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Ask Jesse: How did you cover health care costs in law school?

During the law school years, how did you cover health care costs, particularly with having babies. Were you able to be on an insurance group plan somehow?

This subject has been weighing heavy on my mind as my husband lost his job a year ago, and I have only been able to find part-time work. Because of health histories, buying a private plan is out of the question, and our COBRA runs out in a few months. If we cannot obtain a full-time job that provides insurance, we are going to be in trouble.

Just wondering how you did it! -Tara

I think it ironic that they refer continued health care coverage after leaving a job with health benefits as “COBRA.” It is a monstrous plan with numerous exclusions that raises its head once a month when it takes a huge bite out of your monthly budget.

Needless to say, health insurance is one of the most hotly discussed topics today. It was not as much of a hot-button issue when I went to law school but it was a need that we definitely wanted to address in our budget.

When I was in undergrad, we took advantage of a low-cost major medical insurance plan offered to students of the university I attended. When I transitioned to law school, we went the same route, choosing to save a little each month towards paying for minor visits out of pocket.

Also, any doctor visits were to the university physician. We also made an effort to ask for samples when we were given prescriptions because it cut down on medication costs. And we just didn’t go to the dentist or eye doctor, aside from one time during law school, which we paid for out of pocket (we called around and found which dentist offered the best new patient special and went with that one).

At one period during law school, we even briefly considered doing away with with health insurance coverage completely for a short time and saving our premium because we did not use the insurance coverage much at all and funds were really tight. However, I knew it would be foolish to do, as one major medical event could land us in dire straights. So we stayed with the student plan.

We had Kathrynne during school and were blessed in that our student insurance plan did cover most of our maternity. We went to a free-standing birth center, which only charged around $4,000 for the entire birth and pre- and post-natal care, making our out-of-pocket costs very minimal.

A few years ago, I decided to get an individual plan for our family, as the group plan where I was working really stunk and was costly. We settled on an HSA (Health Savings Account) offered at our local bank, and purchased a qualifying high deductible health insurance plan with a major health insurance company.

This arrangement is similar to what we did during law school, as the plan is a major medical plan, but the plan now covers 100% after the deductible. Also, the savings no longer goes into a bucket in my budget but goes into an HSA, where the contributions are tax deductible and the growth and all withdrawals for health purposes are tax free. Nothing like a triple whammy! For the self employed, I believe this is one of the best ways to go. (By the way, many employers’ health plans also offer the HSA option.)

If another option comes along that is better than this, I will gladly consider it, but this seems to work for us for now.

Jesse Paine is a licensed attorney who owns his own law firm. He’s married to Crystal and is the numbers nerd of the December212012.info team! If you have a question you’d like him to answer in a future column, you can submit it here.

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91 Comments

  • says:

    My husband just finished law school in May. We took the approach of using a HSA with a low premium and high deductible. We feel blessed that we had no major medical incidents during those 3 years. It offered enough protection that as the author pointed out; we would have avoided financial catastrophe.

    Good luck to you!

  • says:

    Thanks for the input. It’s a relief to know we’re not the only ones to choose a high-deductible health plan and HSA. It really has worked well for us as my husband is a pastor and considered self-employed. It’s such an affordable way to have health insurance in our situation–and of course the tax deduction is nice too!

    • Tessa says:

      @Jenn, jenn do you mind me asking what company you use? i work part time and have great insurance through my employer but to add my husband and daughter (who are very healthy) would just be outrageously expensive. we are looking to find an affordable plan for the two of them.

      • says:

        @Tessa, Hi Tessa, we use Assurant Health. We had to sort some things out with the PPO within Assurant Health to make sure our hospital was in network but other than that we’ve had a great experience. What I like about it is that we have a high deductible of $5400 for our family of 4 (soon to be 5!) but this gives us a lower premium. We then take the extra money we would have spent on a higher premium and put it in an HSA which is also thru Assurant. That way, when we have doctor’s appt’s, we use our HSA money to pay. This has allowed us to negotiate for cash prices from our dentist and chiropractor. We have never met our deductible in the 4 yrs. we’ve had the policy but if something big happened, our costs are covered 100% percent (in-network) after the deductible.

        I also have the maternity deductible which is separate. If you took away that premium, we would be paying even less each month!

        Our church (my hubby’s a pastor) gives us a certain amt. of money each month toward insurance to spend however we wish. We use part for premium, part for HSA contribution. We also contribute some of our own money, so the tax deduction is even greater!

        Sorry, quite the ramble, hope it made sense! 🙂 I’d definitely look into it!

      • Caroline says:

        Each state has their own health insurance laws. For example in the state I live in the highest deductible that we can get for health insurance is $10,000. My husband is a full-time graduate student and we get insurance through the university but the maximum coverage per year per person is $100,000. So we end up having to pay a lot to cover us in case of a major medical problem, since the state restricts insurance companies from offering higher deductible insurance . The state I lives in summarizes all of the health insurance policies that are offered in this state on a government health insurance website.

      • says:

        @Tessa, Hi Tessa,

        We use Assurant Health. Aside from one small issue with them, we’ve had a great experience. What I like is that we have a $5400 deductible for our family 4 (soon to be 5!) and therefore a lower premium.

