On Health Insurance, Age, and Death

People ask me about health insurance, old age, and death pretty frequently. I think these are extremely important things to talk about but I haven’t had too much to say in the past. It’s a tough thing to talk about, but it’s got to be talked about. So here’s my thoughts.

Let’s start with health insurance. I don’t have health insurance at this point in my life. I’m 29 years old. For the first 25 or so years of my life health insurance was taken care of by being on my moms plan. That is pretty typical in the USA as the regulations (at least at that time) were that you could stay on your parent’s health insurance until that age. After that I qualified for free health care and I took it for a year or so. Today I still qualify for free health insurance, but I am choosing not to accept it. I have vowed to donate 90% of all my media earnings to nonprofits and so far have donated 100% of my earnings from my Discovery Channel TV show and my book, Dude Making a Difference, to nonprofits. I’ve raised over $40,000 for nonprofits in the last 1.5 years and haven’t kept a penny for myself. Because of this choice, I haven’t made any money in 2015 and so I easily qualify for free health insurance. So why don’t I take it? Well, since I’m not earning any money, I am not paying any taxes. And since my health insurance would be paid for by taxes I just wouldn’t feel right using that service.

That’s not to say that I don’t think that people deserve free health insurance and though I don’t accept free health insurance, I don’t look down on anyone who does. I think health care is a human right and I think that any advanced society should guarantee health care to all people. Or at the very least if it is not a free service for all citizens, then I do think that people who’ve dedicated their lives to the betterment of their country should get free health insurance. To give you an example, a teacher who dedicates their life to educating thousands of children and accepts a low wage for the sake of educating our future. I think they are deserving of society to look after them in a time of medical need. That seems quite humane to me. That seems like an advanced society to me. The USA is the only “major nation” that does not guarantee health care to all its citizens. Seems like America could do some catching up.

The reality at this point though is that health care is not a free service in the USA. So I, and many others, have to deal with our current situation. Here are a few reasons why people tell me I should have health insurance:

Old age. Well, I’m not old yet. I’m 29. If 20 or 30 years from now I need to get health insurance then I can get it then. I’ll deal with it when I’m old. Or maybe, just maybe, by the time I’m older, America will have realized that health care is a right and not a privilege and in an “advanced society” if the means are there, then it’s the humane thing to provide it. I am not necessarily one for government controlling anything more than it actually needs to. There seems to be some huge benefits to free public health care and some downsides. However, in the current government that we live in I think that health care guaranteed as a right to all people would be a huge step up for our country. If the government is designed to serve the people, which by definition it is, then health care should be prioritized over many of the other ways we squander trillions of dollars and actually destroy the lives of others. I believe that any advanced government should provide basic health care for its people. One thought is we could use taxes more wisely and in ways that truly benefit the masses rather just blundering it away on war that causes world destruction.

Major medical accidents. This to me is the most logical reason to have health insurance. Such as a broken bone or car accident, that could cost me tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. But that’s unlikely to happen and I don’t think health insurance would end up being a wise investment for myself (a very healthy guy). The only thing that would likely make health insurance a good investment is a major accident. However, with premiums and deductibles, it’s quite likely I would pay the same amount for an emergency with insurance as if I had just paid out of pocket. For example, if my insurance costs $300 a month and I pay it for three years, then break my arm (non-surgical treatment) and pay a 30% deductible I could end up having paid $4,500 all together for that emergency. A broken arm costs about $2,500 from what I found online. And if I’m truly only using the insurance for emergencies, then that’s all that I’ll have used it for. So it could very well take even bigger problems than just a broken arm for my insurance to be a good investment as long as I am practicing a truly good health routine. Only in a big time major emergency would decades of paying for health insurance really pay off but even then I see people who do have health insurance get hit with debilitating medical bills after major accidents. I ask myself what’s the difference of being $150,000 (with insurance) or $250,000 (without insurance) in debt because of a major accident? I’d be in debt for life either way so it doesn’t make much of a difference to me.

