For the past month, I have had both feet firmly planted in the consumer’s shoes when it comes to health insurance. You see, a month ago, my husband’s company went through another round of downsizing, and this time, his position was on the chopping block. That sent us into a flurry of activity around trying to figure out things like our health insurance. While we decided to continue our coverage via COBRA, a series of administrative delays left us feeling uninsured for the past few weeks. Even though I was reasonably confident that our insurance coverage would be reinstated retroactive to his termination date (that’s how it’s supposed to work if you pay your COBRA premium within the required time window!), it was still disconcerting, because…
…As luck would have it, after a year of minimal healthcare activity for our family, suddenly we had needs every other day! My youngest needed a refill on a prescription and a visit to the doctor. I had a long-scheduled appointment for my annual preventive doctor, and my oldest had a suspected concussion that required a visit to the doctor to check things out.
While we knew we should ultimately get the carrier to pay their part for these visits once we were reinstated, the bills still came in as if we were uninsured. Suddenly, the bills showed that we were responsible for the full charge of the visit – no more carrier discounts. My preventive care doctor visit that should have been free now cost over $250. My son’s visit for asthma that should have been a copay of $20 or $30 was now $200. And the prescription? Almost $200!
Fortunately, we still had access to healthcare, in part due to our past insurance status and our existing relationship with these doctors, but it was eye-opening to see what things could cost without insurance and to consider the possibility of having to pay that amount. The other interesting thing to me was how our thinking changed about how willing we were to seek medical care. I almost cancelled my preventive care visit – until I learned that I couldn’t reschedule until sometime in 2015, and we considered not taking our son in to get the suspected concussion checked out…something that we probably wouldn’t have thought as long and hard about if we were 100% confident about our coverage status.
This morning, I breathed a sigh of relief when I logged in to our carrier website and saw that our coverage had been reinstated. This whole experience has been a good reminder to me of the importance of having coverage. And with open enrollment now in full swing, it’s a good reminder to consumers in general that having coverage – no matter what the level – provides us access to discounted healthcare, and free preventive care. No one wants to be subjected to the “rack rates” you’ll see if you are uninsured.