How To Be An Adult (Or, Things They Don't Teach You In School)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

We are now insured. This is the first time I've had insurance that wasn't through the government in one way or another since I was a preteen. My dad had state insurance throughout most of high school -- which was AWESOME, and even covered my glasses -- but after he lost his job due to privatization of the prison he worked at, my siblings and I were put on Medicaid. When I was too old for Hoosier Healthwise (Medicaid for kids and pregnant women), I was uninsured for a year or so before I qualified for HIP (the Healthy Indiana Plan), which is kind of like Medicaid for people who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid. I lost it after a year due to miscommunication (augmented by the fact that I was 21 and had no freaking clue what I was doing).

TL;DR - I haven't had health insurance in like five years.

But anyway, we're insured now thanks to Obamacare. Now I voted for Obama, and I fully support healthcare reform, but I feel like the way this has been handled wasn't good. It's kind of pointless for us to even have insurance. We get a tax credit to help pay the premiums (yay!), but it's only mildly helpful. Basically, we (God willing) will not ever use enough medical services in one year to meet even the smallest deductible offered, so our choice was either to sign up for the crappier insurance with a higher deductible and a lower payment, or to sign up for more expensive, but better, insurance with a lower deductible; this is normal, but again, we wouldn't use enough to meet the deductible, so no matter what, we're paying for everything out-of-pocket. We decided it would be better to pay less while still having to pay out-of-pocket than to pay more while paying out-of-pocket.

But that's not even really my point (obviously, I tend to get sidetracked).

My point is that I was completely overwhelmed looking at insurance options and I had no freaking clue what was going on. I had to call my dad (who sold insurance when I was a kid) and ask him to fully explain how deductibles and co-pays worked. I had figured it out correctly (to my dismay) -- everything is out-of-pocket until you hit your premium -- but I wanted to make sure I was correct before committing to a plan. And boy, let me tell you -- it was extremely disheartening to realize that my life will literally be no different with insurance than it was without it. I'm still not going to be able to really afford to go to the doctor (though again, that's not the point).

I was unprepared and uneducated, and I didn't like that.

I've thought for years that child development classes should be required to graduate; I think being educated about reproduction, safe sex, and what taking care of a child entails (including having to take Baby Think-It-Over home for a weekend) would really help curtail teenage pregnancy. I'm also starting to realize though that basic life skills need to be taught in schools too. Now some schools do have life skills classes, though many are being cut along with other family and consumer science classes. Admittedly I never took one, but I think that they should be just as vital to making sure you graduate as math classes.

When I was in third grade, we learned how to balance checkbooks as part of a math unit (we also learned how to fill out a check). But really, that was kind of it.

We weren't taught about the importance of credit, or how to build it and protect it. We didn't learn anything about insurance and what all these crazy terms mean. I think we might have done some basic budgeting a couple of times over the years, but nobody taught us how to budget with all of the things necessary to living on your own, and they certainly didn't teach us how to do it when you're essentially making minimum wage. I know several adults who don't know how to do a load of laundry, or cook anything that can't be microwaved, because they never had to do it (I mean, yeah, that's on their parents, but that could totally be incorporated into life skills class).

Yes, I realize that schools are already facing a ton of issues, and high schoolers are already under a lot of pressure. But you know what? I had to take geometry in high school, and I haven't used any of it since. Learning how to choose an insurance plan? THAT would have been relevant to my life.

Is it really that hard to believe that so many of us are living at home with our parents? We don't know how to function as adults in society. We spend our whole lives wanting to be old enough to live our own lives and make our own decisions, and then we grow up and realize that we have no clue what we're doing.

It's not a very good feeling.

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  1. Obamacare cost me my great insurance... and now thanks to the plans that are available to me (none of which I can afford due to my financial situation that was ironically caused by a health issue) - I'm just paying the fine and doing without. I know that wasn't the point of your post but I have to rant at every chance I get. LOL.

    1. I hope you'll be able to figure something out. I know you have a lot of health issues, and that stuff seriously adds up!

  2. 1. Health insurance is a stupid way to provide healthcare. Either we believe in a universal right to basic healthcare access, or we don't. If we do, then we should provide it in the most efficient way possible-- a single payer system. "The free market" might be useful for many things, but ensuring universal human rights is NOT one of them. Obamacare/universal health insurance was designed as a split-the-baby solution to let us have "universal access" AND a "free market solution", and that is super dumb, not least because the people it was designed to appease (republicans/libertarians/people-afraid-of-socialism) still hate it anyways. Yes, it will result in a moderately-less-evil system than the one we had, and in that sense it's meaningful progress, but I agree that it still SUCKS... it just sucks LESS.

    2. All that said... you said that you will get absolutely no benefit from your health plan until you hit your deductible, which is too high to meet if you're healthy. It is true that the simplest plans provide mostly catastrophic coverage (to keep you from being as screwed if you get really sick or in an accident), but even those plans are required to cover some basic preventative care--a yearly OBGYN visit, birth control, and a yearly checkup, I do believe. The lower level plans in California also allow you three doctors and/or urgent care visits per year at just the normal copay rate before you have to start paying out of pocket, though that might just be here. Also "out of pocket" costs for a person with insurance tend to be lower than "out of pocket" prices charged to the uninsured, due to deals the insurance companies make with providers.

    You are right that, on balance, if you are a totally healthy young adult, in any given year you will pay more for insurance premiums than you would have paid for the exact services uninsured. That's kind of how insurance works... you pay for more than what you're getting most of the time in return for them covering you when things go wrong. And I will totally give you the fact that that SUCKS. That said... ONE major health problem that requires a hospital stay (even just overnight!) or minor surgery or even just a decent number of tests will eat through even ridiculous-seeming deductibles SUPER quick. Healthcare is disgustingly expensive, unfortunately.

    3. Ashley, I'm sorry you lost your health insurance, that sucks. Generally people have lost their health insurance due to obamacare for one of two reasons... either their work stopped providing insurance because the law changed the costs for them, or because their plan didn't meet obamacare requirements, so the insurance company had to discontinue it. If it was the latter, what you thought was "great" insurance probably was actually lacking in some major way that you just hadn't personally run into yet--lifetime care caps, not covering some important preventative things, etc. I know that isn't much consolation now that you are without healthcare, and we do desperately need updates to obamacare that help out people that got screwed the way you have. But basically, the system was already broken, and obamacare makes it less broken in a lot of ways overall. It's just not enough to make things better for everyone. I do still hope though, that it is only the first step towards a better system for EVERYONE in the end.

    1. I actually completely forgot about the preventative care stuff, because none of the plans mention it when you're looking at them. I just don't get why everything has to be so complicated; it seems like companies are just trying to be as difficult as possible sometimes. And I totally agree about the single payer system; what we have now is a hot mess.

  3. Keely has already covered most of what I wanted to say, but I also want to add that most private company employers only provide the crappy health insurance too - my parents both work for the government and have fantastic insurance, so I was amazed when I first discovered the deductible for the insurance my company provides. I only now hit it for the first time this year with a crazy expensive emergency room visit. But it does provide preventative care with a yearly OBGYN visit, and now with Obamacare they're required to provide free birth control pills. Obamacare isn't perfect, but I really think it's improving the system a bit and it's definitely better than having no insurance.

    I agree, they should teach life skills more in schools. Fortunately, most of us have some way to figure this stuff out (our parents, the internet, whatever) so that shouldn't be a reason to stay at home with your parents forever, but it can be financially beneficial for some people.



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