Tips for the uninsured

We hear much these days about health care, mostly about how much it costs and how millions are uninsured. Well, one wonders, how much does it cost?

Just the kind of question that should be groped by a muckraking columnist for a great metropolitan weekly. The insurance I’ll be talking about is nothing fancy, just your basic catastrophic coverage, meaning that the only thing you’re really doing is protecting yourself against an injury or illness serious enough to put you in an ultra-depressing financial hole.

Things are indeed a little gummy out there. In fact, it’s enough to make a reasonable person consider some kind of Swedish socialist system. But, if one knows what one is doing, it’s not completely hopeless.

Bear in mind that in calling a few agents for research, I posed as myself, a fairly healthy 51-year-old male, and not as some 32-year-old pink-lunged, pink-brained, semi-invincible whippersnapper, so the following estimates apply to my demo. If you’re 10 or 20 years younger, you’ll save a few bucks. If you’re not healthy, these stats won’t apply to you. The reality is that if you have pre-existing conditions, step one of your plan to get insurance involves bagging a huge jackpot on a mega slot.

Generally speaking, to get a decent catastrophic CYA (cover your ass) plan with a $1,000 deductible, you could call an agent today and get going for about $190-$200 a month, or around $2,400 annually. Some may call that affordable, many will call it blowoff-able. If you wanted to raise the deductible to $3,000, you’re looking at $130-$150 a month. It is possible to find a plan that will pay 100 percent of expenses after you hit the $5,000 zone. Families of two parents and a child can expect to pay at least $400 a month for a plan that will cover all time spent on those pesky iron lungs.

There is a way, however, to play the game that could save you hundreds of bucks a year and still get that crucially important “CYA” job done. Those prices I just quoted were ballpark figures for your basic long-term health plans. There are agents, I found, who offer temporary health policies, and there’s a big difference between the two in terms of expense.

I talked to one agent who said if I used this temporary approach, I could buy insurance worth two million in total coverage, a $500 deductible with 100 percent of expenses paid after $5,000, for a comparatively paltry $90 a month. Let’s say I bought a three-month temporary plan for a total of $270. At the end of that three-month run, I could simply ask for an extension, pay another $270 to continue coverage, and I’d be able to do that again and again. That would mean a usable insurance plan at $1080 a year, less than half of what a comparable long-term plan would cost. Not a bad way to “c” your “a,” and at considerable savings to boot.