On Starting Over and Staying Covered

I’m 41 years old. I’m at the tail end of what’s been a drawn out—if amicable and not particularly contentious—divorce. And I’m scared.

You see, my whole life I’ve had health insurance. I’ve never had to think about it much, honestly, because it’s just always been there, always been provided for me. Over my lifetime, I’ve been covered by my parents’ policies, then health insurance provided by my graduate school assistantship, my job and for the last 10 years by my husband’s work. I’ve never had to worry about going to the doctor, paying for a prescription or undergoing tests. And I see now how hugely privileged and fortunate I was that I never had to grapple with those worries.

But before the end of summer, in just a month or two, that will be going away. And no, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say this terrifies me.

My daughter will still be covered under my ex’s policy, which is certainly a relief and blessing. And my health is good, which should help me qualify for lower rates. But in this aspect of my life, as with many others, I’m now faced with a lot of uncertainty, and no strong sense of what my options are or what the future holds for me.

What kind of health insurance can I even afford as a self-employed single mom? Will I be able to go to the doctor regularly, or only when disaster strikes? What kind of prescription coverage can someone with my income get, and where will that leave me if I become seriously ill? How will I be able to bear the additional expenses?

Friends have suggested I consider COBRA, but from what I’ve heard, the rates are generally higher than if I tried to strike out and get insurance on my own, since I’m healthy. My first plan of attack is to approach the insurance provider my family has been using these 10 or so years, and basically ask them what they can offer me, and at what cost per month.

I’ve found a few websites that appear to be health-care plan clearinghouses where you can purchase plans online, but I worry about going through a website to get coverage. My biggest fear, however, is that having no real sense of what reasonable costs are for different kinds of coverage, I might get stuck with a plan that isn’t what I need.

How have those of you who’ve been in my position found reasonable health insurance that fits your needs?

I’m also realizing that I need to look at other kinds of insurance. Life insurance, for one, is something I’ve never had.

Where would you begin when approaching these issues? I’d really love to hear your experiences, insights and suggestions about these topics—believe me, I can use them.

  1. Hi Tracey!

    Don’t rush! websites may provide basic info of the services they provide and how much it may cost you. But websites can take only so far, pick a few top insurance agencies and talk to them. Then you will have a clear view of which one to choose. After all you are almost PhD. By the way nice blog you have there.

  2. Start by calling your insurance agent. Yes, you have one, at the very least for homeowner’s insurance. If whatever company s/he represents doesn’t do health insurance, surely this won’t be the first time s/he has been asked. Get a referral.

    You could also call your financial planner, if you have one. Anyone who is handling your IRA or investments may be able to help, at least with a referral.

    I have one self-employed, single friend who has a United Healthcare policy that she only pays $160 per month for, but it is really major medical. It has a $7500 deductible, I think. Hey, it’s better than nothing. I know it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get a one-person group plan anymore. My boss recently said she pays $967 per month for my coverage(!!!!), which I though was costing $500-$600 per month. My vague internal estimate was based on she was paying almost 10 years ago, holy hell.

    I share your fear because I am going to strike out on my own again in about two years. The previous time I did that, I was on COBRA, which was hella expensive, or so I thought at the time, as I was only paying $180/month for full coverage. That was in 1998.

    If anyone points you in a good, affordable direction, please let me know!

  3. Tracey, COBRA is generally more expensive than finding a new policy on your own. It seems like you’re heading in the right direction. The most important thing is for you to determine what you want your health insurance to do. Are you looking for a major medical plan or for a more comprehensive plan? Thanks to Health Care Reform, whatever plan you select will provide you with a free annual wellness visits and cancer checks.

    If you don’t mind taking a little more risk with your coverage, you could use a Health Savings Account (HSA) plan with a higher deductible ($5000) and a lower premium (approx $150/mo). if you would prefer less risk to yourself, a lower deductible ($1000), and better coverage (extra office visits and RX copays), you could end up paying about $400/mo. Once you determine what is most important to you, then you can start narrowing down the plan or company.

    If you would like more information, you can direct message me on Twitter @toddbowditch.
    I don’t broker health insurance with my current company, so I’m qualified to offer unbiased suggestions.

    .

  4. We are self-employed and pay $1200/mo for healthcare only for a family of four. No dental or vision. We also have a $1000 deductible which includes us paying for our meds up front and out-of-pocket. Blue Cross Blue Shield usually handles individuals.

    As for life, I would go with a term life insurance policy. Whomever you have your auto/homeowners policy can write one for you relatively cheap.

    I do have to say, every month I freak out worrying if we are going to have the $1200 in the bank account. Sadly, these days you really can’t go without health insurance. A minor problem ends up costing you $600.

    Best of luck on your search.

  5. If you are self-employed, you should really think about using Freelancers Union for insurance. I am self-employed and have found them to be the most affordable. I pay around $300/month for a GOOD policy (cheap prescriptions and copayments). If you do ANY type of freelance work they will usually accept you.

  6. I have been in the insurance industry for over 25 years in Spokane and I have a lot of clients who come in that are now self-employed. It’s hard to find good health insurance if you own a small business and are on a limited income. I am going to tell them to check out COBRA next. Thanks for the write up!

  7. Thanks for the small business insurance tips. I think COBRA delivers quality coverage for a lower price then many other companies out there. Although I am not sure if they cover people in Australia? Australian life insurance companies are generally expensive.

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