If you haven’t had a stranger call you on the phone and ask, within five minutes, how much you weigh, and whether you’ve ever been hospitalized, then you’ve never experienced the magic of searching for an individual health insurance plan.

I recognize that being in a decent physical condition is something to value. But I’ve never thought of it in monetary terms before, and talking to someone whose job it is to think that way can make you feel uneasy.

“This guy I’m on the phone with,” I began to realize, “works for a company that wants to make money off of me, which they won’t do if I get sick or hurt.  And if I AM sick or hurt, he wants nothing to do with me.  I’m on my own!”

It’s enough to give you the creeps, even before the agent who told me, “You’ll notice that health insurance coverage is slightly more expensive for women.” I had noticed that, I replied. “It’s because THEY actually go to the doctor!” he said, and chuckled. Health insurance brokers:  not only persistent—they’re also hilarious!

Another agent warned me that certain prescription medicines might not be covered under various plans—but that I likely wouldn’t know which ones those were until I tried to fill them. “If the prescriptions are too expensive, the insurance company isn’t going to want to pay for them,” he reasoned. Certainly not! Why should I expect my health insurance company to pay for my expensive medicine? It should get to keep all of my money!

Nearly every agent I’ve spoken with (and there have been quite a few—once you put your phone number out there and request a quote, they crawl out of the woodwork), as has asked me why I am interested in acquiring health insurance. I began to wonder—is this a trick question? Are they hoping you’ll slip up and say, “Because I have a heart conditio—uh, I mean…no reason.” I usually level with them. “I need health insurance because I don’t want to go bankrupt if I break my leg and have to go to the hospital. I’m scared that I might be injured and suddenly I’ll be $500,000 in debt.” The best part is, they always respond, “Oh, I know—totally. It’s scary.” This response does not increase my sympathy for the cause of privatized healthcare. At least SOME form of gambling is legal in every state.

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