As a newly uninsured person, never do anything. Wait, strike that. Never want to do anything. Every action, every event you take part in, there is a thin, underlying panic that goes along with every move you make. And the less you do, the less you have to worry.
You probably should have a job. Employers are supposed to have workers’ insurance (unless they’re scumbags) (or like you) and anything that happens on the job should be covered by that. I have a friend who walked out of his house to go to work one morning only to wake up in the back of an ambulance. As he stepped out into the street something struck him in the the head and knocked him unconscious. He called me after to say, “I’m okay, but I’m in an ambulance. They told me they found me in the street. They think I got hit by a car. I’m gonna go now.”
You see? It’s just like taking a trip to the store. And lucky for my friend he was able to get his work to cover the accident. Because when you get into a situation like that, insurance is the thing that makes a shotgun wound feel like a paper cut.
Actually, no it doesn’t.
Anyway, I’ve been uninsured for close to a decade now. I had it while in college, a mandatory policy that was probably lumped in with my student loans. After graduating, my parents signed me up for a minimal policy, one that I never used and was too afraid it wouldn’t cover anything (as in, the type where they deny everything and you’d be better off going uninsured instead). And when it came time for me to start forking over my own dough, I looked at the numbers and realized I wasn’t in a position to spend more than a third of my income on health insurance.
This reminds me of a joke from “Married With Children,” where Al Bundy is trying to tell his son, Bud, about the responsibilities that come from earning a living:
Now, that was a twenty dollar [shoe] sale. That means a solid dollar ninety seven for me. After taxes, social security, and your mother, I just earned myself a cool nickel.
The thing is, you can do the smart responsible thing and be left with nothing but the sure feeling of knowing you’re prepared for the inevitable. Or you can have a few bucks in your pocket and make peace with the fact you’re going to die someday, because only the truly lucky get to die of old age and be surrounded by those who love them.
Is it really sensible to spend more than a third of your income on health insurance? Accountants say the easiest way to live comfortably is to have your living expenses no more than a third of your income. That is unless, of course, you live in New York where the cost of living is roughly half (What’s that? I don’t need to go out every night of the week? Sure). Therefore, if you’re spending a third on rent and bills, and a third goes to savings (Ha!), it leaves you with the decision of having not enough to cover yourself in the event of some emergency health situation.
So what do you have to look forward to in the event of an medical emergency when you’re uninsured? That same friend who got hit in head on the way to work found out about a fund that helps people struck in hit-and-run cases. Moreover, I’ve been told by people who work at hospitals that some will sell emergency insurance in the event you’re there and don’t have any. Sometimes you can work something out with the hospital, as in some kind of payment over time. But I’m willing to bet more often than not, they’ll just write you off if you’re enough of a deadbeat (and it’s only at the expense of your financial credit).
So you’ll probably be okay without insurance. As long as you’re not dead.