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"Uninsured and Unsure"

We will occassionally post the stories and questions of Massachusetts residents who are uninsured. This entry is from Chris, a 37 year old college instructor, who lives in a suburb
west of Boston.

Here's Chris...

As a part-time employee, I am wondering whether my employer will be required to offer me any medical insurance. I am guessing not from my survey of various web logs, news reports, and the Connector's web site. There is discussion in all of these places
about the requirements for covering full-time employees, but I haven't found any mention of what will happen to part-timers.

I am assuming that I will be required to purchase my own medical insurance without government subsidy. This assumption is based on my income from last year, which was above the benchmark of 300 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. As a part-timer, though, my income varies from year to year. This makes me wonder whether I will need to move from health plan to health plan, as one year I may qualify for Commonwealth Care, and the next, not. If so, this would require a lot of time and effort in filling out applications, providing proof of income, informing organizations of my previous coverage, transferring records to new
doctors, etc.

I am frankly hoping that I will qualify for the waiver recently adopted by the Connector authority, as I would rather save my money and cover medical costs myself than pay for mandated medical insurance. It would seem that the high-deductible plans being offered through the Connector will mainly give me the
opportunity to pay $2,000 or more a year in premiums for the right to pay another few thousand dollars in deductibles for medical care.

I would hasten to add that I am not relying upon emergency rooms for basic treatment, kidding myself that I'll be healthy forever, denying that I could ever get into an accident, etc., as is sometimes noted about uninsured people. I do my best to monitor my health by watching my diet, exercising regularly and seeing a physician when a health problem merits attention by an expert. The costs of such visits when needed, albeit expensive, are still cheaper than paying for medical insurance that will be offered to me through the Connector.

Speaking of costs: I do wish that all the professionals, practices, groups, etc. who charge patients for treatment would not only inform us of the charges in advance, but also explain these costs. In my experience, a visit to a medical professional can cost at least one or two hundred dollars, even though the professional may spend only about ten or fifteen minutes with me. I appreciate those professionals who lower their usual charges when they learn that I have no medical insurance, but I am still astonished by the high cost. I am assuming that the charge to me is helping the medical professional to pay some cost that he or she is burdened with. If I'm right, I would like to know where my medical dollars are ultimately going. If I'm wrong, I would like to know why medical examinations are so expensive. This information would make me feel more comfortable as a patient, and would add to my admiration of and thanks to the professionals who have helped me to get and stay well.

If I do not qualify for the waiver, I will seriously need to consider whether it will be less expensive for me to take the financial penalty and go without insurance than to pay for an insurance plan offered through Commonwealth Choice. I would note that by
paying the fine, I would still be complying with the health reform law; I would just be in essence telling the Commonwealth that I am willing to suffer the penalty imposed under the law.

This program aired on April 29, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.

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