Should I Go Without Health Insurance?

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This week, The Simple Dollar attempts to address challenging questions in personal finance by looking at both sides of the story and figuring out some of the factors you need to look at to make a decision.

Over the last few months, I’ve received many, many emails from people thinking about a career change, usually towards starting their own business. In most cases, they’re not too worried about the money aspect – they tend to be much more concerned about health insurance.

Health insurance is the 800 pound gorilla in the room for decisions like these. For some, the risk of devastating illness or injury isn’t worth it and they try to stick with their primary job while building the business on the side. Others believe in the adage of you only live once and go for the gusto. Here’s the argument for both sides.

No, Don’t Abandon Health Insurance

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Your personal health is your most valuable asset. A healthy body and mind enable you to get up in the morning and go through your tasks for the day and enjoy your life. Health insurance is your safest bet for making sure that you’ll continue to enjoy good health, by taking most of the financial burden for medical care off your shoulders.

Furthermore, if you have children or other people depending on your health and continued ability to earn money, a severe medical crisis without health insurance can utterly devastate your family. Health insurance enables an unexpected situation, like a serious illness or a car accident, to not completely transform the way of life of your family in a negative fashion.

If you value your own health and have a sense of responsibility to others, health insurance is a must. Don’t take the leap into an area without health insurance. That doesn’t mean you can’t investigate other options, like COBRA or self-insurance, but you shouldn’t take the leap into the unknown without a safety net if others are relying on you.

Yes, Go For The Gold!

When a truly great opportunity comes along in your life, one that fills you with joy and passion and drive, you should never let it pass by. Sure, there may be risks – and one of them may be a period without health insurance – but the sense of personal fulfillment and accomplishment and the possibility of great successes more than makes up for it.

First, the opportunity to do something with your life that fills you with excitement and energy is something rare and beautiful, and if there’s any way to take it without throwing away your most important responsibilities to others, you should always jump on board. A fulfilled life is a great life, and doing something that fulfills you can completely transform your life. Plus, when you let that opportunity pass, you’re bound for a great deal of regret.

Even more importantly, doing something you’re truly passionate about holds a far greater chance for success than doing the same old thing. If you take that leap, you have a chance to do something truly great with your life, something transformative. If you have that chance to do something amazing, you shouldn’t let it slip by because of a temporary lapse in health insurance.

Obviously, if you have the opportunity, use programs like COBRA and self-insurance to acquire health insurance, but don’t let a period without insurance cause you to not take the leap for your dreams. The risk of a major incident over a short period is much less than the continued pain of a great opportunity left untaken.

My Take

If you’re single, have no one relying on you, and are in reasonably good health, I say go for it. You aren’t responsible for the lives of others, only your own, and if it’s an opportunity you’re passionate about and believe in, it’s a path you should always take. If you don’t, you’ll regret it for a very long time, likely the rest of your life.

On the other hand, if you’re in poor health and have children to support, stick with the safety net. Those children depend on you, and if you were to fall into a dangerous health situation, they would suffer as well. The future of a child is not something one should play ball with – a childhood should be filled with relative safety, positive reinforcement, and opportunities for growth, not with the apocalyptic situation that a severe illness of a parent without health care would bring.

If you’re really on the fence about it, though, you should probably make the leap, provided your bases are as covered as you can make them. When a great opportunity passes you by and you make the “safe” choice, you’re often left with only one thing: a belly full of regret.

What’s your take?

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

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