        My husband gets money from the church (he’s a pastor) for insurance each month to use how we wish. We use some for the premium and the rest toward our HSA. We also contribute some of our own money toward the HSA making the tax deduction even greater!

        We’ve never met the deductible in 4 years but in case something disastrous happens, the insurance will then cover 100% of the cost (in network) after the deductible is fulfilled.

        With the HSA money, we pay for all our appts. This has allowed us to negotiate cash prices for our dentist and chiropractor and other providers. (We do not have dental insurance as part of our plan.)

        I also have a maternity deductible which is separate. If we didn’t have that, we’d be paying even less per month for a premium.

        It doesn’t work for everyone but it’s perfect for our situation. I’d definitely check into it–hope it works out for you!

      • says:

        @Tessa, We use Assurant Health. Aside from one small issue with them, we’ve had a great experience. What I like is that we have a $5400 deductible for our family 4 (soon to be 5!) and therefore a lower premium.

        My husband gets money from the church (he’s a pastor) for insurance each month to use how we wish. We use some for the premium and the rest toward our HSA. We also contribute some of our own money toward the HSA making the tax deduction even greater!

        We’ve never met the deductible in 4 years but in case something disastrous happens, the insurance will then cover 100% of the cost (in network) after the deductible is fulfilled.

        With the HSA money, we pay for all our appts. This has allowed us to negotiate cash prices for our dentist and chiropractor and other providers. (We do not have dental insurance as part of our plan.)

        I also have a maternity deductible which is separate. If we didn’t have that, we’d be paying even less per month for a premium.

        It doesn’t work for everyone but it’s perfect for our situation. I’d definitely check into it–hope it works out for you!

      • says:

        @Tessa, Hi Tessa, I know you asked Jenn but we’ve been on private insurance the last few years (up until a few months ago when my hubby got a job) so I thought maybe our experience might help.

        While my hubby was in grad school in VA we went with Anthem. My son had a three day visit to the hospital during that time and they were awesome. It was not an HSA as my son was just born and we had quite a few wellness visits making a new HSA plan too expensive.

        When we moved to Ohio we went on Medical Mutual’s HSA insurance. It was very reasonable.

        It depends state to state what is offered. We had to change insurers when we moved to Ohio. If you’re a young family with no pre-exisiting conditions you can get a “great deal”. To be honest, we haven’t had to apply since the health care bill, so I’m not sure what the current status would be.
        I hope that helps!

    • peever says:

      @Jenn,
      I’m also curious as to which company you use, if you don’t mind me asking.

      My husband is self-employed and has a small business and I’m a stay-at-home mom so trying to find reasonable insurance has been hard. We currently have a high deductible plan, but it’s still expensive. We don’t have a HSA right now, but I’ve been trying to look into. We’re also looking into doing a small group plan through our company to see what makes the most financial sense.

      I agree that the tax deduction is nice though! We almost fell off our chair when they told us what our return would be last year.

      • Andrea says:

        How does your HSA work?

      • Jill says:

        I am on something similar because it cost way to much to add me as a wife to my husband’s insurance (the kids are pretty cheap so they are on his). I am with World Insurance. I don’t love them but I don’t think it cost to much–they DO NOT have maternity.

      • says:

        @peever, Hi there,
        I made a reply (actually it posted itself several times!) to Tessa’s comment right above yours so hopefully that gives you some ideas. It’s different for everyone’s situation I’m sure but this is what has worked really well for us compared to any other options.

        • Tessa says:

          @Jenn, thanks jenn! my husband is a youth pastor so we are sort of in the same boat as you. thanks for your input. we have assurant for our “temporary” insurance right now so thats good to know.

  • My Boaz's Ruth says:

    So — did you have your baby without an epidural?

    We have the choice of a birth center here… but they do not do epidurals and that scares me.

    • anonymous says:

      @My Boaz’s Ruth, I had all six of mine without an epidural (three of them were induced). It really wasn’t that bad. You just have to remember that it is a relatively short-lived time that will be over soon.

    • Courtney says:

      @My Boaz’s Ruth, There are no Birth Centers in our area, but we were able to save significant money by using a certified nurse midwife instead of an OB-gyn. I had all three of mine in the hospital (no epidurals) and paid about the same as Crystal & Jesse. The nurse midwives are in a practice with several OB-gyns, so there was always the option of seeing a doctor if need be. The care I received from them was awesome! Just an option that you may want to look into – I was amazed at how much we saved by doing so.

      • My Boaz's Ruth says:

        @Courtney, This is how my son was born — using a Certified Nurse Midwife in a practice with OBs, and in the birth center at a hospital in WA. Austin does not appear to have this!

      • Rachel Haugaard says:

        @Courtney, I used a certified nurse midwife as well, with the birth being in the hospital so we were surrounded by the normal staff, operating room, etc. in case of an emergency. I’m sure how it compared cost-wise since it was our first child, so we had never used a regular OB/GYN. However I did feel that the level of care and attention I received was much higher than what I hear other women talk about with their doctors…I would highly recommend checking out a CNM in your area!!

