Some of you may be looking at your re-enrollment on the federal health insurance marketplace and thinking: well, crap.
I know this because this was exactly the way I felt when I logged in yesterday to choose a plan for next year.
I work full time- 40+ hrs a week that I’ve cobbled together with 3 part time jobs. It’s complicated, but I’m kind of an unconventional gal and it works for me. One of those jobs was selected because it’s union, and offers inexpensive health care and benefits after you’ve been there for about a year, even for part timers. So, hopefully I won’t have to play the marketplace game for much longer.
If you don’t have that option, though, and are looking at high premiums either through an employer or the marketplace, I feel you. I was not pleased that the premium on my current plan (where I could go see a doctor for $20 if I really needed to, and an ER visit would only set me back $150) was going to DOUBLE next year. I live pretty frugally, and wasn’t happy about that AT ALL. So now I’m enrolled in a plan that will only cost me about $10 more a month, but if I need to see a doctor I will have to pay $80 to get in the door, $500 at the ER, and my deductible has TRIPLED.
Another way to look at this is that, without subsidies, this plan would cost the same as the last studio apartment I rented, and it doesn’t even cover things that are usually important to women my age- like the costs associated with pregnancy, or kids. As much as a month's rent? Frankly, I don't see what's affordable about that. It makes the possibility of going without in the very near future seem like a distinct possibility. Here's hoping the union job continues to work out, right?
Thinking that over made me realize that I am still a lot better prepared to go without insurance than many people. I'm just shy of 30, so age is on my side. I work out reasonably and regularly, eat well but moderately, get enough sleep. And believe me, I know that those things aren't easy as that list makes them sound.
What you have to do in the face of rising healthcare costs will be a highly personal decision that is influenced by your own level of health, financial situation, and personal comfort with risk. But If you are looking at your new premiums like I did and wondering what things are going to be like at the end of next year, you might want to consider what you need to do to make that list happen for you. Making lifestyle changes is tough, but there's a lot of science documenting their benefits. Your health is worth it!
Here's a checklist of some other things you might want to consider:
Make a Personal Health Plan
Sit down and take an honest look at your health. If you haven't been for a wellness visit to get everything checked up recently, go now while you can. If you currently don't have insurance, ask in your community for sliding scale clinics or volunteer-run clinics that may be able to help you out. Make a list of any medications you are on, any chronic conditions that you need to manage. Talk to a doctor about whether your chronic conditions can be managed with lifestyle changes and what you would need to do. Talk to an herbalist about ways you can support chronic imbalances and what self care options you may have that can complement your doctor's care. If you have acute issues you work with on a regular basis, learn to address those through herbal means as well.
Movement does a LOT for us. In fact, lack of exercise is a major CAUSE of chronic disease. You don't need grueling workouts to reap the benefits either. Most adults get benefits from as little as 20 minutes a day of brisk walking, plus two days a week doing some muscle strengthening activities. It doesn't have to be fancy. It doesn't have to nearly kill you. Find some way of moving that you enjoy, and go enjoy it. I like hiking, yoga, and this fun, easy-to-follow book "Smart Girls Do Dumbells." I'm a creature of habit, and those have been my standard routines since I was in my teens. Sometimes I'll go running to switch things up, and every once in a while I get a dorky how-to DVD from netflix and have a private dance party. I repeat: have fun. If you make it a chore, it won't happen.
Design Your Own Herbal Back-Up Plans
Once you have your personal health plan in place and have figured out how you like to get moving, start to think about the acute things that often land you in the doctors office. Explore your herbal options. How are these discomforts manifestations of imbalance in your overall health? How can herbs help you support your health? Again, an herbalist can help walk you through this, or you can learn this through careful self-directed study or working with an herbal school.
Start An Herb Garden
Being able to grow your own herbs if your financial situation takes a downturn is a big plus, and will also help your budget if you are in the awkward position I've heard of recently where some people have to buy insurance that they can't afford to use. Usually this comes from having insurance where there's no copay, and people are on their own up until they meet the deductible. After the deductible they still have to pay a percentage of what is owed. Ouch! If you don't have space for a garden, get creative. Many herbs grow well in containers, or a friend might be willing to garden-share (you put in the work and they get part of the harvest). You might also be able to find a community garden allotment that you can rent by the season. If you simply can't garden, I'd stock up on tinctures. They have a pretty impressive shelf life and are really inexpensive to make at home.
Invest In Your Herbal Education
There is a lot more to being prepared with herbs than stocking up on field guides and some tinctures and calling it a day. Using herbs like OTC meds is a really scattershot approach, and there are many reasons that it lessens the likelihood of your herbs working well. After all, they are herbs- not drugs! To get prepared, you need to develop an understanding of how herbs are matched to the person rather than the disease. Traditional herbalism is based on understanding how a whole individual is expressing balanced or imbalanced health. Once this concept is mastered, herbs can take on deeper, more subtle, and more effective roles for supporting health. There are lots of different ways to invest in your herbal education, whether you choose to go the self-directed route or join forces with a reputable herb school. (You all know my favorite, I'm sure!) Adding high quality herbal books to your home library is also a very good idea. Looking for herbal workshops, classes, or clubs in your local area can help you link up with other people that share your interests.
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All the best,