Statistically speaking, it’s very unlikely for me to have a major medical emergency in the first place. Most of what people use health insurance for is actually preventable. The leading cause of death in the United States is heart disease. Nearly 100% of these cases are preventable via lifestyle choices. Number 2 is a cancer, number 3 chronic lower respiratory disease, number 5 stroke, and number 7 diabetes. Again, a vast majority of this is preventable via lifestyle choices. Not to mention, I think health insurance often allows for this recklessness. It’s possible that if it didn’t exist, people couldn’t just be so reckless with their heart. I know when I used to have renters insurance I wouldn’t care at all if it got stolen or lost because I knew that my insurance would cover it. Possibly others feel the same way about their health insurance?

Instead of having health insurance I practice preventative medicine in the way that I treat my body and live my life. I eat a simple whole foods plant-based diet. I spend a lot of time outside exercising and getting fresh air. I live a pretty stress free life and am truly passionate about what I do. I don’t drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or do any other drugs. I practice a natural personal hygiene and don’t put any chemicals on my body. This is all preventative measures and makes doctor visits extremely infrequent. I’ve learned to take care of my own body, not something we are typically taught too much in life. This to me is much more logical and reasonable than working an unfulfilling job to earn health insurance so that I can afford pills to treat the depression caused by the job I’m working to afford health insurance and pay my other unnecessary bills. There are also other forms of healing, including herbal remedies, acupuncture, and medical marijuana that don’t cost a fortune and have been shown time and time again to heal a wide range of issues.

I also avoid the health insurance industry because I think that the whole industry is full of corruption and inefficiencies. I absolutely don’t think health, or lack of health, is something that should ever be profited on. The current system we have creates billions of dollars of profit for the richest people in the country and is dependent on disease and illness for its profits. It doesn’t take a Bachelor in business to know that it is in the best interest of any corporation to create a need for their product. The “health care” industry all too often puts profits over a healthy client. A suffering population creates some very wealthy people. My work is to fight this system and that means not using it.

There are some other serious problems with Western health care in my mind as well. First off there are McDonalds in hospitals. Every doctor that works there will tell you that you shouldn’t eat McDonalds yet you can purchase it right there. These are not true places of healing. In fact, I think many people actually get sicker in hospitals. When I visited my friend Krissy in a hospital in 2014 I was appalled by the place. No fresh air, minimal lighting, stagnant rooms, and food of poor nutritional quality made me question what was going on there. Even the doctor I asked agreed that this was not a good place for someone trying to get better. Krissy was getting worse being there and I could feel the life being sucked out of me. I saw no chance of her getting better there and we both felt better when I got her to leave. It is absolutely mind blowing how many lives are completely screwed over by western medicine. Over the last 30 years more than 1.3 million people have been misdiagnosed with cancer. We’re talking about people being treated for cancer that do not have cancer. That’s billions of dollars of unnecessary money spent, and many lives wasted. But guess who made a whole lot of money with these misdiagnosis? It is estimated that approximately 10 to 20 percent of all cases of cancer are misdiagnosed. Now it gets crazier than that. 1 in 25 hospital patients get at least one healthcare-associated infection. This means they get an infection by being in the very place that they are supposed to be getting better. About 75,000 people died due to healthcare-associated infections in 2011 alone (more on this here). I’ve heard stories from multiple friends of surgeries (that weren’t actually necessary) that resulted in an infection in the spine via a needle used in the hospital. They ended up with worse medical issues than they started with. Don’t even get me started on the millions of people who’ve died from the negative effects of medications. If anyone fears natural medicine they really should take some time to assess the reasons to worry about hospitals and pills as well.