        • Rachel Haugaard says:

          @Rachel Haugaard, Oh I forgot to mention, my birth was also done without an epidural. I was planning on having one, but I waited too long to ask for it and by the time I wanted it, it wouldn’t have taken effect before our daughter was born! 🙂 Looking back tho, I’m very glad my first was all natural just so I know what my body was doing/feeling. I may go with one for other births, but I’m very happy to at least have done it ONCE without ANY pain meds!

    • Katie says:

      @My Boaz’s Ruth, What happens if there is an emergency? Do they call an ambulance and drive you to the hospital. I am wondering because my son was born by emergency c-section due to a placental abruption. A c-section saved his life.

      • Alicia says:

        @Katie, I’m really sorry that happened!

        I certainly don’t know the surrounding circumstances to the emergency, but I can say that with midwifery care, you receive very attentive care all throughout labor, and midwives are skilled to discern emergencies before they become emergencies. I know there are signs of abruption, and if a knowledgeable midwife is observant, she can order a transfer to get the necessary obstetric care that is needed at that point. If you are interested in a birth center, I would recommend going to an open house and seek to talk afterward with one of the midwives about your very concerns. Since that happened to you, those questions SHOULD be asked and you will hopefully get answers that make you feel quite comfortable and safe. There are also many hospitals that provide midwife-attended births if you desire midwifery care over an OB.

        There can be interventions in labor which are typical of hospitals that can actually aggravate the risk of abruption which are lessened with natural childbirth. That is something to consider, and if you fear childbirth without an epidural, a great tool to address that is to read and read and learn about normal childbirth. Learn about tools to manage the pain of contractions and active labor, you might be amazed at how empowered and strengthened you feel to use the strength God has given you to give birth! Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way, and Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth are excellent books, as is an older book called Childbirth Without Fear.

        • Tina b says:

          @Alicia,
          In response to Katie’s questions about emergencies. My son was also born by emergency c-section (12 weeks early, too). I was going to a midwife at the beginning of the pregnancy, but she referred me to and OB at 21 weeks because of high blood pressure. Like Alicia said, the midwives are trained to know what they can handle and what they cannot. If there are any warning signs that don’t resolve quickly, midwives usually transfer care to an OB. Hope that answers your questions 🙂

    • Anitra says:

      @My Boaz’s Ruth, I had my first baby without an epidural (I wanted one, but by the time we got to the hospital, it was too late). It’s the most pain I’ve ever been in, but then it was over! I am planning to get an epidural with baby #2 if there is time.

      Only you know your pain tolerance, and there IS a small additional risk with an epidural. Ask the birth center what types of pain management are available there, and then you’ll have to make the decision yourself.

    • Catherine says:

      @My Boaz’s Ruth,
      IMHO, It is MUCH more painful to give birth laying on your back in a hospital bed than at home in any position you want to be in (I have done both). I would take giving birth at home not hooked up to machines over an epidural while confined to a hospital bed any day!

      • My Boaz's Ruth says:

        @Catherine, I was able to get up and walk around with my previous birth, even hooked up to machines — and found I preferred to be laying on my back. I tried sitting on a birth ball and getting up on hands and knees and, again, I preferred laying on my back. In someone else’s bed where I don’t have to clean up afterward!

        Oh and my baby was induced. They won’t let you go over 42 weeks these days and I still had problems progressing even on Pitocin. I was thrilled to have a vaginal birth and not the C-section I was afraid of. So I don’t know if I’m a good case, esp now I am over 35, for a homebirth.

        • says:

          @My Boaz’s Ruth, Ha! Love it…”in someone else’s bed where I don’t have to clean up…” Precisely.

          Who am I to talk though…I had three children with epidurals. I like me my drugs to get me through. Firmly believe God created the amazing minds that came up with the epidural. 🙂

          You do what’s right for YOU and don’t worry about what other people think one way or the other.

    • Cherie says:

      @My Boaz’s Ruth, If that’s a concern for you, then I would make sure you plan to be in a facility that can offer one.

      Only you know your pain tolerance and every woman’s body is different. We’re lucky enough to live in a time and place where safe pain management options are available, so there’s no reason to be a hero just because other women make it sound easy. I wasn’t planning to have one, but decided to after several hours of my labor not progressing and I credit it with helping me to avoid a c-section, thereby saving us a lot of money.

      • Katie says:

        @Cherie,
        I totally agree with this comment. Your boby responds differently to pain than others. You need to do what is comfortable for you. I have one birth with an epidural and one with out. I can’t compare births because each time the baby was in a different position. We compare ourselves all the time with others and this is one of those times! No one gets a medal for pain endurance! What is important is a healthy baby.

        Luckily this is not an issue in the UK because you don’t pay. You get what is available. If you want an epidural and they can do it – they do. Unfortunately, that works the other way too. However, I must say all my midwives have been fantastic.

    • Crystal says:

      @My Boaz’s Ruth, All of our children were delivered by Certified Nurse Midwives — two in free-standing birth centers and one in the hospital. I’ve never had an epidural. I have truly have loved the natural birthing process — despite the pain. Yes, call me weird. 🙂

  • Megan says:

    I think high deductible plans make a lot of sense, but this might not work for families who aren’t able to put aside the $3,000 or more to cover the deductible. Tara might consider Medicaid – at least for herself and any children – if she and her husband are unable to find full-time employment.

