Friday, April 10, 2009

Health Care

My last post was on finances and I didn’t include health care, which can be such a large part of financial stability. Today, some resources and thoughts on health care and health care insurance.

Start with a recognition of risks. Stress is one of the biggest challenges we face while we job search, in many ways it could be or become the biggest. The consequence of stress is the body breaking down. There’s an article on resilience that I posted in March on the blog, and it has several ideas about managing stress, but stress always take a toll. There is a “stress point scale”, designed in the 60’s and refined since that assigns points for various life events. The events vary from Death of a Spouse (100 points) to Christmas (10 points and now referred to as “Winter Holiday Season”). Add yours up and it gives at least some indication of how likely you are to get sick. 300 points apparently gives something like a 95% chance you’ll go to the hospital.

Another risk is “pre-existing conditions”. These are the things that are ongoing, and Insurance Companies really hate inheriting them. So if they can disqualify one of these they will. The law stipulates that if you have continuous coverage (“catastrophic insurance” doesn’t count as insurance here) then a new employers health coverage can’t exclude the condition. Maybe you have a bad kidney, it was diagnosed while working for Mega Computers Inc. You are laid off, then 2 months later get a job and Mega-Temps Inc. If you kept your Cobra or you were covered by a spouse/partner for the two months, then no problem; you will still be covered. If you went without for the two months, then Mega-Temps health carrier can exclude your kidney problems.

The point is that maintaining coverage is critical; it can also be ridiculously expensive.

Surprise, surprise, there is a major pot full of information on the net and everything is incredibly dynamic. COBRA is being subsidized by the feds right now, Washington State has its Basic Health Care plans (which will change with the state budget) and there are individual insurance plans.

Cobra is (as we all know) the continuation of insurance that our employers used to pay for. When we are laid off/fired/quit it is critical that we at least evaluate this option. The current bail-out legislation allows for as much as a 65% subsidy. I’m sure there are a ton of resources that will give you the 411, this one seems very clear and with a minimum of extraneous junk.

Washington Basic Health Plan info is here. We all know how to do a Google Search on “Individual Health Care Washington State”, which will give you something close to 4000 responses. Remove the quotes and the number balloons over 21 million. There are lots of choices, they just get expensive in a hurry.

One last choice to bring up is the Alliance for Affordable Services. This is focused on very small businesses, so if you are doing even a minimum of freelancing, it’s an option to check as well.

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