Why this woman canceled her health insurance

Posted at 5:42 PM, Jan 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-06 10:08:21-05

People are racing to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act in order to avoid a fine at tax time.

But Oceanside resident Rachel Kulus is doing the opposite: She has canceled her health insurance and will pay the fine. It will save her thousands, but it's a big risk.

She said she has her reasons.

"I couldn't access the care I needed," she said.

Kulus had a health plan, and wanted to get help when she hurt her back. But she couldn't afford it because she was nowhere near her $6,000 deductible.

"I went to YouTube," she said. "I carefully learned about corrective exercise for my back, and I tried to be careful."

Now she has to be really careful. Kulus canceled her plan, saving about $4,000 a year in premiums. Now, she'll pay a fine of about $1,000 at tax time, to not have coverage.

"It's a gamble," she said. "I'm taking a chance. A chance I didn't want to take."

The gamble can pay off if someone stays healthy. A recent study from the Kaiser Family Foundation says seven million Americans can save money by just paying the penalty. 

But a catastrophic injury can mean tens of thousands of dollars in hospital bills, leading to bankruptcy. Californians have until Jan. 31 to enroll in health coverage to avoid a fine on their 2016 tax returns. 

Melissa Hayden Cook, CEO of Sharp Health Plan, said those unpaid hospital bills can raise costs for everyone else.

"What that means is that we have higher premiums in order to cover those unpaid costs from those who are uninsured," she said.

Kulus said she wants accessible health care. She wants the country to adopt a single payer system, like Medicare for everyone. 

"Please tax me more because I want a program and I want to pay into it," she said. "My penalty will certainly pay into something, I hope it helps someone."