It Won’t Happen To Me…aka, The Importance of Having Health Insurance

As Americans approach the March 31st deadline to sign up for health insurance through the marketplace to get coverage and avoid the tax penalty, I have a little story for you.

Two months ago: my sister-in-law asked me for help figuring out the new health care exchange.  She was 27 with no known health issues and very few assets to her name. We figured it would probably be cheaper for her to just pay the $95 penalty this year and get insurance coverage next year, but I told her I’d definitely help her figure it out.

One month ago: my sister-in-law came over one afternoon with all of her tax documents and we got her 2013 taxes filed. Since we had that information already in hand, we went onto Colorado’s health care exchange website (we’re one of the few states that has a separate website from the federal government) and filled out all of the required information so she could at least have a ballpark number in mind for how much her monthly premiums would be after figuring in her Advance Premium Tax Credit amount.

With the newly increased income level limits, we found out that she actually qualified for free health insurance through the state and her new card would be mailed to her shortly, easy as that. Finding out that she was getting a pretty decent tax refund + free health insurance all in the same day meant that Jaime told me it was one of the best days of her life. 🙂

About one week after that, my sister-in-law had an eye infection and had to go to the optometrist. Her exam and prescription would have cost her about $300 out of pocket, but with her insurance it cost her $5 in co-pay fees. She went back to the eye doctor two more times before it was cleared up and he could give her a new Rx for her contacts & eyeglasses. She called me almost in tears she was so thankful to have been able to go to these appointments and not stress about how she was going to pay for them.



12 days ago, Jaime died. In a 15 minute window she went from being her funny, breathing self to being dead. Her boyfriend was the one that found her and called 911. The paramedics spent an hour trying to revive her, and nothing worked. She had slipped into a coma and died.

My heart hurts and tears fall from my eyes even typing those words “out loud.”

Even though nothing the paramedics did that day was able to save her life, there will still be some pretty sizable medical bills incurred from the events that unfolded that day. However, thanks to the push from the Federal Government to get everyone signed up for health insurance, Jaime had coverage. We don’t know yet how much will be covered, but anything is better than nothing, and I am so grateful that paying for those final lifesaving measures won’t be an added stress on my in-laws during this horribly painful time.

Sign up. Get covered. It’s important.


  1. mcmissis · · Reply

    Wow. That is quite the story! And I didn’t know her bf found her; how scared he must have been.

  2. I’ve been shopping myself. As I am currently covered under my husband’s policy, once the divorce is final I’ll have to have my own and don’t qualify for coverage in my current role. I’m worried how it will go when I have to get my own because it’s going to cost me a fortune. Maybe I should move to Colorado 🙂 Funny, if my husband had gotten the job in Denver maybe I’d still be married and covered.

    As for your SIL, I think about you all every day and pray for healing during this sad time. I can’t imagine why such a wonderful person was chosen when I know a few choice not so great people who should be taken from this earth…..HUGS to all of you!

    1. Have you input your info to see what kind of APTC you’d qualify for, Sarah? Our premiums are actually pretty darn reasonable for a family of 4 through the exchange, and I live in the 2nd most expensive county in the state for health insurance.

      Related – did you know that premiums are different based on where you live? Apparently I live in a “risky” county because of all the dangerous jobs (mining & construction) and dangerous past times (skiing, hiking, etc). Who knew? 🙂

      1. Yeah, I’ve put my info in and I won’t qualify for any “assistance” with premiums. It will be close to $400/mo for me and just me with a high deductible and 80% coverage. At least I still get IF coverage 🙂 And as for “risky” county, I had to enter the county in which I live to get my info. I don’t know if I live in a risky county or not, I just know premiums are HIGH. I’m hoping to get coverage if I get a FTE position at my hospital, but even then it will be $200/mo in premiums. Thank goodness I won’t have to cover the kids! I’d be working to pay for insurance and day care.

  3. I feel so lucky that here in Canada we don’t really worry about our health coverage (free health care).
    It never would have crossed my mind that the life saving measures taken would be something that your family would have to pay for! Argh!
    This is going to take you a long time to come to terms with. As you’ve said she wasn’t just your sister in law. She was your best friend. I’m so sorry Josey. This is so sad. 27 years old. How does this happen?
    Thinking of you!

