You know that feeling when you’re young?
Where you feel like nothing can go wrong and you’ll always have good health?
Well, tough to break it to you, but it’s not going to last. Whether the good health lasts through your 20’s and 30’s or even longer into your 80’s and 90’s, eventually it’s going to catch up to you. That’s just science.
The way our bodies and minds handle external and internal stressors are unique. That being so, you never know when you’re going to be in need of medical care.
You may be perfectly healthy one day, but that doesn’t guarantee the next day will be the same.
Something you do every day, or hundreds of times a day, can go drastically different from one day to the next.
For example, you walk thousands of steps every day, yet it could be any day you trip and fall, or sprain an ankle on uneven ground.
Every day you eat food, yet who knows if one day that food could be bad and cause food poisoning or another illness.
This isn’t meant to scare anyone, it’s simply meant to show that these things can happen and do happen every day, even to young, healthy people, like myself.
After dealing with a recent health scare it’s made me realize how important it is to set realistic expectations, and be prepared for when these incidents do eventually happen.
Out of the Blue Health Scare
I’ve been pretty fortunate health-wise my entire life. Only a couple hospital visits years ago and no recurring issues requiring medical attention or necessity.
In fact, I had one serious illness in college about 7-8 years ago, but since then – nothing more than the common cold every now and then.
That college illness was the last time I visited an actual doctor, though my college trainers did need to give me an annual physical to play football.
While my company has semi-annual free screenings where I get my blood pressure and cholesterol checked, I haven’t even went to the doctors for a physical.
Heck, it’s been a few years since I’ve even taken a pill of any kind (yep, even no Advil for those pesky hangovers).
Safe to say, I’ve had it good.
When I was moving around in the years after college, I never even found a local doctor as I never had needed one.
Thus, when I turned 26 and finally went onto my own Health Insurance last November, I saw no reason to find myself a doctor in the DC area.
I figured I would find a doctor in a few years or so because I simply didn’t need one right now. In my monthly budget I only have $10 budgeted, all laid under the assumption that I would have perfect health in the year!
Call it hubris, call it stupidity, call it whatever you like, at the end of the day, I was completely unprepared for an unexpected health issue.
And I paid for it – both mentally and financially.
First Foray Into The Healthcare System
My first health issue came out of nowhere (going to keep the exact issue to myself here) and I had no idea what to do.
I knew enough that it wasn’t life threatening and thus did not need to go to an Emergency Room, but I had nowhere else to turn to.
The first thing I did was to look up my symptoms on the internet. While it was good to find out what I could potentially have, all it really did was stress me out since they often times list the worst case scenarios on there.
As I did not even have a primary care doctor I could call to schedule an appointment or get advice, I had to completely figure this out on the fly, while stressed there could be something seriously wrong with me.
I had no clue even where to start. Which doctor do I go to? What doctor is covered under my insurance? How expensive are these places?
I called a few primary care physicians (PCPs) that I found through my insurance portal, but most either weren’t accepting new patients, or could not get me in for several weeks.
I finally found one that could see me within the week. The doctor performed an examination and I had to get some blood drawn for tests, but he was not able to make a final determination.
He advised me to see a specialist where I could get an actual determination on the issue at hand.
Luckily, the specialist was also under my insurance and I was able to get an appointment a few days later.
The specialist determined what my issue was, and though it was not best case scenario, it hopefully should not require any further visits in the future.
I also got good news back on the blood test results: my worst case fears fortunately did not come to pass.
The Costs of Such a Venture
It was a stressful two weeks dealing with all that. While I was relieved to know my worst case fears were not confirmed and things could go back to normal, there was another stressor that popped up.
How much was this going to cost?
As I’ve never had to pay my own insurance before, for anything, I had no baseline, no idea what things should cost, or even remotely what to expect.
I asked the doctors at each place to ensure this was “in-network” under my insurance, which it was, but they couldn’t tell me what it was actually going to cost me out of pocket.
So after waiting about a week I began seeing the bills; two doctors’ visits, and a few blood samples tests. How much do you think that cost?
Crazy right? Luckily, my insurance covered over half of that through a discounted price or paying for a portion of it themselves.
I was still on the hook for $275 though. Thankfully, I have an emergency fund to cover this higher than expected cost.
This seems like a high amount to me, however, like I said, I really have no baseline to judge it by and who knows, maybe I got off lucky?
It turns out, the PCP doctor I went to was readily available, though fairly expensive (perhaps that’s why he was available that week?)
First visits are generally more expensive than visits after that I found out, which also could explain why it’s a bit more expensive.
Had I been prepared, I could have already found a potentially cheaper PCP through my insurance.
This way I could’ve saved a bit of money on that end, or simply skipped the PCP and went straight to the specialist. My case wasn’t a typical one and I probably should have realized a PCP would just refer me elsewhere.
A Broader Issue At Hand?
According to a 2015 study, nearly 9 in 10 Millennials do not schedule medical appointments.
They cite a variety of reasons, including the hassle of scheduling around work, as well as the costs of healthcare and dealing with insurance.
After all, who wants to take time off work and pay for a service when they are feeling healthy and seemingly don’t need it?
I’m clearly guilty of doing this, and it burned me.
I was not prepared for this health scare, and because of that I was reactionary, constantly finding out things after it was too late.
Had I simply had more knowledge of how the whole system works and picked out a PCP beforehand, I may not have had to pay as much as I did.
I’m taking this as a learning experience.
In the near future I’m going to start scheduling annual or semi-annual physicals as well as finding myself a PCP that is affordable and I am comfortable with.
Who knows, maybe this preventative care could even potentially catch a future concern before it happens?
While my first foray into the medical and health insurance world wasn’t a pleasant one, I’m now taking the steps to make sure I am prepared for any future ones.
After all, even healthy people should prepare for health scares.