Simplifying Healthcare

I just returned home from the hospital after an all day ordeal in the ER yesterday, and then another 5 hours today. My father-in-law is a pastor and wasn’t feeling well during church yesterday. He stood up to preach, and then looked like he was about to pass out. Luckily, we all got up to the stage before he did. He was admitted last night, and he’ll be in there for a few days. He’s doing much better now.

Giving the circumstances, I did a lot of thinking about the state of healthcare. The skyrocketing costs stink, for lack of a better term. My family pays about $600/mo for HMO insurance. It’s the only thing my husband’s employer offers, so we’re kind of stuck for the moment.

I started thinking about options that people may have if they have just been laid off or if they are in need of healthcare coverage. There were a lot of people in the emergency room yesterday that did not have insurance nor did they appear to have much more going on than some flu-like symptoms. I believe that everyone in America has the right to healthcare, don’t get me wrong, but going to the emergency room for illnesses that can be treated with a little time and TLC is a strain on our healthcare system.

So, what are you options? If you’ve just been laid off, you should be eligible for COBRA coverage. COBRA extends your insurance coverage for a certain time period at a higher rate. Is it worth it, though? If you are single and rarely go to the doctor, it’s probably money you should keep in your pocket given that a regular doctor visit would only cost about $125 out-of-pocket. However, if you have a large family or are elderly, your best bet is to extend your coverage.

Perhaps you or your spouse do have jobs will insurance coverage, but the value for your dollar isn’t where it should be. Check with other local health insurance coverage premiums. Many insurance companies are turning to self-directed healthcare, where you are responsible for the first, say $2,000 in visits, and they cover the rest at a nominal rate. If you are the member of a professional organization, check their website and literature in the mail for group discounts on healthcare. That $50 membership could turn into a few thousand dollars of savings over a year.

What if you can’t afford any coverage? If you are really struggling, check with your Department of Human Services for programs that cover families and/or children based on your income. You may even qualify for WIC, which will help you buy grocery staples.

While I was in the hospital today, I picked up the January 2009 copy of Ladies Home Journal that had a quick blurb about “Budget-Wise Health Care.” Essentially, the article said that insurance companies are cutting back on tests and office visits. It listed how often and when you should schedule testing for common tests such as mammograms and colonoscopies. The best part of the article discussed what tests you could get for free and where.

For example, get a free mammogram or pap smear by checking for your state on Get your blood pressure or cholestrol checked for free at local health fairs. Get a flu shot for free or at a reduced cost at your health department. Get a free skin cancer exam through the American Academy of Dermatology at And finally, call 800-222-EYES for a free eye exam through the American Academy of Ophthalmology or 800-766-4466 from the American Optometric Association program.


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