Turning 55 and fed up with healthcare costs

In 19 days I turn 55.

Recently I received my first birthday greeting, from my health insurance carrier, a well-known Minnesota-based company.

The message wasn’t all that nice.  In fact, I’d say it wasn’t at all thoughtful, not one bit, for a soon-to-be birthday celebrant. My three-month premium is increasing $151, from $878 to $1,029.

The whole correspondence made me so darn mad that I called my husband at work to see if I could still get on the company insurance plan. His employer was switching to a new insurance carrier to try and curb costs. He said he would check and get back to me.

So while he was asking, I was calling my insurer. I got through the first automated voice when my cell phone rang. (Did I mention that I hate those automated systems?) It was my husband calling back, and probably a good thing since at that moment I glanced at my insurance bill and saw the reason for the $151 premium increase:

REASON FOR RATE CHANGE—SUBSCRIBER OR SPOUSE AGE CHANGES

There it was in bold-faced, capitalized letters.

The bill could have included these bold-faced, uppercased letters to project some Minnesota Nice: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, AUDREY!

My husband shared a dismal message. Coverage through his employer would be $30 higher than my new monthly premium of $342.83. How do they come up with that 83 cents tacked on the end?

My husband’s news sent my anger level soaring off the charts. “What the blankety-blank (not my exact words, but I want to keep this post family-friendly) is going on?” I screeched.

“Welcome to Obama Care,” he said.

I have no idea if rising insurance premiums are related to changes in healthcare policies, but my spouse seems to think so. I didn’t follow healthcare reform because half most of the time I couldn’t understand it anyway. That’s not an excuse, simply the truth.

But I do know this: Way too much—well over $800 a month— of my family’s income is now going toward health insurance premiums for my husband and me, who turns 55 shortly after me. I have a $3,000 deductible and my spouse has a $2,400 deductible.

His employer has been paying about $90 of his monthly premium. Since I’m self-employed, well, every premium cent comes from my pocket.

We rarely visit the doctor because that costs us even more money.

Honestly, I am fed up with the rising cost of health insurance and healthcare and I don’t know what the heck to do about it.

I’ve even thought about dropping my insurance coverage. But I am smart enough to realize that at my age, that would not be a wise decision.

This post was written by  Audrey Kletscher Helbling and originally published on  Minnesota Prairie Roots.

Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by Terry Hayes on 09/07/2011 - 10:55 am.

    Audrey, I feel your pain. I can’t afford health insurance and would rather go to my grave in a blaze of defiant glory than give one more red cent to the thieves at Blue Cross.
    If more people just stopped paying into their sick system, we might get some meaningful change.

    Have you checked out PCIP, Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, part of Obama’s Affordable Health Care act? Maybe you don’t have a pre-existing condition. Apply for health insurance with Blue Cross and I’m sure they’ll find at least one for you.

  2. Submitted by Audrey Kletscher Helbling on 09/07/2011 - 11:25 am.

    Yes, I do have a pre-existing condition. I have an artificial right hip, which I know will need to be replaced in 15 – 20 years. I’ll check out that plan you referenced. Thank you.

  3. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 09/07/2011 - 01:18 pm.

    The premium cost rise has nothing to do with the new federal health care plan, but everything to do with standard insurance company practices.

    Their actuaries have, no doubt after extensive review, decided you and your husband are now a little more likely to get sick.

    While you’re checking out plans, google the Minnesota Health Plan (single payer like Medicare) to see how Minnesota could cover every resident without exception (and include meds, dental, mental, eyeglasses and long term care) while saving money. Only ideology stands in the way.

  4. Submitted by Joey White on 09/07/2011 - 02:59 pm.

    Audrey, thanks for the window into the future. Health care isn’t something I think about very often because I’m young and don’t have health issues, yet I’m always amazed when I stop and consider that we pay over $6,000 a year on top of the enormous amount my employer pays for our health insurance, and we hardly use it. It’s frustrating and I’m tempted to just dump all of the premiums into a savings account, as stupid as I know that would be.

    Also, I go to church in Minneapolis with an Amber Helbling. There’s got to be a connection.