    • My Boaz's Ruth says:

      @Megan, We don’t have a high deductible on our current plane, but are still looking at spending that much on the birth. $1K deductible me, $1K deductible for the baby +20% of the birth expenses (since it is charged as a surgery)

  • Ashlee says:

    We opted for student health insurance when my husband started law school. Low cost it was not. Over $10,000 a year in premiums for our family of three and they would only cover 50% of simple things like my son’s required vaccines (in-network). Sometimes even less than that. For a single student the insurance is great, $800 a semester and free care at the student health center. My husbands school does not allow non-students, even those covered by the insurance to go to the health center.
    I know this is a hot topic and believe me my husband and I struggled with this, but we opted for medicaid for the next two years until he is out of school. We are just lucky we have that option as I know so many people do not.

  • Andrea says:

    What are the criteria for Medicaid? Do you have to be a US citizen? I’m sure each state has its own policies, but I live in MD in case anyone knows anything. Thanks!

    • Ashlee says:

      @Andrea, I can’t tell you specifically about MD, but most states you have to have a child or a disability to qualify. I believe most states have a 90% federal poverty level requirement for a whole family and 200% for children and pregnant women.

      • anonymous says:

        @Ashlee, This is true. You do have to be a US citizen they say but they also say certain legal residents would qualify (I assume not those who are being sponsored by a US citizen because those citizens have to agree to be responsible for all costs incurred by the resident). If you think you might qualify it is worth looking into.

  • Mary says:

    DH and I are not able to get private insurance (even a high deductible policy) due to health issues. If Tara or other readers are in a similar situation, it may help them to know that most states offer insurance for those in this situation. It is not Medicaid, but is available to those who are denied insurance or whose premiums would be higher on private insurance than the premuiums for the state insurance. The premiums aren’t cheap, but they can be helpful for those with serious medical problems.

    • says:

      @Mary, In Ohio this is called a high risk pool, but it is SOOOO expensive. It costs my mother close to $1400 a month JUST in premiums!! However, as a cancer survivor, she prioritizes the health insurance over all other luxuries.

  • says:

    We have a high deductible insurance plan through my husband’s company. Luckily we also have a large HSA (provided by his company) that covers the majority of our deductible. Because of this, both of labor and deliveries cost us nothing out of pocket.
    We have had to pay out of pocket for some doctors visits the first year of my daughter’s life because we did exhaust the HSA that year (with the l&d and all of the well baby visits little ones have that first year), but in the long run, we still pay much less for health care than most.
    In the past 5 years though, we’ve paid less than $500 in doctor bills (this includes 2 labor & deliveries)…so I feel very very blessed.
    In addition, my husband’s company pays all of his premium AND all of our children’s premium. We only pay for half of mine.

    I am very happy with our high deductible plan with our HSA. The only thing that frustrates me is explaining it to doctor’s offices. It’s becoming more widely used now though, so even that part is getting easier.

    Thanks for sharing what works for your family!

  • Jennifer says:

    When my husband became self-employed, I shopped for all sort of different insurance options and ended up without insurance at all! We joined a Christian cost sharing group (Christian Healthcare Ministries). We pay for doctor visits and other routine expenses ourselves, but when we have a major need (including births) they cover the expenses up to 100% depending on your level of participation. (full participation costs $150/month for each person — kids equal 1 person, no matter how many). Our children qualify for our state’s CHIP program, so they are covered through that and my husband and I are members of CHM. I encourage anyone to look into what they have to offer at chministries.org — it’s not for everyone, but it’s great for us and for many, many others.
    Ask me if you want to know more: jennifer at heitx dot com

    • Abbie says:

      @Jennifer, I was going to suggest something like this. We don’t use this personally, but it is called Samaritan Ministries and we know several people who have it. It is a great option for those who need insurance.

      • Jennifer says:

        @Abbie,
        Yes, that’s right, I know there are least 2 other similar programs out there. I compared 3 of them side-by-side when I was shopping and chose CHM as being the best option for us. Samaritan was one of the others now that you mention the name — I don’t recall the third. They each operate differently, but conceptually are the same.

      • Laura D says:

        @Abbie,
        Ditto on Samaritan! I just signed up with them last month and the process was very smooth. No private health insurance plan in my state offers any maternity coverage for less than $400 a month (on top of the cost of the insurance itself, if you can believe that!) so for me, it was really the only option.

        • carrie says:

          We’ve been with Samaritan Ministries for 7+ years now, have had to use the coverage a number of times and have had nothing but excellent experiences with it! We highly recommend it. For our family of 9, it’s somewhere around 320/month. email if you’d like more info. [email protected]

        • carrie says:

          and yes… if you refer people you do get a discount the next month… don’t want to be deceptive here. We really do feel blessed by it and share it with many others.

