Have You Even Been without Health Insurance?

Earlier this week NPR did a Q&A for clarifications on the ACA and there were a couple regarding college and graduate students, which caught my ear for sure.  Apparently, it has been confirmed that university-provided student health insurance counts as having health insurance for the ACA – I didn’t know that was a question at all, but it’s good to know.  I also found out that if you earn so little money that you don’t have to file income taxes ($9,750 for a single person under 65) you are exempt from the requirement to have health insurance.


health insurance approvedThat got me thinking about students and health insurance more generally, because during college I didn’t earn enough money to have to file taxes and I’m sure there are plenty of grad students in that situation as well.  However, both my college and my grad school required students to have health insurance, so there was no option to go without it (except in the summers, maybe).  Our grad school provides student health insurance for us (we don’t pay any premiums!) and it’s actually pretty good as far as I can tell.


I have always had health insurance.

Childhood through College: I was covered through my dad’s employer’s plan all the way up through college.

Post-bac: During the year I worked for the NIH my employer provided health insurance.

Grad school, first year: When I went to back to school, I opted to go back on my parents’ plan – my university’s plan didn’t have dental and eye coverage while my dad’s plan did.

Grad school, second year and beyond: I switched to my university’s plan because I knew that when we got married later in my second year I would no longer be eligible to be on my parents’ plan.  However, my parents didn’t receive/understand/process that I didn’t need to be on their plan any longer and I actually was double-covered that year up until our wedding.


When I was transitioning from my post-bac job to grad school, I knew I wanted to take a little vacation before orientation.  I decided to work until August 1 (which happened to be a Friday) so that I would be covered by that health insurance through August, overlapping slightly with my parents’ health insurance, which I think kicked in when orientation started.  If I hadn’t been able to work that long, I would have bought COBRA.


I really can’t imagine being without some kind of health insurance plan.  My mom used to be an insurance agent so I have been brainwashed into having a fear of being without a high amount of all appropriate types of coverage!  I would definitely be afraid of something catastrophic happening during the lapse in coverage.


Have you ever gone without health insurance?  Did your college/university require students to have health insurance?  How have you handled transitions between employer-provided plans?


photo from Free Digital Photos


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36 Responses to "Have You Even Been without Health Insurance?"

  1. Mrs PoP says:

    I’ve actually had two gaps in coverage. One when my parents decided to stop paying for my health insurance in college without telling me (that was fun to find out months and months later!), and then I had a 2 month gap between when the college coverage I purchased for undergrad ran out and my grad school coverage started. Unluckily that was when I had mono, so I had the joys of a few hundred dollars worth of costs then. But luckily it wasn’t worse and the doctors and labs were kind enough to give me cash discounts for paying promptly.
    Mrs PoP recently posted..Booming Economy, Expensive Assets and Maximizing your Income

    1. Emily says:

      At least you didn’t develop a “pre-existing condition” at that time! That’s what I would be most afraid of and I’m so glad that nonsense is going away with the ACA.

      I would be totally pissed if I found out after the fact that I hadn’t had insurance coverage. I would be screaming “What if?” in my head for a while.

      1. Yeah… the whole not being told until months later was definitely the part I was ticked about. It ended up not being the worst thing in the world. In hindsight, though, I remember there were times when we were kids that we went without coverage too, so maybe it was more normal for me than I had realized.
        Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies recently posted..Booming Economy, Expensive Assets and Maximizing your Income

  2. Sara says:

    I’m actually without health insurance for the next month or so. I had employer-provided coverage up until going back to school, and then I hopped back onto my parents’ plan. I’ve been able to stay on my parents’ insurance up until 26, and then for the quarter thereafter (which is apparently hugely generous.) That quarter ended earlier this summer, and while I have decided to continue dental coverage through a COBRA account linked to my parents’ insurance, I’m without general coverage until open enrollment starts on my fiance’s plan and I can be added.

    1. Leigh says:

      I’m not sure how your fiance’s plan works, but for mine, your live-in partner losing health insurance coverage or you declaring a new live-in partner is a qualifying event that would allow you to add them as a dependent on your health insurance outside of open enrollment. Same with getting married – doesn’t have to happen at open enrollment time. It’s worth looking into at least.
      Leigh recently posted..July 2013 net worth update (+9.4%)

      1. Emily says:

        That was my thought, too – that it’s probably a qualifying event.

