It’s that season again. Thousands of Americans are scouring the Internet in the hopes of finding the best deals… and I’m not talking about Christmas present deals. It’s health insurance enrollment season, my friends — the most stressful season of the year.
I was lucky and grew up with health insurance — like, good health insurance. My parents worked for the federal government so the only bad part of our insurance was dental (but whose isn’t?). I took health insurance for granted, while many of my friends never had the benefit of it until they got older. While I was in college, Obama was elected and extended the health coverage of dependents to the age of 26 and thank, God, he did.
But eventually, I turned 26 as we are all meant to do — this year, in fact. And just as my education failed me in understanding taxes, home-buying, or any other basic “adulting” life skill, I was left without the knowledge of how to get health care or even what was considered “good health insurance.”
Unlike some of my counterparts, I didn’t have a “typical” job when I turned 26. As a freelance writer, I’m not afforded benefits from the companies that I work for and that means health insurance. I was on my own and it was a scary thing. I didn’t know where to start or what to do and almost a year later, I can tell you that I am still no expert. But I know a little bit more than I did before — and that’s just because my experience hasn’t been the most ideal.
Earlier this year, before I turned 26, I looked into Obamacare to see if I qualified. At about $30K in yearly income, I was, at first, surprised that I made too much to qualify for Obamacare. It sucked but I quickly learned that Obamacare is best suited for families versus single people like me. I’d have to make less than $11,700 or so to qualify for Obamacare, which is not a situation I’d want to be in.
I didn’t know how to “find” health insurance so I started by contacting the insurance my parents had — Blue Cross Blue Shield. BCBS told me at the time that they didn’t usually accept single people but they could get me in at a low price of over $350/month. I couldn’t get off the phone quick enough.
My parents then suggested I talk to our insurance guy and see if he sold health insurance. He didn’t but got me in contact with someone who did sell health insurance. At the same time, my dad told me to contact another health insurance agent we knew just to get a second opinion. So I did.
Eventually, both men returned to me with PPO plans that were similarly priced. They were less than $300 but still pretty pricey in my opinion. But what did I know? These guys were experts. They knew what they were talking about, and if this was all that there was for me, then I felt like I could trust them. So I moved forward with one and got a PPO health insurance plan with Scott & White with a $5,000 deductible and $6,000 out-of-pocket for $272.00/month. This did not include dental or eye insurance.
But I wasn’t exactly happy. I mean, if you only made $30K per year would you be? I didn’t blame anyone per se; I understood that’s just how life was and accepted it. I chose the freelance life and I knew that health insurance wasn’t going to be cheap. This was my choice and I’d live with it.
However, around September this year, I got a letter from Scott & White — they were getting rid of my insurance plan on January 1st of 2017 so I was going to have to find a new plan. I hated looking for health insurance the first time and now I had to do it all over again?!
So, reluctantly, I contacted the two insurance agents that I had spoken to before, but it was a bit more difficult this time around. One told me that all of the health insurance companies were raising their rates and I wasn’t going to find anything, not even a HMO plan, below $350. The other insurance agent — well, he took forever to get back to me — but when he did, he basically told me the same.
This was not going to work for me. I couldn’t pay almost $100.00 more per month than I had in 2016. I mean, I technically could pay it, but that would mean much less money going to my savings and that made me nervous. In 2016, I paid $272.00 for 9 months — March through December, which meant I spent about $2,448 total. During those nine months, I went to the doctor’s office once for a physical and bought three prescriptions — birth control twice and an inhaler once. I paid a lot more into my health insurance than I ever paid for medical care in 9 months. I paid all of that money and never even used the services that often. It felt like a waste.
So I had to ask myself a hard question — was I going to pay $350.00 per month in 2017 for health insurance or just not have insurance at all?
The thought of not having insurance made me nervous. I’d never not had insurance. Without insurance, I’d be charged a penalty of about $750 by the federal government which didn’t sound too too bad. It was a lot cheaper than paying $4,200 ($350 x 12 months) for health insurance in 2017. I thought maybe I could put money aside each month and just use it when I needed to go to the doctor. If anything, I could find women’s clinics and clinics with payment plans and low-cost healthcare programs. I wasn’t sure how it was going to work, but I could make it happen.
However, in a last-ditch effort, I got online today. I went to Scott & White to see if somehow, some way the insurance agents I had spoken to had missed something. A friend of mine was convinced that I was paying too much for health insurance and I had a feeling she was right.
So I hit “Get a Quote” on the Scott & White website and I was redirected to GoHealth.com. They asked for a bit of information and a few healthcare plans popped up. My jaw dropped at the prices.
The lowest was about $100 less than what I was paying now and almost half of what the insurance agents had quoted me. I couldn’t believe it! As I perused through the plans, I found HMO plans that were far better than what I had, at lower prices, or virtually the same! And did I mention they were all over $100 less than anything the health insurance agents had quoted me?!
What the hell?!
I had to know if this was legit or not so I called the number on the website and got connected with an agent. My eyes had not lied — this was the real deal.
After going through the entire process, I got a Silver HMO Plan with Molina with a $2,400 deductible and $7,000 out-of-pocket expenses, that will cost $177/month. It covers all of my preventative health care needs, has $20 copays, plenty of doctors in my area, and $10 copays for generic prescriptions. As someone who rarely goes to the doctor, it gave me everything that I needed for $100 less than what I paid each month in 2016.
I’m not sure why I wasn’t quoted these prices by the other two agents but I have my theories, and I’m sure you can make your own assumptions. Regardless, it doesn’t matter because I went out and found something that was perfect for me — and thank God, I did.
If I’ve learned anything during this entire process, it’s that sometimes you don’t just need a “second opinion” but also a third. And sometimes, you just need to do a bit more research on your own to find something that’s good for you. Be that third opinion — yes, it takes more work and it’s a bit stressful, but use Google and Pinterest and even a librarian to find the answers to your questions, because it’s worth it.
It’s not easy to figure out health insurance, but if you take the easy road like I did in 2016, you could be missing out on savings and opportunities. If I could figure out — so can you. Just have faith and at the least, call GoHealth.com.
If you need help with understanding health insurance terms, click here.
For information on getting health care coverage, click here.
To look at Gohealth.com and their options, click here.
Note: Be sure to get health insurance before December 15 so you are covered by January 1. Open enrollment ends January 31, 2017.