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Voluntarily uninsured isn't a calculated risk but a gamble. Can you really afford to lose?

Posted Oct 05 2009 10:03pm
This recent NPR piece on Voluntarily Uninsured: A 'Calculated Risk' got my attention. There are some people who don't buy health insurance. They are healthy. They can afford health insurance. They don't feel the need.

They are wrong.

As a practicing doctor, it is worrisome to hear people are voluntarily uninsured because of a false belief. Having good health is highly unpredictable. Children develop cancer without having a family history or adequate time to assault their bodies with cigarettes or alcohol. Women with healthy pregnancies may need a crash C-section, which is far more expensive than a vaginal delivery. Too many people are injured from motor vehicle accidents requiring significant medical care. Non-smokers do develop lung cancer and the astronomical costs of chemotherapy.

Good health is somewhat unpredictable the same way the chances of you getting into a car accident is a crap shoot.

Assume you are an excellent driver. Never speed. Never had a traffic violation. In fact, you abide by the rules and recommendations to stay safe that other drivers honk you incessantly when you drive 25 miles an hour in a residential area and that even the police department flags you down when going 55 miles an hour on the highway because it is such an anomaly. Your passengers groan when you buckle up simply to move your car from the street into the driveway.

A drunk driver seriously injures you on your way home from work.

You did everything right and yet there you are. An accident occurred and no fault of your own.

At least you have auto insurance and can get some of the costs back.

Serious car accident or serious illness. While we have some control, in many cases it is out of our hands. In other words, while we can decrease risk by staying healthy, as a doctor I see too many times people getting seriously ill with no definable cause. Voluntarily uninsured is not calculated risk but rather a gamble. It's a gamble none of us can afford to lose because of a misconception.

As the subject in this NPR article finally admitted in the end, serious illness could bankrupt her and cause her to lose her business. She is seeking some catastrophic insurance. In the end, some insurance is better than none.
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