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Health Insurance: My Biggest Waste of Money

   Posted On: October 10, 2013  |    Posted In: Personal Finance 101  |     Posted by: Broke Millennial®

Shredding Money
This picture causes me so much pain. So. Much. Pain.

First of all, calm down. Before you immediately scroll down to the comment section to berate me, let me “speak.”

I know you’ve come to regard me as a bit of a financial goddess who is just so wise in the ways of handling all things money. You think, “she saves, she budgets, she avoided debt, she pays bills on time, she crunches numbers and dabbles in investing, what could possibly be missing?!” Look, we all make mistakes.

My biggest mistake? I rarely utilize my health insurance.

I am woefully ignorant about my policy and the nuances of health insurance. In August of 2012, I was promoted from intern to a full-time position with my current company. The prospect getting health insurance almost eclipsed my excitement over a regular paycheck, especially because my company pays for our insurance. Not partially subsidizes it, pays for it. In full.

Granted, our salaries are a tad lower than industry standard because of our benefits package. We also get four weeks of vacation the first year and five weeks subsequent years. For international readers that may not sound strange, but in the States that’s double of what most companies offer entry-level employees.

If my company pays for my health insurance, then how can I consider it my biggest waste of money?

Well, in the 15 months I’ve been insured I’ve used my insurance twice. Once to go to the dentist and the other to get an annual skin screening from the dermatologist. I have incredibly Irish skin which needs to be monitored with hawk-like eyes. By my count, I could’ve used my insurance for all available doctor visits (I believe 5) before April when the calendar reset and already be in my second round.

Neither of my visits thus far cost me a penny. Not even a co-pay. From my incredibly rudimentary understanding of my policy, if I go on a “wellness visit” (aka a trip to the doctor just to make sure I’m a-okay) then it’s covered by my insurance. If I go to the doctor because I’m ailing and need to be fixed, then I’d have to pony up. * To clarify, I would still have insurance, I would just have to also pay the co-pay/ deductible.

(Just made a quick call to fact check this with my very dear and very wise friend who has a masters in public health. Wellness visits are typically covered by insurance because they are preventative and it’s cheaper up front for the insurance companies to keep you in good health than pay to make you better after the fact.)

By not utilizing my insurance for all of my available wellness visits, I feel that I’m throwing away money, free money. It’s as if my company said, “Hey Erin, here is a bonus check” and I respond, “Just toss it in the shredder guys!”

The scuttlebutt around the office is that our insurance is still really great when you are going in for more than a wellness visit. And a few of the glasses wearers seem satisfied with what’s covered during their trips to the optometrist.

Why haven’t I been utilizing my insurance?

Laziness (just like those who don’t set up a company-matched 401k!). There really is no other excuse. Scheduling appointments via ZocDoc takes all of 7 minutes; including the search of doctors near my office, filtering by those who take my insurance and seeing their availability. I don’t even have to pick up the phone and speak to a human.

This self-deprecating rant has convinced me to go book my next wellness visit. Right after I finish watching some TV…painting my nails…cleaning my the bathroom…okay fine I’ll just do it!

Do you take advantage of all your wellness visits? Do you even understand your insurance policy?

Interested in another great read about health? Check out If Obesity is a Disease, Then I’m Harry Freaking Potter

[Image taken from Flickr]

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34 responses to “Health Insurance: My Biggest Waste of Money

  1. I work in health insurance so take or leave my opinion 😉 Also, my opinion is completely my own. I think that you are looking at it the wrong way. Health insurance can literally save you from bankruptcy if something unexpected happens. You could get a nasty infection that requires hospitalization. One hospital stay alone – or I should say one night – could cost in excess of $10,000. Just because you haven’t had something catastrophic happens doesn’t mean your insurance was a waste, because if something DID happen this post would be about how health insurance was such a great value and worth whatever you paid in premiums to have it.

    1. Uh-oh, I think someone scrolled! The point is (as alifesgayventure said) that I don’t take advantage of the “free” money I’m being handed, so I feel like I’m wasting money. I’m 100% grateful to have insurance. I also do pay a penny to have insurance in the first place, which compounds of the feel of wastefulness.

