I’ve only been without health insurance a few times in my life: when I was pregnant with my son and now, arguably two of the times I needed it most.

One casualty of switching jobs or striking out on your own and becoming self-employed is losing your health coverage. I never really gave it much thought before, because most of my live I’ve been covered.

When I was growing up, my family was covered by my father’s generous insurance plan, which continued while I was in college. When I graduated and began working my first real job I opted out of health coverage because I felt confident I wouldn’t need it. I was wrong.

When I found out I was pregnant, I was uninsured and unsure what to do. After searching for free or low cost insurance plans, I found one that covered expecting moms. I quickly enrolled and once again felt comforted by the fact that if anything happened to me, I was covered.

After having my son, I switched jobs and enrolled in my employer-sponsored plan, which was quite comprehensive. And after teaching for nearly six years, I forgot what having inadequate insurance felt like. For six years I was completely spoiled with $10 co-pays, $5 brand-name prescriptions, and very few out-of-pocket costs. When my son had to have his adenoids removed last year, the procedure–which apparently costs upwards of $10,000–was completely free because it was covered by my plan. But today…as I’m home, trying not to scratch due to a reaction to some unknown allergen, I’m missing my health coverage something fierce.

What did Joni Mitchell say? “You don’t know what you got till it’s gone”? Well, I’m a believer.

Living life without health insurance is a scary prospect. Just ask any one of the 50 million Americans who live without it. Although I planned on purchasing coverage, the cost–upwards of $200 per month–has caused me to procrastinate. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that saving a few bucks each month isn’t worth the peace of mind having insurance brings.

In the meantime, if you are like me and don’t have health coverage, there are a few things you can do to stay healthy despite being uninsured.

Pay attention to what you eat: Good health begins with what you put in your body. While you don’t have to be on a strict diet, it is important that you don’t unhealthy, fat-laden things that may lead to health problems down the line.

Exercise: Staying active is not only one of the best ways to stay fit, but it’s also a key ingredient in fighting colds, heart disease, hypertension, and other health issues that arise from inaction.

Take supplements: Taking supplements such as vitamins, fish oils, and other immunity boosters can help ward off sickness. When I was younger my mother made us take Cod Liver Oil religiously. Although it tasted gross, I had very few colds when I was younger.

Know where to get help: Despite your best efforts, you will still get sick from time to time. Beyond crashing your local emergency room, make sure you know where the free or low cost clinics are in your area. Also, look into urgent care facilities that require  you to pay for services upfront, but usually cost significantly less than being treated in an emergency room.

Are you living without health insurance? Share your tips on staying healthy! 

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