Investigate options before you judge
Recently, I was preoccupied as my kids were chasing each other around my car. I heard a loud shriek followed by a lot of crying. My daughter had gotten the car door closed on her thumb. We made a trip to the Monadnock Community Hospital emergency room, where my daughter received excellent care and thankfully her thumb was not broken. Relief in the Donnelly household.
A few weeks passed and the bill came. Fifty dollars for an emergency room visit was our cost. Total cost of my daughter’s care was $680. My family and I are extremely fortunate that we didn’t have to fear the bill because my wife has excellent insurance. When I wrote the check, I was aware that many families are not so lucky.
A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that 11 percent of people in New Hampshire do not have health insurance. These are people that in 2014 will have to pay a penalty of either $95 or 1 percent of their annual income, whichever is higher. The fee for uninsured children is $47.50, and the most a family would have to pay in 2014 is $285. Penalties will rise every year. In 2016, the fee is 2.5 percent of income or $695 per person. Depending on your income, if you are uninsured in 2014 you may make a financial decision based on looking at rates on the health care marketplace that you are going to pay the penalty rather than purchase health insurance. This is a choice that comes with a great deal of risk.
Many assume that high credit card debt or unpaid mortgages are the leading causes of bankruptcy, but the current leading cause of bankruptcy in the United States is unpaid medical bills. Bankruptcy from unpaid medical bills will impact nearly 2 million people this year, according to a study by NerdWallet Health. Bankruptcy, I feel safe in saying is a situation that all of us would like to avoid. It is completely understandable that if you are living pay check to pay check like many people are, it is difficult to contemplate another monthly bill to swallow. If you are in a situation where you don’t have health insurance, you could take one step and investigate what your options are. This also may be true if you have health insurance through your employer that is either difficult to afford or has such a high deductible you are worried about being able to cover it.
The Affordable Care Act is complicated. By and large, people are afraid of things that they may not have had the time to investigate fully. I haven’t met anyone, regardless of their political affiliation, that thinks it is a perfect piece of legislation. The network may be a problem — most notably Monadnock Hospital being absent — the cost may be a problem, etc. However, it is my belief that there is help available to people that they may not be aware of. There are subsidies available, a state “navigator” program designed to help people, there are online resources, and there is additional programming through Medicaid and CHIP, or children’s health insurance program, that may be available to you or your family. I am hoping that people in the Monadnock region may take a bit of time to try to educate themselves on it.
There is a quote from an English philosopher named William Paley, who incredibly was born in Peterborough, England, that I am fond of: “There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance — that principle is contempt prior to investigation.”
In an attempt to try to do a small part to assist people in investigating, I will be doing a short presentation on the Affordable Care Act at the Jaffrey Public Library tonight at 6:30 p.m. and will be available to answer questions. I will not pretend to have all the answers in every situation, but I will be able to help point you in the right direction.
Brian Donnelly is the director of administration at IPG Benefits Specialist in Keene.