My story about navigating the minefield that is the American health insurance industry
For the first 20 years of our marriage, my husband Reed and I each had health insurance through our employers. When Reed left his job at a major San Francisco law firm in 1997 to pursue a career in Architecture, I added him to the policy I had through my job because my employer provided domestic partner coverage.
When I lost my job in 2011, we had the option of continuing the coverage under COBRA, but the premium was more than $850 per month. Each! So, we looked for individual policies. I found three that worked for me, but I was declined by all of them because of a pre-existing condition. (I was taking blood pressure medication and I was honest about that on my applications.) Reed applied to the same companies, and in spite of being in excellent health and not taking any prescription meds, he was declined because he had not had a physical within the last 18 months.
I apologize for getting all wonky here, but there’s really no way to discuss this issue without running the numbers. Reed is self-employed, and I was still unemployed, so we decided to formalize his company into an LLC and become employees. We retained an insurance broker to secure a health insurance plan for our company. Most employer-based plans provide what they call “guarantee issue”, which means we would not be excluded because of pre-existing conditions, etc. Our policy cost us about $433 each per month.
In November 2012, the premium increased to $522, an increase of more than 20%. We were recently notified by our broker that on November 1st of this year the premium will increase by a little over 12% to $585 each.
Two things to keep in mind here. First, this policy is not even remotely a good one. Basically, we look at it as “catastrophic coverage” in case some really serious medical issue arises that could otherwise wipe us out. In our opinion, it’s just reckless for anyone not to have health insurance, particularly two guys in their 50’s who are a decade away from Medicare eligibility. The other thing to keep in mind is that very few people can sustain annual double-digit increases in health insurance premiums. We certainly can’t. Any logical person can see that spending $1,170 per month on insurance for a family of two is ridiculous. That’s more than our mortgage!
This morning, Reed and I did some research. Insurance companies are finally starting to release information about policies and premiums as a result of the ongoing implementation of the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare.” We found three policies from major carriers that mirror the coverage we have now and in one case the plan is a lot better. The least expensive is $243 and the most expensive is $393. That represents a 58% and 33% reduction, respectively. That’s why Obamacare is important to us.
Since we live in the backward state of Georgia, we will not have a state-run insurance exchange like we would have if we still lived in California, but we will have access to www.healthcare.gov. This is the Federal Government’s program for people like us who are being victimized by our state politicians. Next Tuesday, October 1st, we will be able to use that site to research additional plans and choose which plans are right for us. The good news is that on January 1, 2014, our health insurance premiums are going to be much lower.
Some people will read about our journey through the modern American health insurance maze and relate to it, but will be bored by it. I share it because I want to make this point: We are just two of the 50 MILLION people (as of 2011) who are either struggling to get/keep health insurance or who don’t have it at all. Consequently, we have a certain perspective when we watch the 2012 Republican Presidential nominee vow to repeal Obamacare on his first day in office.
We seethe when the House of Representatives votes over and over and over again to repeal Obamacare and never once debates or votes on legislation that would improve the economy and reduce unemployment. We are pissed off when Ralph Hudgens, Georgia’s Insurance Commissioner, vows to obstruct, delay and ignore laws and rules related to Obamacare.
Our heads nearly exploded when we watched the House Republicans cheer and slap each other on the back after passing a budget bill that would defund Obamacare and thereby deny us and the other 49,999,998 people who need affordable health insurance.
President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law on March 23, 2010 and for 2 ½ years we have listened to Republicans lie to us about it. They say they want to delay it. They say they want to replace it. They believe that Americans hate it. They say they are genuinely concerned about the uninsured. None of that is true of course, especially the part about wanting to replace it. Make no mistake; they want to kill it.
I follow politics very closely and I have never once heard a Republican politician describe what specific things about Obamacare they don’t like and what plan they support in its place. Not once. The truth is they don’t have a plan and they don’t want one. They hate Obamacare because they hate Obama. They do not care about the uninsured or people like us who are a hair’s-breadth from losing our insurance.
Look, I know Obamacare isn’t perfect, but it’s so much better than this unfair and unsustainable system we have now. We need to allow Obamacare to become fully implemented. After it’s been up and running for at least a year or two, inevitable weaknesses will be exposed. Then we can tweak it where necessary. That will take leadership, compromise and a commitment to governing. I haven’t seen much of that coming out of Washington since November 2010.