  2. i think she meant she was foolish not to take up the checkup appts, as it is allready paid for; but from what she said, if she got ill, it is not covered by her company insurance. she will have to pay for treatment. if that is so, i ask you, what is the use of those company insurance then?
    of course she might be wrong, or that statement about being ill and having to pay for it is a mistyping error.
    i hope brokemillennial will clarify.

    1. You are spot on, I do mean that I’m foolish not to take those checkup appoints. I’ve cleared up the point about what happens if I’m ill. I just meant that if I do get sick then I’ll have to pay a co-pay/my deductible because it won’t be covered 100%. Thanks for point it out as confusing.

  3. Don’t worry, Erin, you’ll get LOTS of use out of health insurance in the future, e.g., if/when you ever have kids. My largest health insurance usage years have been the past three, not only due to pregnancy, but also due to all the colds and weird viruses I’ve picked up from the kiddo. I remember thinking in my 20s that I was wasting my money (and, yes, get the wellness visits!) but now I think, “Man, I am SO making out!” (Well, I was thinking that before our premiums jumped up to 35% of my husband’s gross salary…now my feelings are much more qualified.)

    1. Great point, Rebecca. If I actually had to pay out of pocket for insurance in the first place, like most folks, I’m sure I’d be crankier or more motivated to take those wellness visits. I can’t even imagine trying to have a baby without insurance. Horrifically expensive.

    1. Good to hear I’m not alone! It seems that my co-workers are great about scheduling them because I always get calendar invites that they’ll be at the doctor. That needs to be me.

  4. Honestly, be thankful that your business pays 100% of your premiums. At our old job, the business we worked for only paid 30 percent of our premiums and we had a 5K deductible!
    But, with that being said, I’m terrible about wellness visits as well. I just hate going to the doctor!

    1. I am very grateful my company pays for insurance. It would be tough to swing covering 70% (or more) on my salary. I’m not a fan of going to the doctor either, but I’m a freak about dental hygiene so the dentist is a top priority.

  5. Not a bad idea to start going to the ‘visits’ that are indeed covered. If you’re not paying for them, then use the opportunity. As others said, insurance is more for the – knock on wood so that it doesn’t happen – moments when something serious needs taking care of.

    1. Absolutely, and I don’t recommend people go without insurance. It would be terrible if the unexpected happened and you weren’t protected.

  6. I’m definitely guilty of not doing regular, yearly physicals, but I’m not entirely sure that those visits would be covered by insurance (I think I’d still have to pay a copay). I’m not a fan of going to the doctor unless I know I’m sick and I need some sort of prescription antibiotics to get over it! From what you’ve said, it sounds like you have great health insurance. I’m happy to have ours; it only costs us $80 a month. It feels like a waste when I look at how much money we spent annually on it and how infrequently we go to the doc for anything, but I know a whole lot of people pay a whole lot more than what we do so I’m grateful to have what we do.

    1. I think I have great health insurance (could be wrong because of my lack of understanding about my policy). I’m sure those $80 a month will feel worth it if something really bad happens!

  7. I’d actually go more for screening type things because I’m in my 40’s and things like skin screenings, mammograms, and for my family early colon cancer screenings are things that I need to do, but because I pay for my own crappy health insurance I put those things off more than I should. I’m incredibly jealous your company pays 100%! I to think though that you’re young and I can see how you easily let those things slide, so try not to think too hard about it being wasted money…think it’s more of a peace of mind things and like DC said it’s there to protect you in case something catastrophic happens.

    1. It’s great that you’re being preventative about your health, especially if certain illnesses run in your family. I’m glad I have the insurance if something bad does happen, but I do feel the need to take better ownership over my health and get those already paid for wellness visits!

  8. I really wished my job paid 100% of my health insurance. I go to the dermatologist often because I have eczema and I spend a whole lot a year for that. And I could use a job that offers four week vacations. lol. I would definitely take advantage of that.

    1. I do try to take advantage of the vacation time too, but how our teams our structured you can also get locked out of certain times. I didn’t even come close to using all mine last year, so I need to start planning way ahead for vacations this time around!

  9. I think it’s great that you at least get checked by a dermatologist. We’re “forced” to take a holiday break, so I just get my annuals done with then – if ever, it’s good peace of mind. That’s awesome about your vacation time!

