Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

On the cost of health insurance: Sometimes all you can do is laugh February 15, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 11:42 AM
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I PROBABLY SHOULDN’T be penning this post because it’s likely to raise my blood pressure. And that’s not a good thing considering I want to avoid activity that would necessitate a doctor’s visit.

Don’t get me wrong. I am thankful for doctors and nurses and other medical professionals who possess the skills and talent to help heal people.

But I’m frustrated about the ever-rising cost of health insurance. Last year my family forked out $11,022 to cover three of us—two late fifty-somethings and a 20-year-old. Do your math. That’s just shy of $919/month.

Add on the $4,048 we paid out-of-pocket for medical expenses in 2014 and that’s a significant chunk of money going toward healthcare costs.

Info from my current health insurance documents.

Info from my current health insurance documents.

The monthly premium on my individual plan this year has dropped $30 to $412/month. Now you might think that a good thing. But, in order to keep my premium down, I switched insurance companies and now have a much higher deductible—$5,200 instead of $2,000.

When I was considering my options in November, after my then insurer informed me that my 2015 monthly rate would skyrocket from $441 to $777, I felt like I was gambling. I am. I’m gambling on not needing to visit a doctor, except for “free” preventative care, in 2015.

Sure we have “free” preventative care now, which is great. But at what cost? Is it really “free?”

And, yes, I checked into whether I qualify for financial assistance through MNsure, the state’s online health insurance marketplace. I don’t given I could get on my husband’s plan through his employer. Never mind that I would need to pay the full $777/month premium. So that option was out. That left me searching for an individual plan I could afford. (It doesn’t exist.)

Minnesota Public Radio nailed it in a February 10 headline, High deductibles keep patients away from care. (Click here to read that story.) Yes, as crazy as it sounds, many of us now carry deductibles so high that we think twice about going to the doctor. What good is health insurance then?

I consider my health insurance coverage a catastrophic plan. I need the coverage “just in case” something major happens.

These ever-rising costs need to be brought under control. The current system isn’t working for lower middle income families like mine and, I expect, most families except those fortunate enough to have full employer paid health insurance.

Employers are feeling the financial burden, too. I’d guess some small business owners have had to reduce benefits or even lay off employees.

One positive note with healthcare reform, though, is the elimination of the pre-existing condition clause that prevented me from switching insurers.

I appreciate the approach taken by Almost Iowa, a southern Minnesota blogger whose wife was recently laid off. This blogger writes humorous and sarcastic fiction. Brilliantly. He addresses the issue of health insurance premiums and deductibles in “I married the wrong girl!”  Just like the MPR story, he nailed it. (Click here to read.)

Every fiction writer knows that beneath the surface always lies some bit of truth.

“I married the wrong girl!” made me laugh out loud in an “I wish this wasn’t true” sort of way. But, as they say, laughter is the best medicine. And that doesn’t cost us anything.

FYI: Today marks the final day to open enroll through MNsure, in other words the last day you can purchase health insurance through this venue until the next open enroll later this year.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


36 Responses to “On the cost of health insurance: Sometimes all you can do is laugh”

  1. raiche Says:

    We own a small retail business and after expenses we our total take home was less than most catastrophic insurance policies require. For us it is a choice of heat, food or medical expenses.

  2. Cynthia Says:

    Until our elected officials start caring for the middle class and the poor, insurance companies will continue to rape the public.

  3. We own a small business and our health insurance premiums are through the roof. Yes, you are gambling with those high deductibles but what choice does you have? It’s just ridiculous for a nation that lauds itself as the world’s greatest. We are a laughing stock to many other countries in this regard.

  4. And I agree about our friend Almost Iowa. He’s a wonderful writer.

  5. Littlesundog Says:

    FD’s employer lost their most popular insurance plan and all plan deductibles went way up this past year. For more than a decade, neither FD nor I have had illness or anything other than a couple of “accident” claims on insurance (stitches for a hand cut on corrugated metal and a nail through a foot), so we count ourselves fortunate. We sock a lot away in a health savings plan, and we try to live and eat healthy. So far that has served us well. 🙂

    • It sounds like you are doing all you can given the situation with your insurance.

      The thing is, we never know when we may face health issues.

      My husband also has a health savings plan, most of which was used up this year to pay medical bills.

  6. I hope this so-called reform comes back to roost on it’s authors. You are funding healthcare for others.

  7. Do you mean to say that the “Affordable Care Act” (Obama care) isn’t affordable at all, and that just maybe our elected officials lied to us at worst, or merely failed in their duty to their constituents, at best? How shocking!!

