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Can't afford real health insurance next year

Discussion in 'Nontraditional Students' started by Beaubeau, Feb 16, 2007.

  1. Beaubeau

    Beaubeau New Member

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    Hello all,
    I am a non-traditional student accepted to an allopathic program, which I am excited to start. Since I have a family I started looking into health insurance options for next year. I have hit a snag and wanted to share my experience. The health insurance plan available at my school for student + spouse + dependents is about $5500/year, which is more than I can afford given that I will have 15K to live on plus whatever my wife will earn (not too much). I guess I find it ironic that I am going to medical school and can't afford real medical insurance. So, I started looking into health savings accounts and catastrophic coverage, which I think is the way I will have to go. In trying to estimate how much I would need to put into the health savings account, I called my doctor's office and a couple of other offices in town to ask how much it would cost just to be seen by the doctor. Currently, I have good insurance from my employer so I just see the copay I have to make. All of the people I spoke with couldn't really pin down a price. I would say, 'Imagine my child has a cold, how much just to have them examined by a doctor.' The response from every place I called was 'well it depends, it could be 100 to 200 dollars depending on what the doctor does.' I was shocked at how much it costs and also how ambiguous they are about the price of an office visit. My typical experience at the doctor's office when I am sick or I take my kids in to be seen is that a nurse takes vital signs for 3 minutes and a doctor spends about 5 minutes seeing you. Often, the physician's response is your child probably has a virus, drink plenty of fluids and get lots of rest. Is it just me, or do these fees seem like a big ripoff? I used to think car repairs were expensive but now.... For a profession that is supposed to be motivated by altruism, these fees seem a bit greedy.
     
  2. notdeadyet

    notdeadyet Still in California
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    Does your spouse's job offer health coverage? If that's not an option, have you priced out BlueCross/BlueShield?

    If you wife doesn't make much money, can you qualify for Medicaid? Depending on where you live, the threshhold for a family of four can be $34K/year.
     
  3. lilnoelle

    Moderator Emeritus 7+ Year Member

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    I had a similar problem this year. I had to have medical insurance to attend med school but it cost WAY too much to put my kids on the policy. My hubby has insurance through work, but again, it would take up half of his pay check to put the kids on the policy. So for about 6 months, my kids were uncovered. Luckily we didn't have any emergencies during that period of time.
    In November I decided to put them both on Blue Cross Blue Shield and we pay about $200 a month for two children. It was good I put them on insurance then, because that month my kids were pretty sick (and had to see doctors to be able to come back to daycare). I think between the two of them, we had 7 appointments that month.
    Check out private plans like BCBS. Also check out your state medicaid plan. We couldn't do medicaid because the older your child is, the lower income you have to haved in order to qualify. (at least in MO, they only cover children less than 12 months at 200% poverty level)
     
  4. Kateb4

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    OK, having two kids, and a third on the way. I have to say do not rely on a catastrophic only plan. There are way too many things that can go wrong that are not covered by those plans. You have kids, you have to know that a trip to the doc for an ear infection, or a rapid strep culture can cost a few hundred bucks, plus you wouldn't have any prescription benefits. Did you know an epipen costs $104, and azithromycin costs about $80. That was at Target, which has very reasonable med prices. My husband fell while running last year, and we had to take him in for stitches. The doctor was $520, and the hospital was another couple of hundred. Also for the kids, the regular well check ups are $200 each, and my son's flu shot was $60! I know that those are relatively managable amounts alone, but when you add it all up it's well worth purchasing insurance!

    Seriously, you should look into some individual policies, or see if you can increase your student loans enough to cover your medical insurance. We are on COBRA right now, paying $1000/month, so $5500 a year sounds really reasonable to me for a family plan. We had BCBS in the past for the family and paid around $600/month, but there are some cheaper plans out there if you are willing to have a big deductable/co-insurance amount. Another option is to check with your state to see if there are any plans that they provide. IL has an all children plan that provides free or discounted medical ins for kids depending on your income.

    Having a family, I would just worry about not being covered, because in the event that something did come up, say you found a cancer or another serious illness that would require regular treatment, you wouldn't be able to get coverage. I managed a medical office for a few years before I went back to school and I see how horrible it can be for people without coverage. Insurance companies are jerks, but we need them.

    Another consideration, will your med school allow you to not have coverage. Most will require that you show proof of coverage (actually my undergrad requires it) or they will charge you for their coverage.

    Sorry that was so long, we have been dealing for a long time with insurance plans, and most likely you would be fine. But it's when you are in that situation that anything that can happen will. Better to cover yourself.
     
  5. oldpro

    oldpro MS IV
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    I understand I'm an MS II with 3 children covered under my wife who works for an Office store, her coverage is about 350 a month, its not that bad and that is us, for you what state will you be in?

    In Ga there is free well visits for low income people at the local health department. I would think some states would do this too maybe.

    Catastrophic is an idea and there are things you can do like save money on the side (How I have no idea) to pay for some visits maybe you can find a good Doc willing to work with you in the area?

    Anyway if I can come up with anything else I will post it.

    Good luck.
     
