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Even Healthy People Should Prepare For Health Scares

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?

$600

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.

10 thoughts to “Even Healthy People Should Prepare For Health Scares”

  1. Ouch, $275, while much better than $600, is absolutely an unwelcome expense. And the stress of not knowing how much things will eventually cost you is definitely a fun* (*not fun) thing to think about while you’re just trying to get answers and figure out what’s wrong! I’ve been lucky enough to work for a place that covers our deductibles so aside from my copays and prescription costs, I’ve been incredibly insulated from what things cost because I don’t have to pay attention to them. Oh, I owe my insurance company for lab work? Let me just swipe this card pre-loaded with money work gave me and be on my merry way! I have a feeling I’ll be in for an unpleasant surprise when I do switch jobs and that perk changes.

    Finding a less expensive doctor you can at least go to for routine checkups is definitely a good idea, and like you said, routine/preventative visits might catch something early in the future. I’m on an insurance plan where I have to get a referral from my PCP before I go see anyone else (even the optometrist, as I learned a few months ago for one of my own health scares #themoreyouknow), and my former PCP left the practice last summer. I was dragging my feet about finding a new doctor but finally went in last week for my annual checkup and to meet the new person. If I have another health scare in the near future I’ve now at least met the doctor I’ll need a referral from!

    It’s so, so easy to take good health for granted, and yep, I sprained my ankle at work a year and a half ago. That was certainly a wake-up call to someone who never gave a second thought to her able-bodiedness and ability to walk everywhere as her primary form of transportation. Luckily it wasn’t a bad sprain and I was at least walking (if veeeeeeeery slowly) a few days later, but the two months I spent wearing my ankle brace until it finally stopped constantly twinging definitely gave me something to think about. I’m so glad at least this didn’t end up being a worst case scenario for you!

    1. Oh that is a nice work perk to get most of those medical costs paid for! Very annoying you have to go through your PCP for everything though haha. Yes I definitely learned a lot through this experience, namely that it’s really not fun to go through all this!

  2. The way healthcare is managed, billed and delivered in this country is a convoluted mess, but that’s a topic for another day 🙂

    I’ve found that how much you pay really depends on your insurance plan. At a previous job, I had a “PPO” plan where I would pay a co-pay and they’d take care of everything else. But the insurance premium was quite high. At my current job, we have a high deductible plan tied to a HSA. The monthly premiums are much lower, but you pay more when you need care. A plan like this ideal for healthy young people like us. If something really bad does happen, there’s always the out of pocket maximum to protect you from shelling out tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills. I don’t believe I’d have been eligible for a HSA under my old job’s plan, so I do think this is a better fit for me at this time.

    It took some getting used to for me. I go to the dermatologist once a year for a preventative exam and last year (my first on the new health plan) I ended up getting a bill for $50 to cover the visit (in the past I just paid a $25 co-pay). Insurance negotiates a rate and I pay the difference, which is applied to my deductible. I haven’t been to the PCP in about a year and a half, but I’m sure the same deal applies there.

    The best advice? Stay out of the healthcare system for as long as you can. 🙂

    1. Yea I was shocked at how little I knew about the whole healthcare system as I never took much interest in it (never needed to). It’s crazy how much different it is that people will pay for the same services since it is simply what your plane offers. I do think the HSA is the right move for us since we’re young, but it’s definitely a bummer shelling out that money when you have to use it. Totally agree on that last bit of advice!

  3. I started doing yearly physicals around the age of 25 for this precise reason. I’ve lost loved ones because of failure to address medical conditions in a timely manner, so this one definitely hits home for me. Just being a bit more proactive with our health can help a ton. Eating healthy meals, exercising, that would probably resolve the majority of health issue.

    For that other small percentage, that’s out of the blue, and potentially serious and expensive, all you can do to prepare, is be insured, and have some savings.

    1. Yep I totally agree. I try to maintain as healthy a lifestyle as possible with prioritizing exercise, eating well and sleep to help mitigate this. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do though and it’s is essential to be prepared just in case!

  4. In my mind, the concern of rising health insurance premiums and health care costs are among one of the biggest barriers to early retirement. I currently have no health issues and take no medications, but it’s difficult to predict when and how that will change. Even exceptionally fit and healthy people need surgery or get ill from time to time. A super-fit friend who is a rock climber and cyclist is never sick, but he has had two shoulder surgeries, so even staying in shape and eating well doesn’t protect against health care expenditures. I’m just now starting to dig deeper into the best options for those who retire early.

    1. Agreed, when leaving the employer sponsored work plans you lose a huge benefit and now have to worry about that all on your own. Who knows what the costs are going to be like when I actually get to my early retirement, but I’m hoping we have a better system in place by then.

  5. First off, “Dr. Google” and WebMD etc will always tell you that you’re dying. They can be great resources, but use wisely.

    I’m convinced women live longer than men in every country and region of the world because women actually go to the doctor when something’s wrong. Men – not so much. We’re too tough. “Meh.. it’s nothing”

    My advice, go to the darn doctor when something’s up. Your only body is worth the cost!

    1. Haha exactly! It was good to know but perhaps a bit too much knowledge 😂

      So true though, throughout sports you try to tough things out and I think that mentality has carried over to regular life.. definitely need to go get stuff checked out when needed.

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