We’ve partnered with the Washington State Health Benefit Exchange to share information on how easy it is to compare health and dental insurance plans during the November open enrollment period. As always, all opinions are our own.
THE COST OF A HOSPITALIZATION CAN BURY YOU IN DEBT WITHOUT INSURANCE
For the last four decades, I haven’t had to think about health insurance because my husband’s job provided it. I realize how incredibly lucky I’ve been to be covered under his Health Plan, and I’ve never taken it for granted. I was especially grateful for it when I had a sudden cardiac arrest on February 10th, 2019.
While “experts” say you should ask what your insurance covers before any procedure is carried out to avoid uncovered expenses, that didn’t happen duri1ng my hospitalization. My husband is a Fire Captain and trained in emergency medicine, but seeing me die in front of him unnerved him. He did CPR on me (breaking seven of my ribs in the process) until the Medic One paramedics arrived, and then watched as they worked for 45-minutes to stabilize me enough to transport to the local hospital.
My husband barely got a minute to sit down when he found himself fighting to get a doctor to listen to my lungs because he knew I had pneumonia. He was right, and I was intubated and taken to the cardiac care unit. It wasn’t long after that when he was told that I wasn’t likely going to live through the night.
With so much going on, his brain couldn’t process mundane issues like what this was going to cost us. So, he threw caution to the wind and told the doctors to do whatever needed to be done to save my life, and he’d figure out the insurance issues afterward.
Of course, when I heard that there were some questions about emergency procedure approvals, I panicked a bit. I wasn’t looking forward to seeing the bill knowing that we could be financially responsible for those. When the bill finally arrived for my 16-day hospital stay plus my spankin’ new pacemaker/defibrillator with a total due of $211,726.26, I had a moment of panic.
I’m not saying it wasn’t worth it, but the over $200K bill could have put us deeply in debt. Thankfully, once our insurance paid out, our out-of-pocket cost was just $739.40. I almost couldn’t believe they’d covered so much, and it took such a burden off of my shoulders, allowing me to concentrate my efforts on getting better.
I can’t even imagine not having health insurance and what that kind of debt would have meant. A financial burden of that magnitude likely would have changed my husband’s ability to retire in January after thirty-nine years in the fire service, and that’s a guilt I’m not willing to carry.
How to Access the Washington State Health Benefit Exchange
Other than choosing between the few coverage options my husband’s employer offered every November, our health insurance was pretty much out-of-sight, out-of-mind. But with my husband leaving his job next year, we’ll need to find our own Health insurance Plan for the first time. For us, health insurance is a must – we’ve worked too hard to own our home and save money – to lose it all to medical bills.
In Washington State, we have a state-based exchange called the Health Benefit Exchange. It was created in 2011 as a public-private partnership as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Its purpose is to provide the families and individuals of Washington State with an online marketplace called the Washington HealthPlanfinder, where they can easily find, compare, and enroll in qualified health and dental plans as well as Washington Apple Health (Medicaid). Users can also apply for tax credits or financial assistance to cover co-pays and premiums.
Because accessibility is one of the Health Benefit Exchange‘s mandates, the Washington HealthPlanfinder offers a WAPlanfinder Mobile App, in-person enrollment centers, and over the phone assistance, in addition to their comprehensive website. They’ve gone out of their way to make the process as uncomplicated and easy as possible, allowing you to communicate with them in the way you’re comfortable with.
I’m a do-it-myself girl, so I opted to use the Smart Planfinder offered on the HealthPlan Finder website. It provides a chance for the user to be sure the plans they’re considering cover their current providers and prescriptions. It also takes into account how many times a year you see a doctor and how many prescription medications the family takes. You’ll need to know basic information like the age and sex of everyone to cover, whether they’re smokers or pregnant, and the family’s income. No identifying information is required to look up plans.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES ENROLLMENT PERIOD
Did you know that if you’ve left your job or lost your health insurance coverage, you might qualify for a special enrollment period? With Washington HealthPlanfinder, you get the opportunity to select a Qualified Health Plan that can keep both your health and finances on track without risking a gap in coverage. Coverage gaps can lead to large financial burdens that can be difficult to recover from.
Taking the Next Step in Life Without the Worry of Losing it All
I’ll admit, it’s scary having my husband retire. While we’re ready to find out what’s next for us, we can’t do it without the assurance of health insurance because we never know when an out-of-the-blue health problem can happen again. I’m grateful for the Washington Health Exchange and glad that it’s a way for us to take this big step without putting our finances and lifelong savings at risk!