  5. Submitted by Audrey Kletscher Helbling on 09/07/2011 - 04:29 pm.

    Bernice, thanks for your insights into the cost of health insurance premiums. Certainly, I understand that age and the increasing risk of health issues impacts premiums. But I still think the rates are unduly high.

    As for the Minnesota Health Plan, I will also need to check that out.

    Joey, I don’t think any of us really consider current or future healthcare costs when we are young. I didn’t and there were years when I was without coverage. It’s not a risk I’m willing to take now.

    It’s interesting that you mention dumping what you would pay in premiums into a savings account. My husband suggested that option the other night. But would we really place that money into savings and would it be enough if we had a major medical problem? Probably not.

    And, yes, there is a connection between myself and Amber. She is my oldest daughter.

  6. Submitted by Bert Perry on 09/07/2011 - 08:46 pm.

    Well, if insurance policies didn’t have a minimum % of funds paid out in claims (part of Obamacare), no restrictions on preexisting conditions (part of Obamacare), an unlimited lifetime payout (part of Obamacare), and 2650 pages more of regulations and promises due to the health insurance deform act, maybe it would be cheaper.

    Not that Obamacare is the only culprit here, but for sixty years, we’ve been adding mandatory things to health insurance, from chiropractic to Viagra to whatever, and now we’re wondering why the whole scheme is so expensive.

    If you doubt that this has something to do with cost, just go to your car dealer and compare the base price with the price with every option checked on your favorite car. To argue that regulation has nothing to do with the high current cost is simply to deny basic economics.

  7. Submitted by Larry Copes on 09/08/2011 - 07:48 am.

    I turned 55 before Obama came into office. My insurance premiums went up, too. They were about the same for every insurance company I considered, so it’s probably an actuarial thing.

    Actually, I wondered how you get away with such small premiums. Then I realized that you are carrying a higher deductible than I can afford. Actuarial calculations again.

    But the actuaries have to base their calculations on probabilities of various illnesses. In the past companies were allowed to refuse insurance to those with pre-existing conditions. As I understand it, the new plan limits that possibility. So the actuaries will have to consider the probability that a new customer has some kind of pre-existing condition, and the company will adjust rates for all accordingly.

    A major difficulty is that health insurance is run by companies that have to keep their shareholders happy by making money. So the rates are well beyond what’s needed to cover health care claims. Your premium payments are homage to the god worshipped more than any other by most Americans: free enterprise.

  8. Submitted by Bruce Kvam on 09/08/2011 - 08:28 am.

    Premiums go up significantly after age 50. It really has nothing to do with the new health care law, and everything to do with older people needing more medical care, due to increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, orthopedic surgery and so on.

  9. Submitted by Terry Hayes on 09/08/2011 - 10:55 am.

    People don’t need health insurance. They need health care. Let’s get rid of this industry that makes profits for shareholders by selling fear of disease, fear of bankruptcy, fear of death. Most civilized countries provide health care for their citizens. It is a crime that in the U.S.A. insurance companies grow rich because people get sick. If you’re in your twenties and thirties and paying through the nose for health insurance, what are you scared of? Stop giving your hard-earned cash to those robbers, and stick it in a savings account. And if you’re older (like me), let me ask you the question General Patton asked his men about to go into battle: Do you want to live forever? Even with the most deluxe health insurance and medical care, people die. Rich people die. Children die. Molly Ivins died in her fifties, Roy Orbison was 52, Dusty Springfield was 59, Emily Dickinson was 56, Buddy Holly was 20-something. Stevie Ray Vaughan was young.
    What makes our own lives so wonderfully precious that we go in fear of sickening and dying, and spend our days paying ABSURD and obscene amounts of money on health insurance premiums that (a)still leave us paying vast amounts on our own and (b) don’t guarantee that we’ll live past tomorrow?

    I would venture to say that most people don’t need to be paying thousands of bucks a year for something they won’t need, and that most can cover the cost of a broken ankle or a prescription for shingles with their own funds. If you have kids it might be another story. But if you’re young, single, healthy, and making enough money to buy health insurance, you’re crazy not to put that money in your own bank account.

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