        • Maria says:

          We have been Samaritan Ministries members for 4 years. Our last 2 births (also at a free-standing birth center) were reimbursed 100% and the process is so smooth. We feel so blessed to be part of this great ministry and encourage everyone we know to look into it. It isn’t insurance. In my opinion, insurance tells you the MAX they will cover and then you the consumer have to work hard to make sure they cover what is in your policy. With Samaritan you know the MINIMUM they will cover & things above and beyond can be listed as special needs. No insurance company I know gives you more than what is in your policy.

    • says:

      We are also Samaritan members and feel incredibly blessed to have this option. It has allowed me to be home with our family with no worries about future birth costs without spending the $10,000 or so per year that a high deductible policy with maternity (that wouldn’t cover a pregnancy the first year) would have cost our family. For our self-employed family it is the only option that allowed me to be home with our children.

      For those who need benefits without much additional income working part time at Starbucks is also a good consideration. That is what I did for our family for three years until we found Samaritan Ministries. After premiums for our family I brought home almost no income, but it allowed me to leave my long hours sales job and be home more with my babies!

      If anyone needs info on Samaritan Ministries I am also happy to share. We’ve only been there 4 months and I asked a ton of questions and called members before we joined. I understand the concern over something so different than typical insurance and am fairly analytical. Basically I’d be happy to help someone skip some of the information gathering by sharing what I know if it would help them!

      Samaritan Ministries is really what insurance was meant to be and also does not cover things our family is against, like abortion. I like knowing that we are not (indirectly) helping pay for things I do not support. I also like knowing the name of the people I am helping each month! In fact I often get weepy as we pray for other members…never had that experience with typical insurance!

      I am thankful to be home full time because of God’s provision, my husband’s hard work and Samaritan Ministries.
      [email protected]

  • says:

    Did either of you work during the school years? My husband is currently going to school full time and works for a chain restaurant. Large companies like this (Olive Garden) have some great insurance. We pay around $200 for two adults. It covered $1000 of my orthodontic work, 80% of dental, Chiropractic, and general health. I think annual deductable is $100.Preventive care and office visits are even cheaper. With twice annual teeth cleanings/checkups being free.
    While it’s not a huge paying job. With it’s flexibility, tips, and insurance, it has turned out better then first expected.

    • Emily O. says:

      @Maryanne, I know a few of my friends have worked part-time for Starbucks over the last 10 years or so because their benefits are pretty good, even for part-time employees.

      • Maryanne says:

        @Emily O.,

        Yea, we know a few other married folks going to school that work at Starbucks and claim great benefits!

      • Ruth says:

        @Emily O.,

        Yes, The benefits at Starbucks are great. Work 20 hours and qualify for fulltime insurance benefits. She no longer works there but she had better benefits (health, dental,vision) than my husband does working at a hospital ER.

  • Katie says:

    I read the part about skipping the dentist, and I had to share this: If you want to get your teeth doctored up for free, look for a community college or other school that trains dental technicians near your home. I work at the local community college, and the techs in training get their practice in by working on volunteers. It’s awesome – you get your teeth cleaned, X-rays can be performed, and they’ll do fluoride treatments for you, too. Thought I would pass along the tip…

    • says:

      @Katie, Great idea! Thanks for sharing this!

    • Shauna says:

      @Katie,
      If you have a hygiene program at one of your colleges they are also always looking for patients…especially the people that have not been to the dentist in awhile. If you have the right amount of build up sometimes they will even pay for your stuff to be done and pay you to keep you coming back.

      • Emily O. says:

        @Shauna, We also have a dental clinic at our local university’s dental school that has low-cost exams with the dental & hygenist students. I was surprised to hear that several of my profs went there!

  • andrea says:

    Medicaid might certainly be an option or, if they had to receive care in an ER or a clinic run by a hospital, there is HCAP (it’s a sliding scale fee depending on one’s income). If you have children and only one of you is working, and part-time at that, your family ought to qualify for Medicaid. As for the US citizen question, I do believe you have to be a US citizen but they also state that certain legal residents also may qualify.

  • Celeste Owens says:

    We have a dental school near us and the hygenists are always looking for people to practice on and its free. My children also were given free sealents. We really liked it and they were even more gentle than at the regular dentist office. It’s a win/win situation.

  • Teresa Coy says:

    We have been self-employed for years and healthcare is one of our main moving targets…we have always had a Major med/HSA type plan and found that it has worked well, however we have watched our premiums creeping up recently and are now looking into switching to Samaritan Ministries which is a share program. Everyone we have visited with speaks glowingly of it and the thought of sending my premiums to the person in need rather then to the insurance company to pay big bonuses to their CEO sits very well with my.

    • says:

      I just wrote a novel about that above! It is great to know who you are helping. I’m very pro SM and would answer any questions you have. I agree that insurance is the biggest challenge to self employment!

  • Betsy says:

    I work for a health insurance company and look at the numbers all day. I think that an HSA/HDHP when used well is one of the best health insurance options! Definitely worth considering.

  • Britten LeMoine says:

    You stated that due to health history other coverage isn’t an option. As an insurance agent I can advise you that most states offer a high risk pool for those who cannot obtain coverage any other way, as well as a new Federal insurance pool available, with suprisingly affordable rates. This might be an option for you.

    • Sarah in Alaska says:

      @Britten LeMoine,
      Yes. This.
      Unless you live in a guaranteed issue state (i.e. New Jersey), your state’s high risk pool may be your only option.

