It’s tough losing your job at any time, but as you get older and your skills maybe are older it gets harder to get another job, harder to retrain, and like so many others you could be in a position where the cost of being unemployed could affect the future of your family, not just yourself.
Take someone like myself, who has been unemployed for just over two weeks. I have two months of severance pay coming, but with the economy in the state that it is in, chances of finding another job are slim. Not only that, every time I look for another job, there are fewer positions open for my skills. Companies don’t want to train you, they want to hire someone who has all the knowledge to do the job required. So, unless you can gain those new skills, you can’t get one of those positions.
Problem is that this is a Catch-22 situation. You could take a course and learn something new, but before taking the course you should really know something about the system. Having taken the course, you need to work with the system to put your learning to use and to fully understand what you learned. Without a job you can’t do either, and few employers will take on someone who has taken a class and nothing more. Classes are expensive too!
Unemployment benefit would be enough to pay my rent and for me to scrape by, however I have two young daughters who are in Catholic school because the local middle schools are awful. Literally the reputation of every single middle and high school in the area is really bad, so the last thing I want to do is to take them out of private school, since that would affect their future. This is just one example of the way being unemployed affects the whole family.
Health care is another factor. Most white collar workers get health care provided through the company that they work for, with the company paying 80% of the cost. However, once you lose your job, your health care is only paid up to the end of the month, and after that you have the option of paying COBRA, basically retaining the same health care plan, but covering the full cost yourself. With the company I was working for, I would now have to pay 102% of the total cost per month, which would be in excess of $500. That’s just for ME! If I had to pay for the whole family, it would be just under $1,000 a month to provide health insurance.
Now isn’t this just crazy? At the time you really need cheap health care, because you have no money coming in, you have to either pay more than the total unemployment benefit ofr the month, or go without any medical coverage at all. Doesn’t this seem just backwards?
In the UK at least there is the National Health Service (known as the NHS), which is funded through National Insurance payments (the equivalent of Social Security). Health care (apart from Dental Care) is completely FREE, so you can go see a doctor, get surgery etc, without having to pay a penny. Of course this does come at a price, since the NHS is under funded, and so if you need treatment and it’s not deemed to be urgent, you could be on the waiting list for a year before anything is done, but at least it’s FREE. Many companies in the UK do offer a subsidised health care plan similar to the USA (BUPA), but when you need to fall back in hard times, the NHS is there at least.
This past two weeks I have had to catch up on all the things that I did not do while I was employer, getting my eyesight checked, a full checkup, and having a dental checkup too.
Although my vision exam was free and covered by my medical plan, there was a deductible and of course they only pay so much towards frames, so that set me back over $100 for a pair of glasses (my first – not bad to get to 54 without having glasses, although I did really need these 5 years ago!).
Then the doctor. My exam was free, but other things I would have liked to get done would have cost, so I had to fore-go those.
Finally the dentist. Well my exam was free, however my dental plan only pays 80% of the cost of fillings, and only 50% of the cost of crowns, so again having to get a tooth I broke two years ago crowned cost me close to $400. Then I had a cleaning, which is supposed to be covered but not fully. The hygienist found two pockets of decay, and recommended I have this antibiotic injected to help treat them. Of course the dental insurance doesn’t cover this (surprise), so there I am for the cleaning and treatment another $180 out of pocket. I get home and look up information about the product, Arestin, and find all over the Internet articles where dentist have recommended this unnecessarily just to get extra money, and supposedly the effect it has is possibly not worth the money. Oh great! I could have saved myself $150 of what I have left to help see me through until I can earn again.
Well one thing you have to do when you are unemployed is to tighten your belt and to budget hard to make the money last. I have been doing this for a while now as it is, and this I think I will leave to another article.
So what is your opinion of the health care industry in the USA? I know President Obama is trying to change things, but I would be interested to know your opinion on what should and could be done, and also I would be interested to hear about your experiences with the health care industry.