Should Healthy People Get Health Insurance?

healthcare for the healthy

Despite recent legislative efforts to bend the so-called “cost curve” and bring down the rate of healthcare inflation to sustainable levels, the cost of health insurance has thus far continued to rise at more than double the core rate of inflation. At some point, the cost of a decent health insurance policy will simply become unbearable for middle-class families.

In fact, health insurance expenses are already staggering: In 2012, the total average cost of an employer-supported health insurance policy for a reasonably healthy family of four exceeded $15,000, according to CNN Money. Of this amount, the worker who carries the policy pays an average of about $4,300 for the privilege of doing so.

Consumers who aren’t lucky enough to receive health insurance through their employers must brave the treacherous waters of the private insurance markets in order to procure coverage. CNN also reports that in 2012, the average premium for a non-group family plan exceeded $7,000 per year. Meanwhile, according to the Christian Science Monitor, median family incomes fell in 18 of the 50 states last year.

Many Americans Lack Coverage as a Result of Cost

In such a high-cost environment, you might be tempted to forgo health insurance and pocket the funds that you would otherwise need to put towards your monthly premiums. With the average premium for a non-group policyholder approaching $4,000 per year, you stand to save a considerable amount of money by going without health insurance coverage. You wouldn’t be alone: USA Today notes that about 30 percent of healthy Americans under the age of 35 lack health insurance by choice.

In the long run, this could be a mistake. With an adequate social safety net for those who simply can’t afford insurance and a surprising number of low-cost private health insurance options, you have few excuses for remaining uninsured. In fact, there are several compelling reasons for you to seek health insurance coverage on an active basis.

Lower Premiums for Healthy People

For starters, you’ll pay less for health insurance for as long as you remain healthy. The precise cost of your health insurance policy will vary depending upon where you live, what you do for a living and the number of risk factors or unhealthy habits that you have. Nevertheless, your insurance costs will be quite manageable relative to what you’ll have to pay once you develop a chronic illness or sustain a serious injury.

To find high-quality health insurance at a steep discount, you can use an online aggregator. Sites like these don’t provide magic bullets: The low-cost health insurance policies that they offer tend to come with high deductibles and co-pays.

Then again, there’s a good chance that you won’t need to test your policy’s deductible. These policies typically provide free or reduced preventive care, including diagnostic tests and doctor’s visits. They may also pay a portion of the costs associated with relatively simple surgical procedures. As long as you don’t sustain a serious injury that requires you to remain hospitalized for days on end, you shouldn’t be exposed to the full cost of your discount policy’s deductible. In the meantime, you could pay as little as $100 to $200 per month for solid coverage.

Increase Your Chance of Spotting Health Problems Early

Obtaining health insurance while you’re healthy may increase your chances of catching potentially serious health problems in time to nip them in the bud. These days, even the most basic health insurance policies fund preventive-care visits and screenings. During the course of a typical doctor’s visit, you’ll endure a battery of simple tests designed to measure your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, vision, hearing and other vital health indicators.

If any of these exams or tests return anomalous or worrying results, your doctor can refer you to a specialist or conduct a more thorough investigation of the potential problem on his or her own. These investigations typically cost far less than the emergency-room visit brought on by an acute manifestation of a previously un-diagnosed condition or injury. In fact, your discount insurance policy may pay a sizable portion of the hefty bill for your consultation with a specialist.

Even if you don’t take advantage of your policy’s preventative-care allowances, you’ll be glad that you’re protected in the event that you become seriously ill or injured. Don’t forget to do preventative maintenance on yourself by going regularly to both the doctor and dentist. If you take steps to practice good oral care, you can dramatically reduce your out of pocket expenses later in life. In 2012, the average cost of an emergency-room visit was nearly $1,000.

If your illness or injury requires you to stay at the hospital overnight, you’ll be on the hook for many times that amount. A recent study found that the average per-day cost of a stay in a U.S. hospital approached $4,000 in 2011. Although your plan’s deductible will require you to pick up some of your total hospital costs, you’ll be covered for the thousands of dollars in additional costs that you’re sure to accrue during your treatment or recovery process.

The Mechanics of Insurance Risk

The mechanics of insurance risk should also influence your health insurance choices. Thanks to the complicated manner in which insurance companies calculate risk, your very decision to purchase health insurance may actually help to reduce coverage costs for healthy individuals like yourself as well as for less healthy consumers who also require insurance.

At issue is the tricky concept of “expected outcomes.” Statistically, it’s far easier to predict the outcome of a situation with hundreds or thousands of participants. This has important ramifications for the cost of health insurance: Whereas there exists tremendous variation in health outcomes and costs between individual health insurance policyholders, the variation in these metrics shrinks dramatically when an entire population of health insurance policyholders is viewed in the aggregate.

In other words, health plans with thousands of policyholders are far less likely to be “surprised” by unexpected claims. With surprising accuracy, these plans can predict the exact amount that they’ll need to charge their policyholders in order to make a profit on each policy.

However, these “expected outcomes” are predicated upon the idea that a wide range of healthy and unhealthy consumers will participate in the health insurance market. If few healthy people sign up for health insurance coverage, insurers’ cost calculations can be thrown into disarray and cause substantial financial losses. To compensate for such losses, insurers must raise the premiums that they ask their unhealthy customers to pay.

As a healthy person, your decision to carry health insurance helps to alleviate this financial burden on your insurance provider and may keep your premiums lower than they otherwise would be.