Note: This post appeared, as well, on my Blog in The Times of Israel on November 19, 2019.
For millions of Americans, the decisions of these November and December weeks will determine how anticipated and unforeseen personal costs of healthcare will be paid; a majority will simply renew their plans from the previous year while many will wrestle for days and nights on end with the trade-off between paying higher premiums and realizing lower deductibles, not to mention the allocation of pre-tax dollars to flexible spending accounts and health savings plans. Indeed, the apportionment of funds for medical reimbursement is a gamble so many cannot afford to lose, as the price for treatment and hospitalization has the potential to erase personal savings for those who are underinsured.
And, once the elections have been made, there are no corrections allowed for another year. We live with our projections and are left both to weather the unintended consequences of not setting aside enough, and to swallow the investment in coverage not used during healthy years. Only those who encounter abrupt circumstances, such as a change of occupation, marriage, or the birth of a newborn are granted permission to modify their plans.
As we contemplate our broader “plans of coverage” for our lives, what might be the moral equivalent of open enrollment? How often do we avail ourselves of the tweaks and adjustments necessary to be balanced and functional? Do we simply rollover our goals and strategies for life, or might we find currency in the task of grappling with our cost/benefit ratio when it comes to our free time, our family time, and our community time?
At first blush, Elul and the Days of Teshuvah seem to be a fitting Jewish counterpart - times of introspection, self-assessment, and, ultimately judgement. And yet, our Jewish Tradition does not force us to stay with a plan of personal behavior any longer than we deem it to be fitting or appropriate to our personal narratives and lifecycles, let alone for an entire year. This is, perhaps, why we find the opportunity for fasting and confession on the eve of every New Moon. Dubbed by the Rabbis as “Yom Kippur Katan,” the closing moments of each monthly cycle are opportunities for liberating our souls from the poor decisions and regrets that we simply cannot swallow, in order to be whole persons; there is momentum to be found in ridding ourselves of the baggage. And, to further underscore the contrast from the health insurance model, we are then equipped to confront and embrace the sudden “life events” that intrude into our plans and schedules.
We are the chief architects of our existence. Blessed with elaborate and miraculous systems of body and soul, we are free to choose our life plans and to set the operational dynamics for making additions and deletions. Moreover, the best “reimbursement” might be found within the accessibility we create for being champions of our own self-care.