lesson learned: the price of good health

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Good morning! Today I’d like to share something I haven’t discussed here on MML: health and self-employment. Though I am certainly no expert, the following is what I’ve learned so far while being self-employed.

(Very) fortunately I’ve been blessed with good health and a proactive sense of responsibility. As an active 25-year-old non-pregnant woman, I have several positive health factors on my side for a low-ish cost of health care. So what works for me won’t apply to others in different situations. That said, here’s what has worked for me so far.

General Credo

As a full-time designer, I pay for my health insurance myself. Over the past three years this fact has given me a very conscious understanding of the (financial and physical) “value” of wellness. I recognize the impact a healthy lifestyle can have on my bottom-line and bottom-line (Anyone notice the pun? Ha…  Ha.)

I run, lift weights, don’t smoke, drink (relatively) moderately, and eat as well as I can without sacrificing too much. All the things they say you “should” do. Since I’ve done those things most of my life, none of them were directly correlated with my quest to keep health care costs low. But now I have a better idea of what these actions are actually saving my bank account.

Health Insurance

In terms of health insurance, I have chosen a relatively high deductible plan with a lower monthly premium.  This gives me a monthly health insurance bill under $170.

I also have an Health Savings Plan (HSA) which is a tax-free savings account for health purchases and fees. I deposit money in this account yearly and use a HSA debit card when I go to the doctor or order contacts.

Dental + Eye

In order to save on my monthly premium, I don’t have dental or eye care included in my health insurance. Overall, this has worked well so far. In the future I might add these features to my plan.

To save money on eye care, I had my mom order a year supply of contacts before I moved to Chicago. And though I’m not particularly proud of it, I wore the contacts past their two-week expiration in an effort to save money. Eventually I ran out of contacts and shopped around my area for an affordable eye exam and contacts. My money from the HSA covered the bills.

But then there are my teeth. Though I had all forms of orthodontia for most of my childhood (braces, retainers, head-gear!, you name it), I went a full three years without seeing a dentist. I know, I know. I should have gone to see a dentist sooner. Every six months. I know. But up to this point, I honestly didn’t make the effort or save the money for this very important part of my body.

That said, the proactive sense of responsibility I spoke about earlier definitely has worked overtime in my dental care. I now have a regular flossing habit. I also use a Sonic Care toothbrush three times a day. Pretty good, right?

Well, last month when I decided it was time to grow up and see a dentist. I was faced with these choices:

  • My health insurance offered a $30/month plan for dental- which means about $360/year.
  • The dental cleaning and check-up fee without insurance was $166.
  • Cavities cost $330.
  • X-Rays were $100.

What was I to do? Should I get dental coverage for $360 a year – which would save me $$$ if I had a cavity. Or, should I risk it and pay just $266 for the appointment and x-ray out of the HSA?

It was a tough call.

I ended up forgoing the dental health plan and paid for it myself. Fortunately, all that flossing and brushing paid off. I didn’t have a cavity! It was a tremendous feeling. A real accomplishment. Though I don’t plan (or recommend) going three years without a dentist appointment, I am so thankful that those healthy habits helped my teeth and my checking account.

So all I can say to those starting a business is: floss your teeth.

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  1. Niki

    Thank you for this info! It’s definitely something I’ve thought about as I’m planning to be self-employed by next year.

  2. Jill

    Isn’t it funny how “no cavities” feels so good!? Sometimes if Doctors/Dentists know you are paying cash you can ask for a discount – because often the amount that insurance pays to the provider is LESS than their “advertised” prices. I know my brother has done that in the past because he too is self-employed and fore-went the dental insurance, but has had a LOT of dentistry (some necessary, some cosmetic) – he’s been able to get discounts on both types.

  3. Jennifer

    We purchase our own health insurance and have an HSA as well. I wish more people would look into it and take a proactive approach to their well being. It’s all about priorities. Do you want that fancy flat screen TV or health insurance? There are affordable options out there. And insurance is for the big stuff. Heaven forbid something catastrophic happens to you. But you’re won’t lose your home & future over it. It helps when the little things are covered, but those won’t take you to the poor house. Just my two cents. Bravo to you for putting your example out there. I hope that you’ll inspire others to seek out options that work for them.

  4. My hubs and I are planning to become self-employed in about six years, and this has been a hot topic of conversation and research for us. We are anxious to see what happens with health care reform in the interim and are trying to adopt as many healthy habits as we can as preventative measures.

    Thanks for sharing this post, Jess!

  5. As a full time student with a full time job, I too had to opt for inexpensive (semi-low coverage)insurance until I was eligible for regular insurance at work. It is a relief to hear that another person skipped out on the dentist for three years too! I was so nervous during that first appointment, but healthy habits paid off for me too!

  6. I skipped the dentist for three years while in college/first job and I will second your directive to floss because I DIDN’T. Turns out I have a tartar “issue” that has to be scraped out from under the gumline in very long excruitating four appointments. And those shots aren’t cheap. Luckily I did have insurance at that point, but if your parents have ever spoken of tartar issues (this goes out to all of you!) – get thee to thy dentist. It’s hereditary. And causes all kinds of problems if it doesn’t get fixed. And you have to use a nasty mouthwash for 10 days.

    I hope that sound is some of you dialing your dentist for an appointment! Or at least whipping out the floss!

  7. jen

    wow! thanks for disclosing all that! it’s something lots of people don’t consider about self employment, or people don’t consider working for themselves because the idea of paying for health care scares them!

  8. rose

    all hail floss i say! hehe. thanks for an interesting discussion on something i hadn’t considered as part of being self-employed

  9. Very informative – continue to spread your message. Looking forward to an update. For too long now have I had the urge to start my personal blog. Suppose if I wait any longer I’ll never ever take action. I’ll make sure to include you in my Blogroll. Many thanks!!

  10. eye relaxation should always be a part of eye care as well as foods high in carotenes~`~

  11. Baron

    I’ve go through several of the articles or blog posts on your site now, and I enjoy your style of writing a blog. I included it to my favorites website collection and will also be looking at back quickly.

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