By Ryan Healy - About a month ago, my brother, Dan, was in the hospital. Originally, the doctors told him he had a small cut, and he should use some Neosporin to prevent infection. A couple of days later, they told him he had a staph infection. Staph infections are bad, but for my brother they are especially bad.
Dan was born with congenital heart disease, and any type of infection could be life-threatening. My parents hopped in the car and made the 10-hour drive from Connecticut to Columbus, OH. According to my parents, the three days in the Columbus hospital were like a bad episode of House. Nobody knew exactly what was wrong. The infectious disease doctors were in and out of his room every day.
Eventually, Dan was released from the hospital. The antibiotics killed the infection before it could spread. Regardless, the whole experience was incredibly scary for all of us. And it really made me nervous to ditch my corporate job with benefits to work at a startup with no health insurance.
But my mind was made up and sticking with my job was not an option. So the first thing I did was schedule a physical. I crossed my fingers and went into the doctors office, hoping there was nothing wrong. At first glance I was fine.
The doctor than asked if I wanted to have some blood tests done to test for HIV, hepatitis and whatever else they test. It sounded like a good idea at the time, so I strapped in and gave some blood. I regretted the decision immediately. If I tested positive for anything, private health insurance would go from expensive to completely unaffordable.
Luckily, everything turned out fine. But you know there is something wrong with the health care system when putting off being tested for a life-threatening disease for a few months is a “smart” financial option.
After the blood tests, the doctor asked if I wanted to have my cholesterol checked. Despite my mother constantly reminding me of my family’s high cholesterol, I declined for fear of an unusually high test and in turn, higher future health care costs. Finally, before leaving, I requested a tetanus shot even though I was 99 percent positive that it wasn’t necessary.
Buying fitted running shoes was next on my list. I try to run four to five times per week and my legs were beginning to bother me. It was definitely time for a new pair of shoes. But a week before you quit your job to pursue something with no immediate stream of income is not a great time to drop $100 on shoes.
After some thought, I realized that $100 now could be the only thing saving me from a stress fracture or another common running injury, which could end up saving me thousands in future uninsured medical costs.
After doing everything I could think of to prepare for life without insurance, a buddy of mine told me about a program that covers 80 percent of all medical expenses after a $500 deductible for “healthy” 23-year-old guys. It’s certainly not free, but all things considered, it’s a really good deal. (I plan to actually purchase the plan this week, so if anyone knows of a better deal, please let me know!)
Still, I’m lucky that I don’t have any preexisting medical conditions. I’m lucky I am not on any prescription drugs and I’m lucky to have tested negative for any diseases. Not everyone will be able to get such a good deal, and that’s a big problem.
My brother has full intentions of continuing his own business and starting companies for years to come, but he is going to have to take some major risks once he is off of my parents’ insurance policy.
Whether this means purchasing a catastrophic plan, borrowing money or completely going off of insurance, he will figure it out and I will help however I can. Because dropping everything to chase a dream might sound risky, but in my book, working a dead-end job for fear of not having health coverage is much riskier.
Ryan Healy’s blog is Employee Evolution.