Medical Insurance, Stewardship, & Looking at the Bigger Picture

In my life before this one, every single day was a struggle to even breathe.  Time was measured payday to payday, electric bill cut-off-notice to the day rent was due.  There was no debt, no staggering credit card payments or anything.  No new clothes or expensive shoes.  No big screen televisions – not even a cell phone.  Just a drowning lifestyle cycled around his addictions … and my work.  I worked and scraped to keep us housed, clothed, and fed and did the best I could with what I had, but every day that passed made me feel more and more like I was suffocating.

It’s amazing how many mental habits get formed in a life like that.  For instance, I still struggle with spending any kind of money on myself.  My mind will calculate how many pounds of hamburger I could buy for the price of that candle or how many gallons of milk I could get for that new blouse.  December will mark ten years since I left that life and started a new one, and yet I still battle a sense of panic when I start thinking about money and bills.

Being married to Gregg has really taught me a lot of things about handling money, spending money, and giving money.  One thing that he’s always really pressed is seeing a bigger picture.  How much could you save if you paid for a year in advance?  What kind of discounts will companies offer?  Rather than looking at a weekly or monthly budget, Gregg will look at a yearly budget, and if writing a check for 52 horseback riding lessons saves him $150 for the year, then he considers that worth the initial out-of-pocket investment.

It is important to us to be good stewards.  We believe that God has given us time and resources to use for HIS purposes, not our own.  The fundamental principle of not just biblical stewardship but of all Christianity, is:  We own nothing. God owns everything.  Everything we have, God has given to us to manage.  The Bible says, “You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:17-18).

Where we can save, we can then turn around and give.  The more frugal our lives, the more we have to help others.

Recently, Gregg handed me the task of filtering through all of the healthcare options we have.  Before he went to Afghanistan, we had the military’s healthcare called Tri-Care.  It cost us something around $300 per month, give or take (I can’t remember now – I’ve looked at so many numbers lately.)  In addition to that $300 per month, we had to pay so much out of pocket for whatever we had done.  During my high-risk pregnancy with Jeb, seeing the high-risk OB weekly from my 6-week checkup until the day Jeb was born at 36-weeks, his NICU hospital bill and my c-section hospital bill, we had to pay maybe two thousand dollars out of pocket.

When he got to Afghanistan, his National Guard status was changed to inactive status, which caused us to lose Tri-Care.  Gregg looked at all of the numbers — the cost of the medical insurance his company provided versus the times we saw the doctor and our out-of-pocket expenses when we did see the doctor and made an extremely risky decision – while he was there, we would go insurance-free.

Jeb had his 1-year checkup in May, and we still had Tri-Care.  Scott had his 3-year checkup in July and we didn’t have Tri-Care.  Our out-of-pocket expense for Jeb’s checkup was $72.  Our full price payment for uninsured patients for Scott’s checkup was $52.  Couple that with the premiums for insurance we would have paid in June and July, we were already saving quite a bit of money.

Over the next two years and some months, Jeb broke his hand, Kaylee broke her thumb and then her ankle, and there were a series of typical kid sicknesses.  Despite that, we saved a significant amount of money not having insurance and just paying providers directly.  We also discovered that if we offered to pay hospital bills in full when they first arrived, the hospital would discount them further.

But, having no health insurance is risky business — especially when you have a family history of cancer (Gregg), high blood pressure and a heart condition (me), and three active children.  So, we decided to quit gambling and  insured again.

The company for which Gregg works offers several options for insurance, and I spent several hours a day for about a week researching everything and looking at all of our options.  I have to tell you, even with someone who has human resources experience like I do, it was a labyrinth of information.  AND, I had to battle that mindset of mine that came from my prior life and quit being attracted to the type of insurance that would take the least amount of money out of my pocket at the doctor’s office.

For instance, through my employer in Florida, I had an HMO insurance.  This was an incredibly expensive insurance (my employer’s cost for me and Kaylee was $900 per month), but my employer paid it for me, so the only cost I personally saw was what I had to pay out-of-pocket.  My 14-day hospital stay, emergency c-section, and Scott’s 4-week NICU stay cost us a whopping $250.  Knowing that, it was tempting to go the route of the HMO – the most expensive monthly option.

Instead, I used Gregg’s mindset.  Over the course of the next 15 years, what is the best option for us?  I made charts, watched online seminars offered by his company’s HR department, and learned.  And then I learned some more.

Considering the fact that everyone in our family is healthy right now (even my blood pressure has been lower – drug free – for the last six months), considering the fact that we have an extremely healthy diet with very little processed, packaged, or fast food, and considering other lifestyle factors, we decided that a catastrophic healthcare plan with an interest bearing medical savings account that could roll-over and eventually be invested further would be the best financial decision we could make, and would make us better stewards of our money.

Despite the fact that we would pay out of pocket for much of the routine healthcare, over the course of time it would save us so much more money than Tri-Care, an HMO, or even a PPO plan with a lower deductible.

It’s hard to come from my background and look at medical bills, see how much they often are and just pay them.  So often, I panic and want to hoard money out of fear that I might need it for something else.  But then I remind myself that it is just a symptom of the “shell shock” from my old life and I relax.

And I also remember that if in the end we’ve saved so much more money over the years, then we’ve been good stewards of this money in which God has entrusted us, and we can then turn around and help that many more people with financial burdens.



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