The United States has the most expensive healthcare in the world. While I have a lot of feels on the subject of healthcare as a human right, that’s decidedly maco and this blog is purposefully micro. This post encapsulates my lessons learned re: health insurance from having switched jobs, homes and cities with dizzying speed. I’ve also lived and worked internationally and am happy to point you in the right direction on travel/repatriation insurance.
Health insurance is effectively a discount card that greatly reduces and/or completely covers the otherwise prohibitively expensive cost of preventative care such as a flu shot, teeth cleaning, visit to the eye doctor, annual checkup, etc. Health insurance also serves as a safety net ensuring major things like having a baby, repairing broken bones or recovering from a car accident doesn’t spell financial ruin for you and/or your family. Hopefully, you know that health insurance, like paying your rent or cell phone bill, is not optional. However, if you don’t have health insurance or health insurance bills are getting you down, check out my spiel below about the Healthcare Marketplace aka Healthcare.gov. Don’t beat yourself up for not having it all figured out. Just decide right here and now to invest in yourself and let’s get you some insurance today!
The majority of Americans have employer-sponsored health care. If, like me, you fall into that category, before quitting your job, carefully plan when to give your two-week notice. Pull out a calendar and a work backward to select your last day by keeping these implications in mind:
- Confirm when your new health insurance will begin. Your first day of work and your first day of insurance coverage are not always the same. In the private sector, the insurance coverage start date is sometimes negotiable. Remember to negotiate in order of importance. Health insurance start date is something to negotiate after salary but before signing an offer letter. Being uninsured is an unacceptable risk and most employers will respect that and work with you to ensure that’s handled.
- When you quit a job, health and dental insurance coverage will continue until the end of the month. Timing your last day to be at the beginning of the month will reduce the likelihood of a gap in coverage.
- Stock up on your prescriptions including birth control. Sometimes paperwork takes longer than it should. Plan ahead to minimize the chance you’ll run out by getting a few months in advance, if possible.
- FSA money will expire at the end of the month. If you have “use it or lose it” FSA money, stock up on contacts, bandages, condoms, etc. Tampons and other feminine health products are not FSA eligible.
Note #1: Wait, condoms are covered but tampons are not? Yes, that’s exactly what I’m telling you. Let’s elect people who believe in common sense policies that don’t unfairly discriminate against women. VOTE! VOTE FOR WOMEN!
Note #2: HSA is your money and does not ever expire. If you’re squirreling away pre-tax money for medical expenses, save yourself the absurd FSA rules and go with the much more useful HSA.
Below are a few other important things to consider:
Healthcare Marketplace If you are an entrepreneur, work for a very small company or are between jobs, you will need to pay out of pocket for direct-purchase insurance. Healthcare.gov is a one stop shop for purchasing insurance. Their many tools, FAQs and helpful staff take the guesswork out of purchasing health insurance. Depending on your income, you may qualify for financial assistance effectively reducing your monthly payment.
COBRA If your employment ends, COBRA gives workers and their families the opportunity to extended health coverage by paying the premiums themselves. There are a defined set of criteria that determine whether you are eligible for COBRA. Note: COBRA is expensive as the cost includes your premiums, your employer contribution and a 2% service charge. Be sure to shop around and compare insurance options on the Healthcare Marketplace.
Workers Compensation Many employers provide Workers Compensation insurance. If you are injured at work, this insurance will cover your lost wages and medical expenses. Be sure to document any injuries immediately and seek appropriate medical care. Do not be a hero; always prioritize yourself and your health. If you think you may qualify for workers compensation, do your homework, contact your respective state worker’s compensation official and consider speaking to a lawyer.