When the first bill came in the mail for a recent hospital visit, I thought it was a mistake. I was 20 and in college and under my mother’s plan so everything should have been taken care of. If you have insurance you don’t pay medical bills, right?Well they continued to come until “Final Notice” became burned onto the envelopes. Then the debt collectors called and I didn’t know what to say. My insurance should have covered it I told them, but they didn’t care, I was just another person with a story.
With Massachusetts residents now required by law to have health insurance, I worry what will happen when I graduate. Plagued by a lifetime of loans and an inflating rent check will I be forced to pay for a plan that doesn’t guarantee I will be fully covered in an emergency?
I’m not alone. The Boston Phoenix also pondered the plight of the young last October in two reports titled: Guinea pigs – The future of the nation’s health-care reform rests on the tattooed shoulders of Massachusetts’s young adults and Insure this! Why some twentysomethings won’t buy health insurance – even though it means they’ll be breaking the law.
To summarize, us young people are running on hope. Hope that we never fall off our bicycles and hope we never end up in the hospital. At the same time I look at people in their 30s and 40s and they are o.k. They can pay their taxes, have a mortgage and aren’t bankrupt. But where do you learn the skills of dealing with an insurance company? Is it all trial and error?
Apparently yes, according to a story told in the Boston Globe by Alison Bass. Her op-ed in Monday’s paper, appropriately titled An underinsured kick in the groin, describes her failed attempt at convincing an insurance company she had the legal right not to pay her son’s emergency room bills. Her biggest asset was the advice from a Boston nonprofit that helps people negotiate medical bills called The Access project.
If my experience as 20-year-old is just the beginning of the many battles to come over my health, then be educated on your rights as a patient is up their with wear a seatbelt, look both ways before you cross, and floss.