The woes of finding health insurance


While I was home over Christmas my mother expressed concern over what she felt is my lackluster health insurance. I am currently covered through the Norwegian government and, because it is designed for Norwegian citizens, it is mostly an insurance in case of emergency.

That is to say that for regular medical visits in the U.S. there is a 25 percent deductible, up to $225. It also does not cover most prescription drugs in the U.S., unless those drugs are for illness considered chronic in Norway (examples would be allergies, diabetes, asthma, heart disease). In those cases, your deductible is $320. The insurance fully covers costs associated with emergencies, in-patient hospital treatment, prenatal care, and use of ambulance, i.e. the most expensive kinds of health care. The reason for this set-up is of course that as long as you are still living in Norway you have access to your primary physician there and all the cheap drugs you need.

My mother, being a mother, felt that this was insufficient and made me the very generous offer that she would give me a year’s worth of private health insurance, if the cost was somewhat reasonable. So, I ventured out to obtain quotes for health insurance. At the ripe old age of almost 28, and without chronic illness, besides minor allergies, I usually only go to the doctor every year or even every two years.

The “best” plans offer fairly low premiums, and up to three free or low-deductible visits with the doctor per year. They also offer low co-pays for generic prescription drugs.  For me, this is not a good match. After all, I don’t usually need to see a doctor three times a year, unless I make up illnesses or have a very unfortunate year healthwise. Secondly, I do not really use many prescription drugs. My allergy pills are over the counter in the U.S, but I already stocked up in Norway where they are prescribed, but much cheaper. And as far as the premium goes, at $142/month I get a $1,850 deductible and 0 percent coinsurance. $142 a month is much too much — and a $1,850 deductible is still $1,600 more than what my current deductible is.

For the relatively low price of $54.80 per month, I have a $15,000 deductible, but will not have to pay anything for office visits once that amount has been reached. The problem with this plan is of course that $15,000 is still light years outside my budget. If I was to choose this plan I would in reality be paying $54.80 per month for something that I would not want to use as my current insurance is quite a lot better.

This search has showed me the kind of dilemma facing many young responsible people who want to be insured. For most of us younger folks, we don’t need multiple visits with the doctor per year, nor do we usually have many prescriptions to fill. However, deductibles of $5,000 to 15,000 are money we can only dream of being able to come up with. So what to do then? Do you go with a more expensive per-month plan, that frankly gives you benefits you don’t really need to ensure that in case of emergency the hospital bill will be somewhat manageable, or do you pay less per month so you can pay a little more that one time you need to check in with your doctor, all the while praying nothing too serious will happen since you can’t afford the deductible?

We hear that many young people go uninsured, and I understand their decision. Many plans are not designed to accommodate their needs and thus you end up paying for something you don’t feel is really necessary. If you are a healthy young person with no history of chronic illness or evens so much as seasonal flu or a single allergy it might be difficult to set aside money each month for a plan that provides more service than you want, or a plan that will still leave you with a very large (albeit, somewhat less than without insurance) bill if something serious happens.

The quotes I got ranged in price from $54.80 to $172 per month, and although neither are horribly expensive in the great scheme of things, it is still a substantial amount of money, particularly if you have rather little to begin with.