 

Now what about the penalty for not signing up for health insurance? Isn’t it illegal? I think most people who bring that up have never actually taken the time to look this up and are just living in fear. Here’s the deal. The fee for not having health insurance in 2016 for an individual is either 2.5% of your income (with a reasonable maximum) or $695. $695 could be less than you would actually pay for health insurance so if you don’t need health insurance then the fine very well could be a better usage of your money. There are also exemptions based on low income. Here’s the beauty for someone who is not interested in being a part of the entire monetary system, such as I. You pay the fee when you file your federal tax return and “There are no liens, levies, or criminal penalties for failing to pay the fee.” So if you don’t have any taxes coming back to you at the end of the year (“The IRS will hold back the amount of the fee from any future tax refunds.”) then you don’t have to pay the fee. As I said before, I am not making money right now, which means I won’t have any federal taxes to pay at the end of the year. This means I will not have to pay the fee, simple as that. Again, it is not against the law to not get health insurance, it is merely a fee, and a fee that has no law holding you to pay it. Learn more at HealthCare.gov.

Some would say it’s irresponsible to not have health insurance. From a certain perspective I can totally understand where they are coming from. However, health insurance has only existed for about 150 years (see history here) so what about the people who existed before health insurance? Were they irresponsible? Of course not. I don’t believe just because I happen to be born into a time and place that has created a certain societal construct, that I have to conform to it or that it is necessarily the most sane construct. The earth is practically timeless in the grand scheme of things. We’ve been on the earth for a mere blink of an eye. And to say that everybody who is born in this region in this time has to do things exactly the way mainstream society has decided, well that is absurdity in my opinion. I don’t buy into the idea that you have to do something just because the current ruling government says you have to. I was born onto this earth as a free body and I don’t have to abide by any of these recently man-made constructs that from a grander perspective are fleeting moments. Of course you aren’t going to find me doing things that harm others though. There are a lot of respectable laws out there protecting people from monstrosities such as rape, slavery, unfair child labor, etc. But I believe that no law should prevent a human from making conscious decisions in regards to their own body and life, as long as these decisions do not harm anyone else.

Some would say I’m being reckless by not having health insurance but I urge those who think this to assess the blatant recklessness of our society and question whether you are being reckless as well. To me being reckless is eating fast food, even on a weekly basis. To me being reckless is smoking cigarettes. To me being reckless is eating too much meat and too little veggies and fruits. To me being reckless is choosing to spend my days dormant and getting no exercise. To me being reckless is slaving away at a job that results in vast amounts of stress and relationship strains. To me the American culture is beyond reckless in so many of our simple daily actions. Recklessness is purely a matter of perspective.

We are reckless with our lands that we poison with herbicides and pesticides and strip of all the nutrients through industrial farming. We are recklessly producing low quality food that ultimately produces low quality bodies. We are reckless with the water that we poison and in turn poison ourselves. We are reckless with the air that we spew pollution into and then breath in through our mouth and nose. We are reckless with the entire earth that we are truly dependent on. We are not independent of the earth, of the land, the air, and the water. It provides us life and we are destroying it faster than most of us can fathom. Recklessness to me is a society that thinks human beings are above all other species on earth and that death is not a part of all of our lives.

Recklessness to me is an obsession with men pounding each other’s faces in the ring and battering each other on the football field for the sake of entertainment. Recklessness to me is eating vast quantities of pharmaceuticals and pissing them out in our water supply, which causes birth defects in our children. Recklessness to me is that 80% of our antibiotics are given to animals that we raise for meat and that have wiped out the effectiveness of large sums of antibiotics that we use for ourselves. Recklessness to me is the over prescription of billions of pills per year. Recklessness to me is the giant list of side effects on most prescription medications. Recklessness to me is simply listening to what someone tells you and being uninformed about how our decisions affect others around us and the future of our race.

This is reckless. This is a system that I am removing myself from. Even in the case of a major medical emergency that is a system that I intend to avoid.

 

Let’s talk a little bit more about age and life expectancy. I’ll just say straight up that for me to live 50 years to the fullest, 50 free years not tied down to a job, but rather living the life that I truly want, is far more valuable than 60 or even 70 years working 40 hours per week doing something that I don’t actually want to do, serving a system that I don’t actually believe in.

