured in a car crash or get hit by a bus I will likely end up on a gurney and driven to an emergency room to mend my bleeding or broken body. What if I need emergency surgery due to those injuries? That hospital bill could likely set me back or even bankrupt me if I didn't have insurance coverage.

Also, how do birth defects and congenital disorders fit into the justification that a proper lifestyle is the answer, not health insurance? What if a child is born prematurely needing extensive neonatal care or has a cleft palate that will require multiple surgeries throughout his growth years? Sorry, but alternative medicine is a complementary treatment at best in these situations.

Taking care of my health needs includes having an an insurance policy to protect me against financial harm. I get an annual checkup from a medical doctor and also routinely have my holistic health evaluated--How to Evaluate Your Holistic Health

I am grateful that I have the means to pay for the rising costs of health insurance, I know not everyone does.

Further Reading

  • Student Health Insurance-How to Make Sure You are Covered
  • Health Insurance for Unemployed Workers
  • What Is Health Insurance?
  • Traditional Indemnity Health Insurance Plans

Reader Comments

Anne S. says: I was contemplating dropping insurance myself, since we are very holistic-minded now. I’m glad I didn’t. My daughter suddenly developed ulcerative colitis, and spent weeks in the hospital. That would have been a fortune out of pocket! ~Anne S.

Bernie says:For many of us, insurance is not an option. My husband’s job, by design, is intermittent some years. My work insurance used to cover the gap but I went back to college when my job dried up. When we looked into extending our COBRA coverage the cost was greater than our house payment. When I looked into private coverage it was either unavailable to us (mind you then we only both had 1 prescription each and had no serious health issues), or was so expensive that it was utterly out of the question, even for major medical. For some of us, No insurance is the only option. That being said, I avoided a ‘necessary’ sinus surgery with acupuncture and 4x daily saline sinus washes, went off an estrogen ring by taking herbs and changing my vitamins and food, and my husband found out the cream his doctor prescribed for years was masking a food allergy. The insurance companies have frightened us all into not being able to imagine life Without them, and through their policies they have helped raise the cost of cash-based medical care beyond the possibility of most people (did you know cash patients pay MORE for the same service than those with insurance- how nutty is that when all the paperwork is eliminated?).

The system needs overhauling and perhaps the fact that droves of people are off insurance – through job loss – perhaps that will come to light and the extortion can stop.

Cindy says: Wow. I am surprised at this article. Doesn't seem you really walk your talk,and makes me question whether or not I have any real respect for your so called ”holistic” articles anymore. 

Cindy K says: I understand, and respect what you are saying. Just like what happened to Anne. You never know. You really have to cover yourself for the catastrophic problems. Cindy (other Cindy!) what would you do in that case? Unless you are VERY wealthy, it should be a concern!

Cindy says: In Berni’s case. We had the same thing happen to us. We were self employed, went on cobra. That ended, and the insur. we had for over 30 years, went up so high because we were now individuals, it was really hard to afford. We started looking at other insurance company’s. Oh, but wait, we each had one prescription. I don’t think we can cover you, or we can’t cover any of your prescriptions, or anything having to do with why you’re taking it. Eventually, we found a new insurance company and went on the Health Savings Plan with a high deductible. Covered again! Just in case that catastrophic thing was to happen. We are retired. We live pretty holistically, exercise, eat pretty healthy, use massage therapy, I use essential oils, and do Yoga. Doesn’t mean that nothing will ever happen. Just saying.

Barbara says: Two years ago I was laid off from my job and I am still looking for work. Just recently my COBRA ran out and I have been shopping for insurance. It is very expensive. I don’t know how long I will be able to keep it. When it gets right down to it…its either the health insurance or the house. How sad that this is what our country offers as far as health care is concerned Here is something of note. Harvard did a study of all the bankruptcies in the US and discovered that 60% were caused by medical bills. Of those 60%, 78% had major medical insurance. They had it. Shocking. The Republicans and Democrats need to stop the fighting and grand standing and just step up and DO SOMETHING. This should not be about politics, it should be about basic human rights. If the majority of the US citizens have to go with out medical insurance then so should those who serve me in office. Live my life and tell me nothing is wrong with how insurance is sold and issued. Pay my bills with what I have left in savings and decide which is more important, a roof over your head or health care. I do try my best to live holistically , now more than ever, but I do like knowing should something unforeseen occur I am covered. Sadly, that secure feeling is only for the employed, rich and political office holders.

Cindy says: O.K. So here's the question then. What is “holistic”? Is it mind, body, and soul? Or is it keeping one foot in the holistic world and one foot in the “real” world,”just in case.” How much do you believe what you are really saying, and how much of it is just fancy imaginings for entertainment and when you feel like it? If your buying insurance “just in case” then you don't really have much faith do you? And your really part of the whole machine that is keeping america controlled and our health at the control of big pharma, big junk food, big health care, etc.