      As a starting place to look at the options for your state try which links you to insurers authorized to do business and what sort of options are available for people with pre-existing conditions.

  • Jaime says:

    Would you mind explaining the HSA in your own language. I’m actually in the process of reviewing all of my insurance options through my employer, and was completely overlooking the FSA portion. I’ve got a few days left for open enrollment. Perhaps I should reconsider? Thanks!

    • Niki says:

      We have a high deductible with HSA. It is stressful- an accident can really ruin your life. Be sure to put TWO deductibles in your account in case you are sick from December to January (over two calendar years). Also, I would not go without some prescription coverage- chemotherapy is a prescription drug. If you can (ours is over 12K), put your entire out of pocket expense into your HSA.

  • Julie says:

    My husband had horrible insurance through his last employer. We live in WI, and we were able to qualify for Badger Care Plus through the state. I believe you can make up to $75,000 and still qualify for some benefits. It really helped us out because our son has a lot of medical issues. I did feel guilty about using state benefits, however, it was the only way to afford the care our son needed.

  • Rita says:

    I suggest that if you are looking for health insurance or have questions about which healthcare provider to apply for coverage with that you use a broker. There is no cost to you and they know which plans may work best for your circumstance and in your state. I was listening to a finance program last week and they suggested that consumers use brokers too. I recently used a broker to find health insurance as my COBRA was expiring. I now have a high deductible plan with a wonderful provider.

  • kr says:

    DH and I were both in grad school (parttime) and working fulltime (each covered by our own medical insurance through our employers). When we started TTC I switched to his plan because the idea was that I would continue working for pay only until it became physically unsafe (I was working in drug rehab and we didn’t feel comfortable w/ the possibility of my needing to physically control a combative client until people who were “in charge of that sort of thing” were summoned) 6 weeks after we conceived 21 yo he lost his job in a rather nasty situation SO wasn’t eligible for extending his insurance coverage (we later sued the company and WON but the financial settlement wasn’t for another 2 years) ANYWAY I received care through the local medical school–and serendipitously my primary giver was a childhood friend a semester away from graduating! It was very cost effective.
    I didn’t have an epidural w/ either of my kids. I highly recommend Bradley childbirth (you can purchase the book Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way which tells you basically everything covered in the Bradley class. I was lucky enough to have the Bradley instructor take me on as a scholarship student and it was FUN meeting and sharing w/ other expecting couples but really I didn’t learn anything more that what was in the book)

  • Rita says:

    Did you know that you don’t need to be a member of Costco to use the pharmacy (or the tire center) ? When you enter, if they ask for your membership card, tell them you are visiting the pharmacy. They have wonderful prices. You can check the prices online too AND you can use their online pharmacy. They also have a program for people who do not have pharmacy benefits but I haven’t used that program so I don’t know how it works. Call them if you have questions, I think they are wonderful to work with !

  • Shauna says:

    I would just recommend to you if the Medicaid is something you decide to apply for start now because the process is long. With Medicaid (at least in Utah) you get dental and eye coverage for the family so that is a .

  • Abby says:

    Just a side note, a high deductible health insurance plan is not available in NY unless you own your own business. I Love NY (I sang that :-))

  • Andrea says:

    We switched to a low premium, high deductible HSA about a year ago and it’s been working great for us. We’ve saved over $7,000 this year going this route! My son is the only one who goes to the doctor regularly (for his well baby checks) and the insurance company is able to negotiate some of the costs with the doctors office, so our payments have been very minimal, which we are extremely thankful for. I definitely agree with previous comments that looking into Medicaid is the way to go. I would also advise seeing if there are any other state programs. I live in Colorado and they have a program (CHP+) specifically for children and pregnant women that make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but can’t afford a private health plan.

  • Jenn says:

    I’ve skimmed the comments and don’t think I saw any recommendations to check alumni associations and any other professional organizations you belong to (or would want to belong to). They sometimes offer group plans. In fact, I remember a few years back that one of the big unions (sorry, I can’t remember which) was trying to start a branch for freelancers and one of their perks was access to health insurance. So check to see if you qualify for a union as well. And there’s something like the international association of freelancers as well. I know you didn’t mention freelancing but this is what I know. The membership fees may be worth the health insurance benefits, it’s another job networking resource.

    Also, this may not apply now since it was ages and ages ago, but during one of my periods of unemployment and cobra I called my insurance company and I was able to get a single policy that was somehow cheaper than cobra. And I think underwriting was different since they already knew you. Then the rules changed so that you had to exhaust your cobra and then you could get the single policy. Not sure how much of that has changed in the years since but it can’t hurt to call and find out what your options are with your current provider.

    When my husband was in grad school we had the student insurance plan. It was ok coverage…if you were 18, living on campus, single, healthy, and covered on your parent’s plan. If you were say in your late 30s with a wife and child, it stank. We couldn’t even comfort ourselves with the thought that we’d be covered if something awful happened because the per injury/illness max was 500k. My husband took a job for a year in part for the insurance and the cobra we’d qualify for when he left to finish his degrees. It was $1k a month and our total health costs were lower than they were on the student plan. Crazy thing this health insurance!

