I spent a lot of time in bankruptcy court covering bankruptcy for the Baltimore paper and the Washington Post. Lots of people file for bankruptcy because of health or medical expenses. They couldn't pay their medical bills because they didn't have health insurance. Certainly if you work for an employer, chances are you're going to have some kind of coverage.
But you should really try the best you can to get health insurance. If you don't make a lot of money, then you're going to have to make some hard decisions. Some health plans only pay for catastrophic problems like cancer or a major car accident. If that's all you can afford, then get that coverage and try to pay for routine visits out of pocket.
If you've got some money, go to trade associations for discounted coverage, but make sure you get health insurance. It's unfortunate that the onus is on you, but you have to make health insurance a priority. If you get sick, the cost of what it takes to get healthy could take you out financially.
The problem with health insurance is the things we can't control. Most young people are healthy and probably don't need annual checkups. They can pay for a pap smear out of pocket or go to a clinic and get it done for cheap or for free. But what if somebody runs into you in their car or knocks you off your bicycle or some freak accident happens? Then you could be looking at tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills.
If you have trouble deciding between disability insurance and life insurance, remember that you're more likely to become disabled than to die during your working lifetime. If other people depend on your income, you may want both types. If not, you may not need life insurance beyond a little policy to pay for your funeral. If you marry or have kids or if your parents depend on you, then you need life insurance. But health insurance and disability insurance are the top two followed by auto insurance if you drive.
Michelle Singletary, Washington Post financial columnist
I'm amazed that with all the talk in our country about health insurance, 20 million people between 18 and 34 still don't have it. If you get into an accident or come down with some horrible disease, your family will be on the line for that and the costs associated with it.
Having health insurance is key.
Ideally you'd get it at work. If your employer doesn't offer it, ask for it. See what they can figure out or see if you can join some organization and get health insurance. If you're an actor, there may be an actor's organization, or a writer, a writer's guild. Whatever it is, make sure that you have health insurance. That is key for people in their 20's.
Renter's insurance also makes sense and it's not expensive. If you rent an apartment, read your policy carefully and make sure that it also covers any damage, somebody in your apartment falls or other damage like that.
But in the overall scheme of things, the most important insurance is health insurance.
Beth Kobliner, author of Get a Financial Life