Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Why we don't have health insurance…

It started when I changed jobs and went from being a W2 employee to a 1099 contractor without benefits. We learned fairly quickly that insurance costs everyone a lot more than it should. Let me explain:

Whenever we would have a doctor's visit and inform them that we were "self-pay," they would usually cut the bill in half. So, while we were paying more than a co-pay would have been, the doctor's office was not paying as much for claims processing and was able to return that savings to us. But insurance for our family of six would have cost us a minimum of $300/mo.—a great deal more than the extra we were paying at the doctor's office—and not covered co-pays, have a deductible of $5000, and give us only the tiniest discount on prescriptions. To get any real "benefit" from health insurance coverage, we would have had to pay $800 or more a month, which is more than our mortgage payment! We decided that we could put that $3600-9600/year to better use:

1. Because we know we are going to have to pay more out-of-pocket when we visit the doctor's office, as parents, we strive to improve our children's (and our) nutrition by eating foods as close to "whole" as we can. Because we ingest few preservatives and processed foods, we are not sick as often. (Not spending as much time in the doctor's office waiting room also cuts down on our exposure to colds and flu.)

2. Because we are not spending as much on insurance, we were able to increase our grocery budget, allowing us to afford the more healthful, closer to natural and whole foods, which keeps us healthier, and therefore needing less medical services/coverage.

3. Because we have chosen to take responsibility for our own health, my employer also doesn't incur the cost of paying for my health/lifestyle choices, and can use that money to invest in the business, including being able to pay me more for the work I do!

So, our reasons for making the "deliberate choice" were a matter of finances and adjusting the way we eat and buy groceries. A by-product of this choice is that we also don't contribute to medical coverage that we disagree with. Insurance, in many cases, has the practical effect of "wealth distribution" and "rewarding" those who don't take care of themselves by providing them with medical care to fix the problems they incur from unhealthy living.

As Christians, we believe that every person is imbued with value—whether they are healthy, productive adults or preborn children or aged and infirm. So, rather than planning to put our parents in a nursing home (another expensive option insurance-wise) to "run out the clock" when they can no longer take care of themselves, we are planning to provide housing and care for them. In fact, we have already brought my mother-in-law into our home to live with us, BEFORE she can't take care of herself.

Additionally—and not surprisingly—we are pro-life regarding preborn children. Our research (and that of friends in the industry) has shown that of all the insurance companies in the country, there are only a dozen insurance underwriters (the organizations that finance—and profit from—the insurance industry). While an individual company may not cover abortion, their underwriters most likely do. An industry professional was able to interview nine of the twelve underwriters: all nine they were able to contact pay for abortions. So, everyone who pays an insurance premium (unless one of the other three doesn't cover them) is paying into a fund that pays for abortions. That's not something we want to be a part of.

We do recognize, however, that there are real medical needs that others don't have the money to pay for and we should be willing to take on the burdens of others as we are able. That's part of the reason we are making plans to take care of our parents as they age. But, we also learn of needs through our church, through friends, and through people God brings into our lives. Rather than sending a check off to an unknown company that will then send a check to cover someone's expenses, we believe we are supposed to be more involved in people's lives than that. Someone who is suffering a painful and/or life-threatening ailment or injury needs more than money to cover their expenses: they need love and caring. I can't provide that to every person who receives a portion of my insurance premium. But, I can provide that to the specific people God brings into my life. My family can bring people into our home to share a meal; we can visit people in the hospital and pray for them; and we can take a meal to families who are celebrating a new life in their home and are resting after childbirth. The healing process is usually much more rapid when a personal touch is included with the care, rather than just relieving the monetary burden. It's a blessing when we're given the opportunity to provide both!

Fortunately, it's actually more cost-effective and healthful to eschew health insurance and take personal responsibility for our own family's health. And more loving and personal to take care of individual needs rather than handing off the responsibility to a claims process.
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