The frightening reality of living without benefits

For the first time in my life, I don’t have health benefits.

While my current job sets aside a very small amount of money to go towards health-related costs for the year, it is maybe enough for one teeth cleaning at the dentist. I know I shouldn’t be complaining, something is better than nothing, but this is the first time that I’ve ever had to be cognisant of my health costs.

Growing up, some of my best friends didn’t have benefits. A lot of their parents worked part-time or were self-employed, so they didn’t have access to a drug plan. I remember not understanding why it was so hard for my friends to get their teeth cleaned, pay for glasses or even access birth control as we got were older.

When I was sick, my parents paid five dollars for antibiotics. In high school, my birth control pill was only three dollars a month.

I didn’t understand why people couldn’t just get a job that had health benefits for their families. Now, however, I realize this level of ignorance, because I’m only now finding myself in this predicament.

As a recent grad, the health benefits I had with my parents expired the second I became a Laurier alumna. I now find myself having to factor health costs into my budget.

I have a prescription that needs to be filled roughly every three months that costs approximately $200. Dental hygiene is very important to me and one teeth cleaning costs approximately $150. I also have an eyeglass prescription. Let’s pray that my eyes don’t change and that the glasses I have now last me a while.

The costs above are all ones that I’m prepared for, but what about the ones I’m not prepared for? What if I need antibiotics? What if I need surgery that requires pain killers? What if I break a bone and need physiotherapy?

All of these are issues that I hope won’t affect me, but they very well could.

These issues are also affecting recent university grads that are in the same boat. Many grads find themselves taking on jobs right out of university with low pay and no benefits. If we get sick, we aren’t offered any sort of protection from the outrageous costs of pharmaceuticals. We’re put in a tough situation — choose between groceries for the week, or antibiotics for the strep throat we’re fighting.

Ultimately, I feel unprepared. I’m now realizing how sheltered and privileged I have been without even realizing it. Just finding a job with benefits isn’t easy for recent grads. Hell, it’s not easy for anyone.

It is easy, however, to protest the price of health-related necessities that aren’t seen as necessities in the eyes of the government, but we know that those prices will never change. Selling pharmaceuticals is a business and a very profitable one at that.

The only solution I see fit is to start using that piggybank that has been collecting dust in the corner. Loose change adds up, right?   

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