    2. Emily says:

      What made you decided to continue dental coverage but not health? We just pay out-of-pocket for our dental care at the moment.

      1. Sara says:

        it’s not a qualifying event through his employer because co-habitant coverage may only be a ‘last resort’ and I still have the option of going through my school. But given I only have one semester left, that just doesn’t make sense.

        I kept dental because I’m a late bloomer and only recently had my wisdom teeth removed so I’ll have an extra cleaning and check-in this year.

  3. Matt Becker says:

    I’ve never had a gap in coverage. I definitely understand that it can be crazy expensive if you’re not covered by your school or employer, but it’s just such a big risk to take to go without it. Maybe you don’t need to cover the small things like annual check ups and the like, but as you mention it’s the catastrophic coverage you really want, just as with any insurance. Going through a bad medical situation without insurance can really ruin you financially.
    Matt Becker recently posted..The Real Risk of Investing in the Stock Market

    1. Emily says:

      I agree that it wouldn’t be a big deal if you can just pay for care as you need it, but it’s those BIG UNEXPECTED accidents/diagnoses just at the wrong time that bankrupt people!

  4. I didn’t have health insurance until I started working this past year. My dad’s company offered an outrageously expensive plan. So, I just tried to stay extremely healthy. Seriously, I never really did anything extreme that may have ended up with broken bones. Now that I have health insurance, I’m pretty happy, but I do find myself going to the doctor for things I would have never gone before just because I have health insurance.
    SavvyFinancialLatina recently posted..Company TV Auction for Charity

    1. Emily says:

      I also go to student health for random small stuff that I definitely wouldn’t if I had to pay directly for the visit!

      Are you taking more risks now that you have insurance? Skydiving?

  5. I don’t believe I’ve even gone without health insurance, although there may have been a short window between graduating from optometry school and starting my residency. I believe most college students would qualify for Medicaid if they have no income. I don’t know that I agree with that, but it’s better than going without.
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..Friday Rant-Don’t Get a Boob Job if You’re on Welfare!

    1. Emily says:

      I hadn’t thought about Medicaid – something to look into for students!

  6. No Waste says:

    Never, not once.

    Health insurance made me believe early retirement was impossible.

    But a few well-crafted posts on this subject from several PF bloggers made me realize it could be done!
    No Waste recently posted..How To Lower Your Alexa Ranking

    1. Emily says:

      Good point. It isn’t just young people who lack coverage or who have gaps – it’s anyone who decides to exit the workforce for practically any time at all! And when your’e not in your 20s any longer I’m sure you will have increased fear of diagnoses. I’m glad you found solutions that you’re excited about.

  7. E 2 says:

    I had a gap for less than a year after I aged out of my parents’ insurance after college – I did find work but couldn’t find a job with benefits. Fortunately I lived in Massachusetts, so I applied for the Romneycare state-run exchange.

    It would’ve been fine if I’d been hit by a bus, but you had to get on a waiting list for a physical with a primary care provider who was taking new patients before you could make other appointments, so when I actually did have a medical issue that I wanted to get checked out relatively quickly, I would’ve had a 2 month wait. I was able to go to Planned Parenthood and pay out of pocket due to the specific nature of the issue. (I know this is TMI but I think it is important that people know PP is one of the only low-cost health providers out there for any issues related to the reproductive system, not just pregnancy and abortion.) Unfortunately, if it had been an issue with my lungs, I would’ve either had to wait months or go to the emergency room.

    1) some coverage is better than none
    2) “insurance” definitely isn’t the same as “care”
    3) if your insurance requires getting on a waiting list for a physical first, do it ASAP

    1. Emily says:

      Thanks for sharing what you learned during that time! I’m sure similar experiences will be cropping up for many people once more of the state-run exchanges are running. And great tip about Planned Parenthood for general women’s health care!

      1. Sadly the two planned parenthood clinics within a 2 hour drive of our town just got shut down because of lack of funding.
        nicoleandmaggie recently posted..Ask the grumpies: Gender and Publications

  8. In my younger days, in the year between when I dropped out of the liberal arts school in PA, and when I started working for a university in CA, I went without health insurance. I had, literally, no assets so the bankruptcy risk was small. Now a days, there’s no chance the wife or I would go without though. While the risk of catastrophic injury or sickness is low at our age, the consequences of that unlikely event coming to bear would be too much to handle. I’d give up a whole lot of other things before health insurance.