    • says:

      @Jenn, $500k max per injury or illness max isn’t horrible coverage. It’s certainly possible to have an illness that costs more than that (ie heart transplant, etc.). However, the idea of the student insurance is that you are only on it for a set period of time, so for most chronic illnesses (even cancer) you probably wouldn’t go over $500k in that period of time. Of course, there is always the small possibility that one could go over that maximum in very particular circumstances….

  • Alicia says:

    I am probably not adding anything new, but I thought I’d share that as a pastor’s family in a small denomination, we also have an HSA and a high deductible plan. We are blessed to receive a generous amount from the church so we can fully fund our HSA each year and pay our premiums. We’re in WA, and our premiums are currently $450/mo for our family of three. The monthly premium will change slightly next year, actually going down, when I will need to split to my own plan for maternity and my husband and son will remain on the HSA. Regence is changing their plans and have eliminated the plan we currently have which is an HSA with maternity. Our total deductible for all three of us will more than double, unfortunately. We only anticipate meeting mine though with the birth of our second child next year. And, IRS rules, from my research, will allow my husband to use “his” HSA plan to pay for my maternity bills.

    Our HSA is with hsabank.com and have found it to be pretty good so far. There IS a $2 for using the card at the store when we buy vitamins. We also write checks for bills that come in the mail.

  • Michele says:

    Does anyone know of a cheap dental insurance program? My husband is in the military and we were going to use theirs but when he’s not active, it’s 91$ per month for our family. That seems high to me. He can’t seperate it at his work and just get dental. We’re already using Tricare for health through the Army. Suggestions would be wonderful. I’ve already called Delta Dental and they want 87$ a month. Still too high! Please help 🙂

    • says:

      @Michele, Do NOT pay that much for dental coverage unless you have a big family. Most dental coverage has a deductible, co-pays and a low yearly maximum benefit. I would suggest paying out of pocket for dental care. Find a dentist that will negotiate with you if you pay out of pocket for cleanings for you family once a year. I’ve also seen some dentists offer a loyalty plan where you pay a monthly fee and then they will give you two cleanings a year and a break on other work (fillings, etc.).

      We added dental coverage to our private insurance for a year, and I don’t even think it was worth the $30 a month we paid for it (it had a deductible and co-pays as well).

      • Michele says:

        @Amanda,
        We are only a family of 5, us and 3 kids. Not sure if you consider that large. I’m still looking through Mo Farm bureau. They should call me with info tomorrow. Wish me luck!

    • Beth says:

      @Michele, First, you may check at local Unversities and Colleges that offer free clinics for practice for their dental patients. The only downer to that (I used to do that) is they can be rough and they took forever.

  • Erica says:

    I had my daughter after my husband’s second year in law school. We were lucky because I actually worked for the University he attended, which is a state school. I paid $12.30 a month for our fabulous health plan, and we just had to pay a $250 co-pay when our daughter was born. I didn’t pay a penny for prenatal care.

    During his third year, I applied for a private health plan with a high deductible in case of an emergency (I never ended up using it) and we put my daughter on my husband’s student plan (which had better coverage, but was much more expensive) because she had some health issues and was denied coverage to a private plan. I had no idea when I got pregnant during law school that health insurance and medical visits for one year would end up costing us thousands of dollars instead of our $12.30/month!

  • Jen Soto says:

    We have Blue Cross Blue Shield through my hubby’s employer but it is really terrible. I don’t like having high deductible,right now we pay about $200 per month for a family of 5 with $20 co-pays (visits and prescriptions). But we have a deductible of $2400. My husband has Rheumatoid Arthritis (since he was 7 years old) the meds he takes requires him to have blood work every 6 weeks and x-rays twice a year which is not covered until the deductible is met. So far this year we have paid about $2000 in medical cost but still haven’t met the deductible and in Jan. we will start all over. Everyone else is fairly healthy and doesn’t see the doctor but once a year. Maybe I should take a look at the HSA option for next open enrollment, but I’m really not sure how that works.

  • Amy says:

    My husband is self -employed and we have a HSA and a plan with a high deductible we pay around $575 a month for a family of 5 it it through World Insurance (use to be Great West). We did not take out maternity insurance because it was more you had to be one it a year before you became pregnant and they would only cover up to $4,000 – so we decided we would just have to pay if we had a baby and we did but what I did when I got pregnant was I called all the local hospitals and told them we were self pay what kind of deal could they make me if we paid up front then they gave us a cash offer and we went with the cheapest -it was about $5,000 and then I had to pay the doctor who also I made an agreement with for a discount if I paid in full by the time I delivered most doctors will give discount if self pay. Unfortunate for us we have meet our deductible the last 3 years due to my husband having some health issues but every time I go to pay a bill I always ask if I pay your bill in full can you give me a discount some places will and some wont so the ones who will get paid first and the others get whatever we can send them at the time. What I have found out is don’t be afraid to ask for a discount. I hope this is helpfully to someone.

