I can read a benefits packet and analyze a prescription drug formulary like no buddy’s business. For three years I worked for the nations largest Pharmacy Benefit management company and was taught the ins and outs of the insurance world. I received numerous calls from people trying to get medications covered for pre-existing conditions. The only thing I could do was offer up prior authorization or connect them to a pharmacist to look for a covered option.
At 27 I was a freshly divorced pulmonary embolism/stroke survivor, I quit my job, and found myself trying to get insurance in a world that didn’t want to cover a risk. I was no longer seen as AmandaJean, instead I was seen as a pre-existing condition, a drain on an insurance plan. I was young and vibrant, yet my PE plagued me. I searched for an affordable plan, the cheapest one I found was $700 a month for sub par coverage. I couldn’t find fulltime employment, instead I became a contractor and that offers no benefits what so ever. From October 2010 to June 2012 I went without health insurance.
Going without health insurance was like jumping into shark infested waters without a cage. I quickly learned how much medications really cost and had to decide between picking up my medications or paying my student loans. Needless to say my medications trumped my student loan payment and soon the collection calls started. Medical bills started piling up and before I knew it I was $10,000.00 in the hole. CT scans and echocardiograms are not cheap, neither are trips to the ER or urgent care. Since I didn’t have insurance I would try any over the counter remedy before giving in and going to the doctor. The Doctors I saw knew I was a self pay and they did their best to hook me up with samples and alternative care.
In the fall of 2011, I worked myself almost to death and managed to get a staph infection in my knee. I begged and pleaded with the doctor to let me go home, I told him “I can’t afford this, just let me go.” I got to go home four days later and waited for the bills to come. I cried when I saw the total and cashed in my 401K to pay most of the bill off. Only to find myself racking up new and bigger hospital bills. By the time Christmas rolled around I was desperately searching for a job that would offer me good health insurance. I went back to what I knew and took a job at a collections firm. I know, collections is not my cup of tea, however their insurance plan was.
I cried the day my insurance card came in the mail. I finally didn’t have to worry about paying full price for medications or services. I had insurance and I was happy. My job with the collections firm was short-lived, I found myself without a job in January 2013 and I knew one thing: “I was not going to go without insurance again.” I set out and search for an individual plan. The prices had come down quiet a bit since my last search and I knew I could not be denied this time around, thank you Affordable Health Care Act. I decided on an individual plan with HealthPartners, I filled out the online application and waited to receive my certificate of coverage in the mail.
At first I though HealthPartners was playing a joke on me and that the stated premium amount was wrong. I called and spoke to a representative, she double checked, and said AmandaJean that’s right your premium is $94.63 per month. After a long pause, she realized that I was crying. I explained to her that having affordable insurance meant I could hold out for the job I wanted and not rush into something that would give me insurance. By the end of our conversation she was crying right along with me, HealthPartners gave me peace of mind and my life back.
MNSure is an incredible idea and now thousands of Minnesotans will be able to apply for insurance without having to worry about pre-existing conditions and cost. On Tuesday night I logged onto the site and was very impressed by the easy to navigate layout and the types of plans offered. The online form is simple to fill out and asks you questions about income, family size, health habits and so on. Once you sign up for an account you are able to see what your real estimated premium would be and review the options best suited to you.
While MNSure is not the perfect answer, it is a good start and it provides easy access to health insurance for many Minnesotans. Best part is if you are like me and have a pre-existing condition you can no longer be denied nor can you be forced to pay a higher premium than your healthy counterparts. I learned the hard way: going without insurance is a bad idea one cannot afford to go without health insurance. Insurance is now an affordable option and there are many resources out there to help you in your insurance decision.
Here are a few resources to get you started:
http://www.ehealthinsurance.com ——-> (This is what I used to find my affordable HealthPartners insurance plan)
http://www.mn.gov/dhs ———> (Minnesota Department of Human Services)