  4. I never thought about the fact of medical bills after someone passing either.

    Again, I am so sorry Josey. Just so, so sorry.

  5. Gosh, like some of the others, I did not even think about the costs or have any idea that you had to pay for those things in the USA, even when someone dies. That just seems so unfair. Thank goodness she was covered but obviously many other people aren’t/wouldn’t be and that would just be so awful upon an already unbelievable awful situation. Hate that people even have to think about this stuff during times like that.

  6. Unfortunately the exchange won’t help a lot of people in the country get insurance, especially in the lesser populated and poorer states which are already the most uninsured in the country. I live in Idaho and my state also has its own exchange, the only problem is most counties in my state have only one provider as an option for insurance and the rates are outrageous even for the cheapest plans with the tax credit, and so with no competition between companies they can charge whatever they want. I will give you the example for my husband, me, and my daughter. I don’t work, but my husband makes $2200 a month before taxes, currently through his employer we pay close to $500 a month for the cheapest insurance possible, he actually has his insurance paid for by the employer so that amount is just for me and my daughter. We would qualify for insurance on the exchange but the bronze plan for our area after the tax credit would be almost $900 a month for the 3 of us, so way more than what we currently pay, I was shocked at that given when I initially looked up rates on the federal exchange before my state opted to do their own our insurance would have been way cheaper and affordable. Most people I know can’t afford that with the low pay in my state so will be paying the penalty and will still have no insurance. My state also didn’t expand medicaid so there are a bunch of people who also fall in the cracks. I looked into what insurance plans would run if we just bought it from the company itself and again for the cheapest rates it costs more per month than we currently pay. Although I will say in some states its a great option. My cousin lives in a county in Minnesota, her and her husband make around $6000 a month between them, they have 1 child, and they got a bronze plan through the exchange for $325 a month. Insurance is a great thing, if people can afford it. Sadly though with the high rates people are forced to pay in many parts of this country, people still won’t have insurance. When it comes down to choosing between food and housing or insurance, insurance gets tossed to the side.

    1. Cat – it’s definitely a problem when there aren’t multiple insurance companies competing for your business. We only had 2 to choose from here – I get it. Where I grew up in MN they are paying much less for way better coverage. Frustrating. Still, there are plenty of people who it WILL ultimately help – and I hope people will at least give it a shot and see what they qualify for.

      1. Yeah, its true it will help a lot of people. I just wish the freaking red states would suck it up and actually put effort into it, instead of screwing people over because they didn’t want Obamacare to begin with, since many people who had private insurance prior to this lost their coverage and now have to pay a ton more. I really wish this country would just do socialized medicine like other countries so you don’t have to worry about deductibles and what insurance actually covers. If we can’t do that I do wish we could at least have the insurance exchange at the federal level for all states, where everyone in all states could have a chance to buy affordable insurance. It is great that you helped your SIL get insurance and that you are helping take care of a lot of things, you were a great friend to her.

  7. St. Elsewhere · · Reply

    Your post really drives home the point on health insurance.

    I have been reading your recent updates, and I am so sorry for your SIL’s death. She looks bubbly and so full of life. It’s unfair.

  8. Thank God she pushed on and got the insurance taken care of when she did. My mom unfortunately did not have (life) insurance, which I know is a whole other beast due to a pre-existing condition, her cancer. We did still have some medical bills to pay and everything fell into my dad’s lap. Like losing someone isn’t hard enough, having to deal with all the extra crap is like pouring salt in the wounds.

  9. Oh wow, Josey. That gave me chills. And seriously, you are such an amazing sister-in-law. Helping with taxes, helping with health insurance and everything you’ve done in the recent weeks. You are a good good person.

  10. anneaddison · · Reply

    So sorry for you and your family’s loss. Virtual hugs.

  11. So, you sent me one link, which I haven’t even read yet, because I’ve been so busy catching up on your blog every since – I wish I could squeeze you from thousands of miles away.

    1. Thanks Leah. It’s been a rough month…

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