  • says:

    We have been on a very high deductible for years through Husband’s plan. (He works for the local school system.) It was literally the only way we could afford it — and we still pay a hefty premium for the privilege. It basically has meant that in good years, we pay for all the doctor visits and prescriptions out of pocket. In September, Husband ended up in the hospital for a week when his liver began mysteriously failing; it was diagnosed, after many tests, as an odd bacteria infection. A number of people have died from this, so we are grateful he is here and still improving. All the same, it left us with medical expenses of at least $11,000 to pay — this, after satisfying an approx. $12,000 deductible. (The total bill was around $65,000, but the insurance company forced the hospital to trim its billing considerably.)
    So am I grateful it’s not more? You bet. Frustrated that we pay so much in premiums — and STILL end up with a bill like this? Absolutely. We’ll set up a payment plan and start whittling away at it. That’s all we can do. (Even the payment center rep was surprised that we would still owe so much, after having insurance — but that’s the way it is.)
    The side: at least nearly everything that happens to us medically for the rest of the year (ends July 1st) will be almost 100% covered. God willing, that won’t be much.
    Oh, BTW, I did not have an epidural for either child…it’s not fun, but definitely is doable. I belonged to a natural childbirth group in Boulder, the “fruits and nuts” capital of Colorado, some say. There was a lot of talk about doing it without drugs — but most, if not all, of my fellow group had epidurals and drugs! You really can do it without, but going into it with the attitude that you’re going to hang in there as long as possible helps. If it gets to be too much, use it — God gave us drugs and medical procedures to help us, I believe.
    For me, imagining the “wave” and using special breathing through Lamaze helped so much — the wave builds, crests, recedes, and so on. If I could make it through the crest, I could make it through the pain.

  • says:

    This post and all of the replies are coming at a great time. My husband is getting out of the military in the next couple of weeks, and we are wondering what to do as far as insurance goes. He will always be covered due to a permanent injury sustained from the military (He will have 100% medical for the rest of his life), but there is still my son (who has Autism Disorder) and I.

    Any suggestions, especially for my son’s coverage?

    • says:

      @Hollaina,
      We have been with Christian Care Medi Share for 8 years now. It is not technically insurance, but a share group. Plus…it and 2 other share groups have been exempt from the new health care law…so we will not be fined for not buying insurance. It works like insurance…we can’t tell a difference! We have had 3 children, had a child very sick and in the hospital, a miscarriage with major freak complications (I almost bleed to death!) which resulted in over $100,000 worth of bills. All of our bills were paid! Our premium is very low each month, and we are thankful to send it in each month…knowing it goes to help other families with needed medical expenses. If you do not have insurance or are hurting to pay premiums….I cannot recommend Christian Care Medi Share enough!

  • says:

    We have been with Christian Care Medi Share for 8 years now. It is not technically insurance, but a share group. Plus…it and 2 other share groups have been exempt from the new health care law…so we will not be fined for not buying insurance. It works like insurance…we can’t tell a difference! We have had 3 children, had a child very sick and in the hospital, a miscarriage with major freak complications (I almost bleed to death!) which resulted in over $100,000 worth of bills. All of our bills were paid! Our premium is very low each month, and we are thankful to send it in each month…knowing it goes to help other families with needed medical expenses. If you do not have insurance or are hurting to pay premiums….I cannot recommend Christian Care Medi Share enough!

    • Beth says:

      @Julie Johston, I was going to add about the exact same about Medi Share. I personally do not have it but me and my soon to be husband are looking into it once we are married. I know of people who have had it & have heard great things about the plan.

      • says:

        @Beth,
        It is EXCELLENT! We have been so blessed to be a part of this minisrty! I my husband ever had a job that offered insurance….we would still stick with Medi Share:)
        And hey…if anyone applies….feel free to list Kenny and Julie Johnston as a reference:)
        We get a free months premium with any referral…..which we can put towards our adoption costs:)

  • says:

    Ahhhhhhhhhhhh…insurance. I have been stressing about insurance since my husband got laid off in September with no notice or severance. I’m struggling a lot with what we should do right now.

    He got a job after only a few weeks, but the insurance just started December 1st. The job pays less than his previous job (in fact, only $100 more than unemployment), so he’s looking into getting a different job. The job he’s looking at is a company that is just starting, so they offer $500/month toward insurance but don’t offer it yet. This job would be a step up for his career though and pay more.

    Are there options out there for private insurance that covers maternity the first year? We want to have a second child this year, but I couldn’t find any private insurance companies that offered prenatal care. My ob/gyn requires payment upfront too, so this would be difficult without insurance. I don’t think I could use a midwife because I had complications with my daughter (low fluid, became close to preclampsyia, she was breech, high blood pressure). The complications made it so that I had to have a c-section with her. I also might need to have a c-section with my next child as well, depending on the pregnancy. (My c-section cost $2000 just from my doctor’s charge.)

    We’re struggling with this question: Should my husband stay with a low-paying job with insurance so that we can be covered for our next child?

  • Renee says:

    I am too scared to have an epidural! I have had two medicine free births. It is not horrible. I tell people I choose to use tools other than medicine to help me through labor and delivery. For me, during the intense parts distraction works. Son #1 I liked breathing through “horsey lips” as I called it. Son #2 I had my husband rub my back. To me, it is well worth it be alert.

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