This life of freedom that I’ve chosen is the only life for me and if that results in a shorter life span then so be it (although it will likely result in a longer life span). Everything is a matter of perspective anyway. In relatively recent history I would have already lived out a full life at the age of 29. And just 100 years ago I would only have expected to live about 40-50 years. I’m well on my way to that.

Perhaps I measure my life, not in years, but rather in experiences and how purposeful I feel. Perhaps I have as much experience and purpose squeezed into my 29 years as many 60 year olds do in their life that is twice as long as mine has been so far.

Now what about saving up for old age? 401(k) plans have failed millions of American’s. Corporations have robbed people of decades of hard work. The “safe bet” has seriously screwed over millions of people who played it safe. Plus have you ever been to an old folks home? Many elders are just there waiting to die. Many are treated very poorly and basically forgotten by society. I’m not saving up money for this. You’ll just never find me in one of those places, period. I’ll take my life now, not later (but then I’ll likely end up taking it later too). Age is not a barrier, the mind is.

Ok now let’s talk about death. Well at least 80% of Americans believe in an afterlife. Meaning that the eight or so decades we live on earth is a very brief time in our eternal existence afterwards. If that’s true then why should I really fret about dying? Shouldn’t we actually be excited to die and spend the rest of our time walking with our creator in a place with no suffering? I’m just pointing out a very overbearing hypocrisy in our society. I don’t have a set belief in a particular afterlife though. They are all as possible as the other and at the same time it’s unlikely that any one of these 200 religions happens to be right while the other 199 are wrong.

I’m ok with the idea of death. Even if it is tomorrow. I am one human being among seven billion and there are over 4.5 million other species on this planet. We’re talking about trillions and trillions of lives on earth. I don’t believe that human lives are the most important of all creatures either. I am just not that important. When I die my body will return to the earth to create other life. I am carbon, just as the dirt is. I am stardust just as that last bug that you killed is. Death is just fine and furthermore death is necessary to give way to other life. The human races stubbornness to stay alive for as long as possible (even though we’re going to an eternal heaven) is actually killing off hundreds of thousands of other species. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, the earth is one planet in what may be an infinite number of planets in an infinitely expanding universe. We live on this tiny little rock. We aren’t so important that we can’t just die. I’m going to die one day and it’ll probably be an all right day. You can read my public will but I’ll tell you straight up I’m not going to pay vast sums of money to keep myself alive and I’m not going to have money spent on me once I’m dead.

I also am in support of assisted dying. Assisted dying is when a terminally ill, mentally competent adult, making the choice of their own free will and after meeting strict legal safeguards, takes prescribed medication which will end their life. I believe the law against assisted dying forces people to suffer against their wishes and that it is our right to end our own lives. So you can count on me to not eek out every day on earth, even if it is a life of suffering. I would rather not end my life with medications though, rather a natural plant out in nature or something of that like.

That’s it for now. That’s my thoughts on health insurance, age, and death. Feel free to ask questions and if I fancy then I’ll expand this article.

Note: I am not telling anyone else whether or not to get health insurance. I am not telling anyone else how to live their lives. People have asked me what I’m doing and what I think about these things so here I am sharing my life with you. You can choose what you want to do. I hope this perspective has served you in having a more rounded thought on health insurance, age, and death

Note 2: I see both pros and cons to the government providing health care to all as a right. I do believe that in our current system of government that our society as a whole and us as individuals would be better off with a reasonable level of free health care.

Note 3: If you haven’t already figured it out, I’m not living this life for myself. I’m living for the greater good of humanity, the other species we share the earth with, and the earth as a whole. If you put yourself first and don’t think about how your life affects others then I encourage you to step outside your perspective for a moment and try to look at all of this from the perspective of global sustainability. That’s how I look at most things. If you’re having a hard time understanding where I’m coming from it may help you to step into this perspective for a moment.