by Sarah Morgan
I grew up completely unaware of healthcare costs. My good health coupled with insurance plans under both my parents meant that I never even had to look at the receipt for the occasional prescription medication or a trip to the dentist.
I had no idea of the financial inequality of those high medical needs and little insurance coverage. It wasn’t until university through friends complaining about the cost of birth control that I realized the privilege I had. The importance of insurance became even more clear to me when I became sick at the age of 21.
A surprise that changes it all
Though I was young, I was fortunate that my diagnosis could be managed with lifelong medication.
I remember reading about a professional basketball player that shared my condition. I told my doctor that “I want whatever medication he’s on.” That medication, which I’m on now, is one of the most expensive on the market. But it works. So, how am I supposed to choose between cost and effectiveness – a decision no one should have to decide?
Presented with options
Another thing that many people don’t realize with these particular medications is the inability to switch to a cheaper generic version. These medications have “similars”, but they are not considered identical like Acetaminophen is to Tylenol. Although the cost is reduced with these “similars”, they are still unaffordable for many.
The cost for me to function is currently priced at $3,500 every eight weeks. That’s over $20,000 a year and more than half of my previous years’ salary. It’s crazy for me to think about.
At only 21, I realized that receiving insurance coverage would be a necessity for the rest of my life and would have to be at the forefront of my future decisions.
This would have to be in the form of group insurance through an employer, as individual plans don’t cover pre-existing conditions, or they have expensive premiums and inadequate maximums.
Until recently, I was under my boyfriend’s group insurance plan as a common-law partner. This was incredible as I was previously working part-time and had returned to school without benefits of my own.
This week, after a few months of searching, we got the exciting news that my boyfriend was offered a new position he was hoping for. I hadn’t even thought to worry because I assumed that all companies with ten or more employees had a group plan. What was meant to be a day of celebration ended up causing stress for both of us. We learned that the company had no health insurance plan.
My boyfriend graciously offered for me to use his healthcare spending account. I informed him it wasn’t fair to him and wouldn’t even cover a single dose of my medication.
Finding Affordable Healthcare
Then ensued a scramble. I wouldn’t have my boyfriend turn down a dream job on my account. Though I could join my dad’s plan until turning 25 in September, that only covered an additional two doses of medication. I would find a job after school in November, but I had no idea if jobs in my field offered health benefits. (I’ll be graduating from a financial planning program and financial advisors are typically seen as having their own business.)
I’ve reached out to my community for advice, as they know firsthand how to maneuver insurance companies and government benefits. I have options, but it’s certainly stressful and not something that most people my age can relate to.
Insurance for gig workers
I have many friends that are working in the gig economy and are uninsured. It’s certainly a problem with millennials and Gen Z taking on multiple side hustles and part-time jobs without any coverage. I had an old co-worker say that throughout his twenties he didn’t go to the dentist once.
Holistic wellness doesn’t mitigate the need for good healthcare coverage
As someone who had perfect health, ate well and was very active, I know what it’s like for health to take a sudden nose dive. I strongly recommend that young people seek out insurance coverage. This is especially true if they don’t have any, or consider adding a secondary policy to supplement their current coverage.
A standard individual plan averages $448 a month, but can easily be recuperated annually through a bi-annual trip to the dentist, eye examinations, and physiotherapy or chiropractic treatments.
What’s most important is the risk mitigation from the thousands in drug coverage or treatment you receive, should anything happen. In my experience, when a health situation unfolds you want to act fast and receive the best treatment possible, not worry about how you will pay for it.
In addition, employers need to strongly consider providing group coverage for employees. It takes care of employees and their families. Insurance also ensures the well-being of your employees and the smoothing run of your business – such a no-brainer.
I think that my generation tends to think that we’re invincible. I certainly had this sentiment. With the ensuing COVID-19 pandemic, people have been forced to see things a little differently. While we hope that legislation can reduce rising healthcare costs, it’s insurance that is your best bet to protect you and your families from disastrous financial outcomes and ensure your financial legacy.
Don’t stress that something will happen, but why not be prepared if it does?
Sarah Morgan is a student and writer for the Mixed-Up Money blog. Sarah graduated from the Wilfrid Laurier University business program with a concentration in Finance in 2018.
She has since worked in various financial fields. This includes as a stock analyst on Bay Street and as an Investment Representative where she assisted a team of accredited financial advisors.
She hopes to become a Certified Financial Planner for young women looking to take control of their money.
Sarah discusses all things pertaining to recent grads, women in finance, and overall health and wellness through her writing and various social media channels.
When she’s not writing, you can find Sarah snuggling her cat, doing yoga in her living room, and watching YouTube.
Follow her on Instagram.