Barb says: Hospitalization is the only insurance you would need if you are seeing natural practitioners. And even then the hospitals discount your bill tremendously if you don’t have means to pay it and accept payment plans. It is actually cheaper to do it that way then to pay the deductible that they require. If you saved the money you put into your insurance payment you would have quite a nice chunk of change. I also know many in the holistic field who will travel to Belize, Costa Rica etc… for surgeries since they take better care of you for a cheaper price and don’t kick you out after one day. Many doctors trained in American hospitals work in those countries as well as Panama. And so many allopathic doctors treat you with drugs etc.. that many times there is a natural way to treat the issue that is better for you. If you are seeing a good naturopath they would have an idea of what the issue is before it begins to be a problem. 

Becca says: I really respect you for being realistic and not trying to say that holistic medicine can cure everything. It helps the body to heal and look after itself, but there are some times when that just isn’t in the body’s power! I don’t know what Cindy is trying to get across, but to me the fact that you can see the limitations of what you practice makes me have more faith in what you say rather than less- down to earth honesty is far better than promises of miracle cures and the like.

Cindy says: If you think holistic medicine is just a “miracle” cure then why do you even read this site?

Isabella says: AS I lost my corporate job 4 years ago and I have a child, I found a good ‘cheap’ option to have us covered… until 3 moths I noticed our premiums had increased 25 % without notice. I wrote to the company and got a full A4 page email in response apologizing for the hikes and other justifying them with various bullet points. I must say I hardly see doctors, we are in good health and most tiny ailments are treated either with Reiki or homeopathy. Dentists once a year for both of us. Does this justify paying 200 US a month for a premium. In my sense NO. and I took the decision not only to opt out of the Insurance but also I had to specifically say to them I cannot afford it because apparently it is not possible to ‘resign’ from a yearly policy insurance. ! they made an exception. Walking the talk is essential for me and paying an insurance that pays off a corrupted financial system is no longer undermining my integrity.

Edria says: This subject is an “ouch” for me. We eat healthy and very well, and have always done so during my 26 years of marriage. Neither my husband or I ever had to visit the doctor very often. When my husband applied for a job they required that he take a drug test. He had a small open wound on his foot and what resulted from this drug test, was an infection from a “strep” virus(MRSA?). The same virus that Hillary Swank had, whereby she almost lost her leg. My husband almost lost his leg, but instead lost his big toe. The cost of that operation was $60,000, which was done, without anesthesia and outside of an operating room, to save money. Why were we concerned, because while he was hired by the company he applied to, there was a 90 day waiting period for medical coverage. My husband developed the infection 4 days after the drug tests and was fired on day 88 before his medical coverage took effect. Try getting medical coverage if you have any pre-conditions. Cobra is a joke, it’s only for those who’ve put a bundle aside. As a result, we are now living abroad, which I’m not thrilled about, but at least we’re alive and don’t worry about our health.< America offers the best medical coverage that money can buy in the world! The key in this statement is: that money can buy! If you don’t have the money, you don’t have medical coverage…short and simple! Thanks for your sensible article…someone needs to alert the public to the facts. I’ve seen patients wheeled on a gurney to wait under a tree for their family to pick them up because they didn’t have insurance. Sad for a country supposedly, rich and democratic. That was 8 years ago!

Diana says: I work for 5 doctors and I see people on the verge of death every day. Where I live there is at least one traffic accident every day. If you are admitted to hospital here, they will not treat you unless you have medical insurance or pay a huge deposit to be admitted. Having no medical cover is very risky – holistic healing cannot treat a wide range of diseases that strike people suddenly. It cannot prevent viral infections or bacterial diseases. It cannot fix a broken neck, fractured ribs or any of the physical injuries sustained in a car accident or even a work accident. I pay a large amount for my hospital plan but there is no way on earth that I would be without it – some of our patients have incurred bills of up to half a million for operations, etc.

Devi says: You can live the most healthiest lifestyle possible, but if you are involved in a car accident and require surgery – I am pretty sure most alternative health doctors do not have the facilities to do surgery or are not surgeons.

Pierre says: Boy am I glad I live in Canada, unfortunately I spent my winters in South Texas and there I’m not covered by canadian health system, (except for car accident) since I’m 69 Y.O , I have diabetes, had a few strokes and respiratory problems I cant’ get insurance anywhere except with my bank but the prime would be over a thousand a mont and I can’t afford it, so if something happens, there goes my house.

Focus Friday - This post (originally published May 25, 2012) is part of a once-weekly blog feature focusing on a singular healing topic. If you would like to get notifications delivered to your inbox each Friday alerting you to the Focus Friday topic please subscribe to my newsletter. In addition to the Friday delivery subscribers also receive my standard newsletter sent on Tuesday mornings. The Tuesday edition highlights new articles, newest blog posts, and includes links to a variety of healing topics.