This is the basic math of health care…
Let’s say you have a family of four, and you need to decide whether to pay for a dental plan, and the plan will cost an extra $150 a month. Does that sound like a lot to you?
The plan will cover basic checkups twice a year, or about 85 percent of the cost for them. It will cover 50 percent of major dental work. So… $150 a month is $1800 a year. That’s a lot, yeah. And you still have to pay for some stuff. Ugh.
But as a parent I assume you plan to go for visits twice a year, right? Because you know that good dental care is something kids need to develop, right? And modeling that care yourself is the best way to teach them? And you also know that preventative care of your teeth can help with things like heart disease?
So now let’s figure 8 visits (4 people twice a year) for basic exams and teeth cleaning. And figure the exams and cleanings, even without X-rays and scaling and stuff, are $150 each. So that’s roughly $1200 you’re “saving.” (and I’m doing this rough and dirty, not calculating the co-pays, but that’s cheap for dental work, and you WILL need X-rays and so on, so this is conservative, trust me)
Now– all you have to do is have one procedure a year among the four of you that costs $600, and your dental coverage has paid for itself. Right? One kid with a cracked tooth. One root canal. Maybe two and a half small fillings on regular teeth. Or an irrigation for gum issues.
But these numbers are actually looking pretty close. So maybe I’m wrong, and you’d do just as well to pay out of pocket, right? Especially in years when you don’t need any fillings? Maybe you’re better off skipping the dental insurance, after all…
Because the kicker is that you WOULD NOT. You would NOT go to the dentist twice a year if you had to pay $150 bucks just for the visit. You would NOT opt for the X-rays, if you had to pay extra for them. Maybe you’d take the kids in on schedule, because you feel bad not doing it, and the pediatrician might ask, but you’d TOTALLY skip your own visits. You’d save the $150 and spend it on something else. You would suffer a tooth ache, and hope it goes away. You would wait… and wait… and wait. You’d wait years.
And then, one day, you would find yourself at the ER in the night, because of sudden intolerable pain. And the doc at the ER would say, “Wow, this is serious. You’ve got a major infection in there. We need to take out these two teeth and you might have a malignancy in the bone. I SURE HOPE YOU HAVE INSURANCE!”
And in that moment you will cringe. Because what you’re about to have done to your teeth–the surgery that could have been prevented with a $150 visit twice a year–it will cost thousands and thousands of dollars. (and be painful, and mean you’ll miss work too, which is another cost, actually, that we aren’t averaging in)
And once you’ve taken out a special medical credit card to pay for the abscess and the extraction, you’ll have to decide whether you want to get a tooth implant too, which will be another couple thousand. Ouch.
So you’ll look back, at that moment, and think, “Why does stuff like this always happen to ME?” And the answer will be, “Because you didn’t have health insurance.”
I know how obnoxious this sounds. I know I seem priggish. But this is so so so so important. It really is. And trust me, I’VE BEEN THERE.
And you know what else? The other stuff, the non-teeth stuff? It’s all exactly like the teeth-stuff. Only way scarier. I’ve been there too.
ANd unfortunately, you’ll be there one day yourself. You will. Because you are a human being. A soft machine, made of bone and tissue, and you WILL break down. It’s only a matter of time. And when that happens, it will seem unfair, and unpredictable. WHO COULD HAVE EXPECTED SUCH A THING???
You could have.
When we avoid the actual math, or we try not to think about the long game, I think it has to do with our basic fear of mortality. We want to believe we WON’T get sick. We want to believe our kids won’t break bones, or (God forbid) anything worse. We prefer to be shocked and horrified when someone gets really sick or hurt. ”How could this happen to such a nice young man?”
But it’s not shocking at all. It’s inevitable. Every human being alive WILL GET SICK. Every human being alive WILL LOSE TEETH. Every human being alive WILL NEED TO SEE A DOCTOR. ANd then we’ll ALL DIE. In fact, about 40% of us will get cancer. Probably more, as we live longer and longer. Nobody wants to think about these things, but they are FACTS.
And the only thing you can do is floss your teeth and eat your kale and go see the doctor regularly. Get tests run periodically. Do your best. Preventative care makes life cheaper in the long run, and gives us the best chance of living a longer, less painful life. Preventative care.
Which you are (statistically) far more likely to bother with… if you have reliable comprehensive insurance.
(and for the record… I am NOT AN EXPERT. Unless you regularly turn to children’s book authors for help with your finances and heath issues. I have no reason to be ranting about this, and you have no reason to listen to me. But sometimes, a girl’s just got to yell)