  8. In reply to Cynthia above, the poor are exactly the ones being taken care of by this current government, and the rich (also well represented in the current government) will always take care of themselves. Therefore the burden falls squarely and solely on the rapidly vanishing middle class, which is the basic aim and result of socialism..

  9. Thread crazy Says:

    I hear and agree with you Audrey on these rising costs of health insurance. Our so called government lied, yes I said “lied” to all about the Obama care. A few elected officials, at least in our state, tried to stop it but they were laughed and scoffed at and no one listened. Many of us middle class saw this coming and now, sad to say we are the ones who will suffer most.

  10. Dan Traun Says:

    Yes, as crazy as it sounds, many of us now carry deductibles so high that we think twice about going to the doctor. <– nailed it. Hey, but everyone is insured; problem solved in the eyes of the politicians with their gold-plated health plans that they pay how much for again? Despicable to say the least. It should have been name "get everyone insured act." This was a step [seemingly] in the right direction, but it is only the tip of the iceberg. I guess some would argue that you'd gladly pay that deductible vs. $300k or more in hospital bills.

  11. Beth Ann Says:

    There are many in the same boat as you I am sure. We have had “catastrophic” coverage in the past and yes—you do think twice about going to the doctor because you realize how much you are going to be paying due to the high deductible. It stinks. But I quite honestly do not know what the answer is. I wish I had it.

  12. whattoexpectwhen Says:

    My son-in-law from Spain just shakes his head at our health care system. His most common comment is, “You are the richest country in the world and yet people are dying for lack of health care.” But I’m not sure I like Spain’s plan either. Yes, everyone is completely covered but they pay dearly for it in taxes and those who can afford it still buy private insurance to get the best doctors.

  13. Jackie Says:

    I’m sorry to hear of this ongoing frustration, I would probably be steaming mad if in the same situation. I feel Rick and I are quite blessed to be covered by Mayo, and yes, it is a blessing that we don’t take for granted. Now that Rick’s retired I think i should be too, but if that were the case, then we’d be up a creek without a paddle, in the same boat as many others. We’ve discussed the fact that i should probably keep working (half-time) just to keep the benefits until he’s at least old enough for medicare. Guess that’s another 7 years…Good thing I love my job 🙂

  14. Don Singsaas Says:

    It’s a sad situation. I’ve read that medical bills are the number one reason for people filing bankruptcy. That does not say much for our countries health care system. Perhaps we need to look at what can be done cheaper. I had a friend that moved to Mexico and became sick. He needed to get an x-ray and where do you think he was sent? The local mall! At the x-ray store they took his x-ray and handed it to him for $25.00. He took it to his doctor and received a prescription for his ailment. Two weeks later he was well again, and oh the doctor actually made a house call to him free of charge to see how he was doing! His total bill was in the neighborhood of $175.00. How many thousands of dollars would that cost in the U.S.?

  15. Almost Iowa Says:

    Hey Audrey, thanks for the shout-out. Sorry I didn’t respond earlier, we have been traveling. We took the slow drive across central Texas today. Lots of green grass and shade tree, which translates into lots of contented cattle.

    Since Julie was laid-off and I was retired, we thought we would see a bit of the country.

    Stay healthy….

  16. hotlyspiced Says:

    I have read a few of your posts on the jab that is health insurance and it does seem every time you post the costs have increased. What you pay is outrageous for just the three of you. Health care in Oz is supposedly ‘free’ although if you earn over a certain amount you are penalised (taxed) if you don’t take out private health cover. So we take out private cover and pay nearly $500/mth for all of us. And while that must sound like a bargain, it has been increasing rapidly every year as two years ago I was only paying $250/mth. And there’s a tax on our income of just under 5% for the ‘free health cover’ we’re not entitled to because we’re privately insured. Our health cover only gives us back 75% of each bill so on top of everything else there’s enormous out of pocket expenses. My father who has been well all his life and never needed a doctor, recently had surgery. The out of pocket expenses for the doctor of his choice were $26,000. Utterly outrageous that a man paying into the system for 75 years can be gouged in that way. I’m definitely with you on this, Audrey xx

    • Your system sounds broken also. That $26,000 for out-of-pocket expenses for your father is ridiculous as is the “just under 5%” tax for “free health cover.”

      U.S. residents must be covered by health insurance or pay a certain percentage of their income as a penalty.

  17. Deanna Says:

    And, isn’t it lovely that a certain insurance advertises their plan covers your children on your medical insurance policy until or through age 26.

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