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  6. Doctor Bagel

    Doctor Bagel so cheap and juicy
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    HSA's suck. Yeah, I'm biased, but they really are not a great deal if you don't have cash to either put into the HSA or pay the doctor for your super huge deductible. As for doctor's visits, I usually paid about $100/visit regardless of what happened, which is not exactly something you want to deal with as a medical student.

    For next year, I'd definitely suggest looking into medicaid -- lots of med students seem to do this. The other option is for your wife to get a job with decent benefits. Those school plans are decently priced for you, but cost a fortune when you add family members.
     
  7. OncoCaP

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    Consider deferring for one year (or holding off and applying later again) and saving up as much money as you can, or maybe, if you and your wife are open to it, looking into the possibility of your wife working one or two jobs and seeking out reliable, cheap childcare (kids will get sick a lot in daycare, so make sure she can get lots of time off as well so it will probably need to be a part-time job or two). One med student I spoke with on a med school tour never goes to class (except mandatory stuff) and just stays home with his kids, listens to lectures online, and his wife works full-time. Various loans and credit cards are a dangerous option as well that might make more sense once you are getting near completion of med school (and you could use your residency pay to pay them off). Another option is for you to get a job where you work evenings and weekends and can get time off during exams (not ideal at all). Any family, friends, or fools willing to loan you money? You'll pay them back when you're practicing medicine.

    Now that you know how much medical care costs for even something trivial, you will easily see that going without insurance is a gamble that you don't want to make. Medicaid, CHIP and other gov't insurance programs are worth checking out, but be forewarned: you may not qualify because your wife makes more than $2500 or whatever, not a lot of physicians accept Medicaid, those who are may not be accepting new patients, and those that will take you are too often not providing care at a quality level you would find satisfactory. Getting individual major medical from Blue Cross Blue Shield ($10,000 deductible) might cost you around $4200/year, so it's not usually a savings worth fooling around with in exchange for $10000 in exposure per year.

    Keep in mind that if you can somehow figure out how to make it past the first 4 years, you'll be paid a little bit as a resident, so it's a temporary situation. Keep us posted. I'm sure you're not the only one dealing with this. :luck:
     
  8. oldpro

    oldpro MS IV
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    Really I disagree with this a lot, many people have to live on very little money so as students we have to learn that there is limitations in what we will enjoy.
    It will not change that much in a year, also Child care is so expensive that a lot of times you are working to pay for child care with little return. Many never make it ahead. As bad as it sounds some couples do go on public assistance while in Medical school. I still havent been able to research the private insurance angle I just know I covered my children for a year for 97 usd a month with a 1k usd deductable, seems like a lot but its not its for catastrophic coverage, My daughter broke her ankle and I ended up paying out 500 on that but the rest was covered, one thing, I do not mean to advise but to comment here, parents take the children to the Doctor way too much, colds are poor reasons to take children to the Doctor, if you suspect strep throat or pharyngitis then fine but normal viruses there is little to be done for. We should not give so much antibiotics to people we give out way too much and cause too many problems later.

    As far as making little in residency what is this based on? An average resident will make 38 to 40k for the 1st year, with some residencies it may go up each year, sometimes including healthcare ( paid ) and sometimes even housing. 40k is the same or more then many make before Medschool, its only 10k less then what I made as a RN. Once out of residencies, even the 3yr FP, the averages from 2003 was low 150 to high 220k a year so there is a light at the end as far as money, but if you are like me money is second to wanting to practice medicine
     
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  9. md2011

    md2011 Member
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    Going to the doctor's office is always expensive. When I get my 2nd Heptitis B shot, I didn't see the doctor at all, any only got 2 seconds shot from a nurse, I was charged for $120!

    Talk about putting as much into savings before med school, will these money work against you when you apply loans? I had some money (not big amount, far from the total med school tuition) in my IRA, I wanted to take it out while I am in med school. But I am still not clear on a few things. Can someone help clarify?
    1. When we apply loans, do they look at how much moneys we have in bank and retirement plan? will money in bank and retirement plan prevent us from getting low interest federal loans? Same question for the need-based scholarship.
    2. If I take money out of IRA, I will be penalized if it's more than the tuiition. Will the loans be considered as income? (if the loans are considered as income, then I shouldn't take any amount out of IRA)
    3. If I get some private loans, say from relatives, when I pay off these loans, can I get the same tax deduction as the federal and bank loans?
     
  10. oxeye

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    My husband is self-employed so we have an independent plan through Blue Cross. In August I have to go on my school's plan, but it will definitely be too expensive to switch my husband and daughters to that plan. So I'll keep him and my girls with Blue Cross.

    If your wife is working, hopefully she can get coverage through her job and then you could just look at independent coverage for your children. The plan we have right now has a pretty high deductible (no way we will meet it in a "healthy" year) but it is a PPO so we still get the discounted rates for office visits, hospital stays, and whatever else. Each child costs $60/month which isn't too bad.
     
  11. novawildcat

    novawildcat Senior Member
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    See what kind of plans your state has to offer for your kids. A lot of states have healthcare programs for children that try to make it more affordable for people that have no coverage. At least your kids will hopefully get coverage.
     

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