    Thank you for the information in this post. My wife is on the University healthcare, which is way better than that offered through my job. If we have a baby, I’d really love for there to be some way to do so while she’s on the University plan. But it doesn’t seem babies and post-grad schedules mix too well. 🙂
    Done by Forty recently posted..The Things We Carried on the Appalachian Trail

    1. Emily says:

      Taking advantage of insurance benefits isn’t the worst reason to alter your reproduction timeline…

  9. Our parents’ plans kicked us off when we got married, so my FIL’s wedding present to us was gap insurance until the school insurance kicked in. We had very good very expensive mandatory insurance in graduate school, complete with full fertility coverage(!)
    nicoleandmaggie recently posted..Ask the grumpies: Gender and Publications

    1. Emily says:

      That’s a great wedding present! Too bad the insurance you had to buy in grad school was so expensive, though. 🙁

      1. Don’t worry, a year of fertility tests and treatments for me that last year used it to the fullest.
        nicoleandmaggie recently posted..Ms. Linken-McLoverton

        1. Emily says:

          Good deal, then. :/

  10. The “health insurance” we had available in college was actually just a nurse’s office, plus some other services like psychological counseling and planned parenthood. It was mandatory for all students who didn’t have outside coverage, but it only cost something like $25/semester.

    Other than that, the first time in my life that I had health insurance of any kind was when I got married and went on my wife’s insurance.
    Edward Antrobus recently posted..Finders Keepers

    1. Emily says:

      Hm, that sounds more like health care than health insurance. What would have happened if you had a catastrophic accident?

      I don’t think I’ve met anyone who wasn’t insured as a child. Did your parents make too much money to get government coverage? I don’t know what would have been available in that state at that time, but that was my impression.

      I’m glad you made it to marriage without anything too terrible happening (I assume)! Is your lack of insurance why you have medical debt or was that incurred with insurance?

  11. SarahN says:

    This is not really so strange – to be without coverage, in Australia. We have a fairly good public health system – so much so that I didn’t pay when I broke my shoulder nor recently when I went to ER for my allergic reaction. Even though I have private health, in both cases, the meds, doctor costs and xrays, were all covered.

    That being said, Australia is heading to a more US like system. As I earn over the threshold, if I don’t have private health insurance, I’m taxed more, so it makes sense to ‘pay for myself’. However, I don’t like this punitive system – it also kicks in if you’re over 30, every year you delay have priv HI, you get charged more when you do, eventually, pick it up! The thing is, it’s only for ancillary services and hospitals – so optical, dental, physio. So seeing, say, an allergy specialist, is within the public system, and you get money back from the govt?! Totally confusing to me, still, at 28, what’s covered by what system! (I think any and all doctors are covered by Medicare).
    SarahN recently posted..What am I allergic to?

    1. Emily says:

      If you have a good public system in place, you’re really not without insurance, then! Here, before Obamacare, if you were uninsured you could get care from ERs or urgent care clinics but you might be charged exorbitant fees that bankrupted many people. I find your description of the Australian system confusing, too. I guess all these systems are works in process.

  12. I usually have to go to the doctor for a mild infection annually to get prescribed an antibiotic. Plus it’s just peace of mind to know in case something happens, I’m covered. What if a taxi-cab runs a curb and cuts off my foot, like what happened recently in NYC? While your insurance agency might get reimbursed from the eventual lawsuit, having insurance in the meantime means at least the hospital won’t be giving me the stinkeye for not having insurance!
    Tara @ Streets Ahead Living recently posted..Weekly Roundup, slightly delayed

    1. Emily says:

      ITA having health insurance will smooth the way if you have an accident – actually, won’t they fight on “your” behalf?

  13. CashRebel says:

    I was actually double covered for a while too with grad school insurance and my parents insurance. I think I was just so nervous that I might be without insurance for a while that I never wanted to make the switch. It freaks me out to think about being in a situation without health insurance. My net worth would be drained in a matter of months if I ever had go without it…
    CashRebel recently posted..Customize the cost of your air conditioning

    1. Emily says:

      I thought it was actually bad to be double-covered – like it would give the insurance companies reason to fight over who should pay for what.

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