The bane and blessing of insurance

Insurance exists as a bane to any budget, an unwanted expense, the cost denigrated in multiple conversations … until misfortune happens.
At 9, I barely understood the severity of the accident that sent my brother to the hospital for most of the summer. My only clue about the costs came when I overheard little understood conversations of adults discussing insurance and bills.
In my 20’s, health insurance came as a company benefit from my husband’s job – a fee extracted before he received his check. By state law, we had to write a check for our car insurance and the mortgage provider insisted on house insurance to cover their costs in case the laws of nature turned against us.
So insurance remained in the background of my worries until the day our son landed in the ICU after a car hit him. The paperwork and bills followed him home Thanks to insurance, our barely floating, family financial ship sailed on unscathed.
As a healthy person on a tight budget, I assumed I would never have enough medical bills to meet even a minimal deductible. Still, I grudgingly bit the bullet, looked at more than six decades of health, and chose a plan with the lowest premium and highest deductible.
I never came close to meeting the deductible. Medical crises happened to others, including my family who filed claims for the astronomical cost of pediatric heart surgery, a traumatic brain injury, ambulance runs and weeks of hospitalization for a chronic illness.
None of those bills came to my mailbox. So, I really did not consider the financial impact of a medical crisis until four months ago when I missed a step, fell, split my left tibia and broke my left wrist. Until I broke those bones, I simply echoed everyone else in grumbling about the cost of a policy I knew I would never use. Until I fell, I had no clue just how expensive medical care could be for me personally.
The meter began ticking the minute the ambulance arrived to take me to the hospital. It ticked a little faster in the emergency room as the x-ray technician positioned me on the metal bed in the darkened room to photograph my bones. The dollar signs multiplied rapidly as I had first one, then another surgery and two hospitalizations followed with hours each week of physical therapy.
The cloud of comfort from pain killers had barely cleared when the statements from providers and insurance company began filling our mailbox. The first 24 hours alone exceeded my deductible.
Last week, hesitantly beginning to use both legs with a walker after four months of recovery, I tallied all the medical statements to discover that the insurance company had paid out more than 20 times the amount I had paid for my deductible.
I put down the tallies both astonished and grateful. Astonished at the high cost of modern medical care for what is essentially a non-life threatening event. Grateful for the insurance company’s fulfilling their promise. It literally has saved our retirement. Without the insurance, all of my retirement funds would have disappeared that first month and the next three months would have greatly depleted my husband’s savings. Meanwhile the meter continues to tick.
Yes, insurance is expensive.
Medical care is more expensive.
I feel fortunate to be able to have had both …. and I hope I never again have to realize how much having even the lowest premium and highest deductible for medical coverage saved us so much money.