Friday, November 13, 2009

Paying for heath care the old fashioned way

According to NewWest. net, the Westerners are among the least-insured populations in the country. The reasons? Our service and other low-paying industries, our bum lifestyles, our overall youngish -- and so risk-taking -- ages in mountain towns.

I most certainly relate, given my piecemeal work life and bum-like lifestyle. And to deal with that, I have my own health care plan: Stay healthy.

Oh, I have insurance, sure. (Can't not have insurance in this, the richest country in the world, with damn-near the worst national health-care coverage in Western world, eh?) But with my "career" -- embracing that struggling-artist path -- I don't have and can't afford a nice full-blown insurance-coverage program. And in my Western lifestyle there ain't no benevolent employer stepping up to hand me one. So I have traded out the full-time work needed to pay for or be given a health-care package for paying for it myself.

Here's the path I have constructed:
  • Major medical coverage -- for those "stray bullets."
  • An emergency-visit insurance plan, that covers ER costs.
  • I stay as healthy as I can.
For that last one, I don't mean hoping I stay healthy: I work at it. Regularly. Persistently. Consistently. I consider it an indispensable and integral part of my daily life. I work to make myself as healthy as I can -- work time that could be spent, I suppose, at a "real" job, with real health-care benefits. But I prefer to use my time my way, toward my own Quixotic writing-life projects.

So my active, deliberate, sustained working out is not a luxury -- it is my real "insurance." And so far it seems to be working rather well.

Like everyone else, it's often hard for me to find the time to exercise. But I make it happen. Like most folks, I may not be able to afford the time to work out -- but I, myself, cannot not afford the time.

I work out nearly every day. It's as much a part of my daily schedule and routine as working and eating. My personal exercise-routine tool box consists of lifting weights, trail running, karate, and stretching. I endeavor to do at least one of these every day, either as single block of time or in small breaks woven throughout the day. This generally takes an hour, give or take, of each day -- time I set aside, pretty much guaranteed.

An hour to work out every day?? Lots of people might see this as a luxury, like getting a hot-stone massage or lounging at a spa each day. Other's might even see it as caving into immature craving -- don't I have anything better to do with my time?!? But I see it as a necessity.

I do this because I like it, yes. But I also do it because working out pretty much is my health-care plan.

So, if I can get good health for the cost of a mere hour a day (especially if you pro-rate it out to an hourly equivalency over my personal meager income), then it strikes me as something of a bargain, even. Especially considering the perks. Because, of course, there are benefits aside from the health maintenance and cost savings of working out:
  • First, working out regularly keeps me sane. The meditation time that comes along with working out is essential to my mental-health care -- time to think, or not think -- something that too few do too little of, yet that would alone likely also contribute a lot to our general health and quality of life. 
  • As for thinking, working out time is also time I spend thinking through ideas, sorting out issues, and strategizing projects.
  • And it's creative time: I generally like to work out in the middle of the day, around lunch time, or else in the late afternoon after working and before the dinner rush (two teenagers, remember?). So I'm always in the middle of something -- and getting out of the office gives me the space needed to move in some directions I may not have drifted whilst hacking away at the keyboard. I always work out with a notebook in my back pocket or close by.
The biggest perk, though, to this path of paying for my health care is just feeling good. I feel strong. I feel alert and sharp. I feel actually healthy -- not just health-covered. And these other benefits of this ad-hoc health-care program are also "luxuries" we too often have a hard time justifying in our busy days of business and busyness, earning that income or job we need to keep our health-care coverage covered.

The question, though, remains: Do I stress about not having a good health-care package? Well, yeah, sure. Yep. But I bet my overall stress level is less than it would be were I to have some good full-time career in some office somewhere, fully covered with insurance, but staring out the window wishing I could be out on a run ...
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