    1. Our office shuts down for the holidays too, but I do love getting the time off. I’d probably take it regardless. Good thought to get the annuals done then! I tend to travel back to my parents for Christmas, so I get my dentist visit squared away then. I just love my dentist in NC. He also calls himself the “Hick Dentist” because I live in “the big city.” Cracks me up.

  10. If it wasn’t for a yearly prescription that I need filled, I would probably be in the same boat as you. As it is, I have to make an appointment with the doctor once a year to make sure everything is hunky dory. I’m actually curious to see next year if those visits are considered preventative (and thus free under the PPACA) or if they are maintenance visits (since it’s to monitor the status of a pre-existing condition) and subject to a copay.

    1. I should do doctor visits each year to check my thyroid as that’s a pretty common issue in my family. Easily treatable, but you have to catch it.

      I too am curious to see how much things will change as ACA rolls out. Hope it counts as preventative for you!

  11. Ugh, I feel that way too sometimes, Erin. I haven’t been for an annual check in 5 years, but honestly (and I know this sounds terrible) I’ve got too much other stuff to do! However, I did just make an appt for an annual check that will arrive in Nov. Gotta use that free money up, right?

    1. Use it!!! I’m pretty regular with the dentist, but not like I should be with the doctor. Trying to get better about that one.

  12. While you certainly should take advantage of wellness and other benefits, the big reason to have health insurance is to insure you against major illness or a similar medical situation. The costs of a major illness can and does ruin people financially.

    Overall the whole area of utilizing employee benefits can be confusing to people. This is likely open enrollment season for you and it behooves you to review the benefits offered as you make you choices for the upcoming year. Coverage such as disability insurance is also critical as it is basically “lifestyle” insurance. Don’t forget to take advantage of your 401(k) plan if one is offered.

    1. As I mentioned in previous comments, I am of course grateful to be insured and understand the overall point of insurance is for the big “it could happen” moments.

      I enrolled in the 401(k) immediately and have written several posts about why millennials need to start saving for retirement.

  13. Since you only mentioned two doctors visits and it is Breast Care awareness month, maybe you should work that and other health screenings into the list; it is far from wasting money. Sometimes it’s the little things you do not do that one day you find you have cancer and were too late in spotting it. This has happened to a friend of mine who has only 3 months to live with a child on the way; he is 38..please use the health insurance as much as you can.

    1. I actually have scheduled other wellness visits for later on next month to get more proactive about my health.

      So sorry to hear about your friend. I shall keep him and his family in my prayers.

  14. I was just thinking this. I finally have dental coverage (dental is often sadly considered cosmetic despite the fact that gingivitis is linked to heart disease) and I have YET to go to the dentist.

    I do see my lady-doctor annually but outside of that, I don’t take advantage of my insurance. I dislocated my toe on Thursday and had to go to the ER and that was the first time I’ve really utilized my insurance! I decided after that moment that I’m going to see specialists that I’ve been wanting to see— allergist, a pulmonoligist (I have a mild lung issue), a dermatoligist, a podiatrist, and of course that dentist! With low specialist co-pays, I have no excuse.

    1. Dental is considered cosmetic?! That’s criminal. Oral health is really important and cause plenty of issues if left unchecked.

  15. Open enrollment was one of my most favorite periods. I would print out ALL options and studying them carefully to choose the best one. I don’t know why I enjoyed it. Perhaps it’s b/c it was a free benefit that I wanted to take advantage of.

    The older you get, the more you will care. It’s just natural as we realize our mortality further.

  16. I have not had health insurance for 18 years…total out of pocket cost for a few scripts of amoxicillin 450.00 over those 18years….if you can sleep at night which can and in addition look at a health insurance table. Insurance is a huge waste of money from ages 18-45. In addition health insurance increase cost as if there were no insurance the market prices would have to come down to what average people could afford to pay.

    1. Thats how I would have loved to do it. But then come those WHAT IFS? I have had insurance but not consistently and have not, thankfully, had to put major use to it. I feel too, just throwing money away. The kicker is, I pay full. No 30 percent from the company or anything like that. Found this blog because I was wondering how many others would have a better way to handle the situation. Keeping it for now but pulling 350 out of pocket every month and not showing the card yet has to be a waste. SMH.

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