The more I listen to the news of the virtual economic collapse of the system as we know it, I worry about one plastic card that's very important. It's not a credit card -- it's your insurance card.
When you begin looking for ways to cut your budget, you realize just how many insurance bills you have to pay each month, every six months or every year. There's insurance to cover your household items if you rent or own your own. There's insurance for the car. There's insurance for your health. There is insurance for long-term care or for disability. There is insurance in case you die.
This economy may be making you take a closer look at all of those insurance policies and those premiums that seem to be due all too quickly. When Jimmy had his brain stem stroke at 33, we did not have long-term care insurance. "Why do we need something like that?" I could hear myself thinking -- had the thought ever crossed my mind.
Sadly, the thought did not cross my mind, as we were too busy living! We were young. Of course, we had the insurance on the house, the cars and the all important life insurance. You live and die, right? We had to have the inevitable dying part covered.
I just Googled disability chances. One insurance Web site popped up saying that one out of every 106 people die, but one out of every eight people become disabled.
We were not prepared for disability. The health insurance, which became my most important piece of plastic in my purse, saved his life. It provided the care he needed to survive and to thrive after the stroke -- thanks to a stay at Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Ga.
Health insurance did not take care of the "next step." That's the place Jimmy went following his ICU stays and the rehabilitation. We had to piece together his care through veterans benefits and eventually Medicaid. The health insurance filled in the gaps when there were more hospitalizations, etc. It was essential to his survival.
As the economy keeps changing, I worry about what people are going to do. Health insurance is so important. Without it, Jimmy would have been shuffled immediately to a nursing home. With it, he was given a chance and was accepted at Shepherd Center.
I read an article several weeks ago on www.cnn.com, which mentioned a doctor who didn't have health insurance. He was between jobs, when something happened and he needed surgery. A key point was that the doctor -- a doctor -- didn't have health insurance. I thought he was brave he was to share his story. His story emphasized the point that there is sometimes a gap in coverage.
The doctor's story also highlighted a little known point about negotiation in the health care industry. Without insurance, he negotiated a less expensive price for his surgical procedure. You don't have to be a doctor to do this. Anyone can do it. You just have to ask.
If you have had insurance before, think back to those statements of benefit notices you receive in the mail. The doctor charges one price. The insurance company negotiates to pay a lower price. Your co-pay is typically deducted from the amount the insurance will cover. There is wiggle room.
I understand COBRA payments can be expensive and you may need to forget about the COBRA policy and shop for something with less benefits and lower monthly payments. You may have to get a larger deductible for the year.
Insurance is important to have. You need to have it when you are healthy, so it's there when you are not. If you can't find a low cost individual or family policy, consider checking into state and federal programs to help families. Many states offer insurance programs to cover children.
I know from experience it is overwhelming to see a bill for $275,000 for medical services. The shock is well cushioned with a health insurance card in your wallet.