Freelancing Health

One of the best things about being self-employed is that you get to figure out your insurance.

Gone is the corporate world that provided you with an array of benefits (assuming your old job did that; many don’t anymore). Freelancers are generally stuck with expensive individual plans…and beyond that, a lot of people forget about dental entirely until they chip a tooth or something starts hurting. Individual dental plans are even more of a pain in the ass than individual health insurance plans…most of them are preventative medicine only. That is, you’ll shell out fifty bucks a month (average) and it might pay for some of your cleaning, part of your x-rays, and part of your exam. The “might” is attached to who your dentist is, of course, along with how often your plan expects you to go per year (most people go 2x a year for a cleaning and exam; some plans only want you to go once a year). The plan that covers all your preventative work might not cover a crown you need (those are very expensive, BTW) or the root canal. Or they might cover those…but not anesthesia. So you get to be awake and aware while that crap goes down (assuming your dentist allows it…some are sadists).

I do not have a dental plan at the moment. That oversight dawned on me when I wound up in the dentist’s chair at 8:30 this morning with a toothache.

Now, I tend to be something of a Tooth Pessimist (I blame years of orthodontia…the nasty tooth infection my father had earlier in the year was also on my mind). I envisioned the dentist looking into my mouth, gasping, and exclaiming, “We need a root canal, STAT!”

We did X-rays and a full exam, and all he could come up with was that I tend to clench my teeth when I’m stressed…which is always…not to mention I’m sure I grind away while I’m at the computer editing. While there’s the general feeling of relief that no, there’s no infection, my teeth aren’t about to fall out, etc., I’m slightly dismayed about being brought down by clenching, of all things. In Once, Kate gets all bent out of shape when the doctor blames her issues on sleep deprivation. Art parallels life…or is it the other way around?

I also got a nice lecture on my posture. This is verrrrrry important for those of us who sit in front of computers all day. Keep your shoulders straight, head up, and suck in your stomach. It straightens up your posture and builds core muscles. “It’s like a workout!” the dentist enthused.

Yay.

While all this went down, I got to wondering why there’s such a huge disparity between dental and medical insurance, at least in the individual plans. Even the cheapo insurance plans generally have some provisions for catastrophic care (that’s why most people get them) whereas only the most expensive dental plans seem to have any provisions for helping you out if, say, you’re mugged and get your teeth knocked out.

I also kind of wonder at medical professionals who flat-out refuse payment plans. I realize they’ve been burned before, but as the cost of care and insurance goes up, you’d think more would look into working with their patients.

My advice to the struggling freelancer is to let your dentist or doctor know your situation. It may not make a difference, but sometimes they’re willing to give you some sort of discount, especially if you’ve always paid up on time and in full. And if you have a toothache that persists for more than two days…get that thing looked at. Busted teeth are a pain and a half to deal with, and usually wind up more expensive in the end.

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