When The Cost Of Health Insurance Outweighs The Risk
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
So we spoke with someone who might make those stats come to life. Jacob Kreider is 33 and a part-time bartender. He says he's chosen not to take the $60 a month medical plan for which he qualifies.
JACOB KREIDER: The $60 a month is not prohibitive. You know, I could afford it but that $60 could also be extremely beneficial to try and to break into my field, and get a job with a career path that I've chosen.
SIMON: And what is that career, by the way?
KREIDER: Economics and public policy analysis, oddly enough.
SIMON: What happens if you get sick?
KREIDER: Well, there's kind of the rub. That's the risk that you're taking, in that if something catastrophic or something major were happen, you know, I become a burden to the society around me because I wouldn't be able to afford it. At the same time, in some ways, I've already been a burden to society because, you know, I went to a state school in North Carolina. So my education was heavily subsidized by the taxpayers in that state.
So I have a responsibility now to produce more - whether it's economically or culturally - than I did before I earned those degrees. So I've got to weigh: Is the risk that I pose to society, if I get sick and I'm not insured, greater than the benefit that could happen if that $740 next year helps me jumpstart my career. And right now, I don't think that risk is greater than the potential benefit.
SIMON: Boy, you were an economics major, weren't you?
KREIDER: I was.
SIMON: Mr. Kreider, I say this with some of what I hope you'll take as friendly concern. You could leave the studio you're in there, at our station in Harrisburg, and get clipped by a car and need thousands of dollars in medical care.
KREIDER: Yep, I mean, that is absolutely true. I'm, you know, I'm still young but I've definitely moved past the age where, you know, I feel young and feel completely invincible. Something catastrophic, whether it's an illness that comes along or whether it's an accident, or something of that nature, is a risk that's there. And, you know, it still seems to be a very low risk. But you're right. I mean, there's no logical way around that. That is definitely something that could happen at any time.
SIMON: So you're not one of these people that thinks I'm young and strong and nothing will happen.
KREIDER: No. My, you know, shoulder and back hurts bad enough right now that...
KREIDER: ...I know that's not the case.
SIMON: You've obviously researched and so, as I gather, you know you're going to have to pay at least a $95 penalty...
SIMON: ...for not having insurance. So that's just a lot more affordable than $720 whereby you could actually get health care coverage?
KREIDER: Yes. Yeah, it is. The $95 there and I think I should have to pay that. I think, you know, that's there - people see it as a penalty but I see it more as at least I'm contributing something to the risk that I pose to society by not being insured. So, again, in the situation that I'm at right now, that penalty I think is less of a risk than the benefit that the other, you know, I guess 600 and, you know, $45 that I can put towards my career.
Now, if it changes and I find a job in my field that completely changes the equation.
SIMON: As a trained economist, as you do your personal budget, what do you figure paying $60 a month would force you to do without?
KREIDER: If I was not looking to change my career at all, if I was tending bar and making the income that I'm making right now, I would maybe save a little less, maybe, you know, buy a cheaper brand of dog food. It wouldn't affect me too much. It would be something that would make money a little tighter. But it would be an important reason, just like having lights on in your house makes money a little tighter. It's an important thing to spend it on, you know.
As now, I'm looking for career work in Philadelphia, in the D.C. area and New York area. So with interviews and that job hunt, there's a lot of travel expense, whether it's taking a train or jumping in the car, and going and staying for a night or staying for a couple of nights. So every little bit, when I want to be able say: Hey, you want to interview tomorrow? Absolutely, I'll be there first thing in the morning. All of my income is focused on launching this career that I've spent the last several years of my life preparing for.
SIMON: And are there other ways in which you live differently, Mr. Kreider, because you're worried about twisting an ankle?
KREIDER: No, I think I'm still - that's part of the invincibility of being young I haven't quite let go off yet. So, you know, I'm not taking wild risks like you do when you're 20, 21 years old. But for the most part, no. It's not a hanging burden where I think: OK, you know, I might, you know, I might fall and hurt my wrist and may be I wouldn't be able to work for a couple of weeks. Maybe I should think a little more about that, but I don't.
SIMON: Jacob Kreider, of Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, speaking with us from the studios of WITF in Harrisburg. Mr. Kreider, good health to you, sir.
KREIDER: Thank you, sir.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.