ISU specialist discusses health care options

With the new Health Insurance Marketplace ready to launch Oct. 1, some folks are asking: Why should I bother getting health insurance? I think it’s a question worth answering.

For generations, health insurance has been recommended as an important part of financial security. Insurance may help cover “normal” medical expenses (e.g. annual checkup, or treatment for an ear infection), but that’s not the reason it is considered important. Those expenses aren’t cheap, but many people can cover the costs without insurance.

The real benefit of insurance comes when you have a serious health problem, whether it’s a broken bone, a serious illness or massive injuries in an accident. Hardly anyone can manage that type of cost on their own.

These major health events don’t happen to everyone every year, thankfully. If you’re lucky it may not happen in your family for many years in a row. But something major probably will happen at some point, and we never know when that might be. That’s why health insurance is recommended – you pay a moderate amount in premiums every year to prevent financial disaster whenever the major health expenses come along.

Here’s what some people might say: “It’s probably not going to happen to me. But if I do have a medical disaster, won’t they take care of me anyway?” It’s possible. Certainly an emergency room is going to treat a bleeding car accident victim whether or not he or she has insurance. But people may not have full access to all treatment options without insurance, and the bills will pile up. Being uninsured leaves people with a big cloud of debt over their heads.

Who pays for the treatment that uninsured accident victim receives? Everyone. The cost is covered through higher prices for everyone else. So having health insurance is the “responsible” thing to do. It means you’re paying your fair share for the treatment which, sooner or later, you are going to need.

This principle of paying your fair share is the reason why, beginning in 2014, everyone is required to have insurance or pay a penalty. There are exceptions for people who truly can’t afford insurance, as well as for those with religious objections; but people who simply let other people pay the bill will pay a penalty, officially known as a “shared responsibility payment.”

People may say: “It’s still cheaper to pay the penalty rather than to buy insurance.” That may or may not be true. But paying the penalty gives you no benefits. Having insurance will give you:

Coverage for disastrous medical expenses

Free preventive care (no deductibles or co-pays for preventive care beginning 2014)

Help with “normal” medical expenses

Financial security

Think about it. You can learn about the new health insurance options at free ISU Extension and Outreach workshops on making smart health insurance choices. Workshops begin in October. No preregistration is required. For more information, go to, or contact me through the Webster County ISU Extension, 576-2119, directly at 832-9597 or by email at Subscribe to our blog at