Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Surprise (not): Another increase in health insurance premiums… December 4, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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A graphic illustrating options to consider. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


A DAY BEFORE THE MID-TERM ELECTION, my husband came home from work with our health insurance rates for 2019. I thought perhaps those rates would hold steady, maybe even drop a bit. I’d read all about premiums decreasing here in Minnesota in the new year.

But, surprise, our rates are rising. From $1,000/month to $1,069/month. For each of us. Do the math. Times two, our new monthly premiums total $2,138. Overwhelming, isn’t it?

Randy’s employer pays half ($534) his individual premium, which helps. But still, could you afford $1,603 in monthly premiums? That’s a lot of money. Money that we can’t save for retirement. Money that we can’t put toward replacement of our aging vehicles. Money that we can’t put toward a much-needed update of our 1970s vintage kitchen. Money that we can’t use for a vacation. Money that’s not going into the general economy, but rather to one place—the health insurance company.

The unbelievably high cost of health insurance for couples like us only years from retirement is a major financial burden. We’ve done all the right things. Spent our money wisely. Lived modestly. Invested and saved for retirement. Never purchased a new vehicle. Limited vacations to day trips or several days in Minnesota and neighboring states, with the exception of a road trip to Boston two years ago to see our son graduate from college.

I never thought that at this stage of our lives, we would be in this burdensome financial position. That Randy works for a small business and that I am self-employed places us in a difficult spot. Once insured through the individual market, I can no longer afford those even higher premiums. I don’t know if our premiums are so outrageously high simply because of our age or also because we are covered through a small business group pool of perhaps a half-dozen insured.

We can’t risk going without insurance. And, yes, I am aware of faith-based health cost sharing plans. I’ll revisit that option, which would mean switching doctors and seeking medical care outside my community and agreeing to some restrictions on coverage (such as on pre-existing conditions for a designated period and more). I’m perfectly happy with the excellent care I’ve gotten locally. I’d like to stay with the medical providers I know, like and trust.

But now that we will be paying another $103/month in premiums with individual deductibles that are increasing from $3,600/month to $4,000/month, all options are on the table. After all, there’s a lot of money at stake here. To be precise, $19,239 in premiums plus $8,000 in deductibles before insurance pays. Crazy, isn’t it? That’s over $27,000. We can’t afford to use our unaffordable health insurance.

Politicians, I’m waiting on you now to fulfill all your campaigns promises of affordable health insurance and healthcare. Oh, yeah, I’ve heard that before, same old same old…


CLICK HERE to read a related story on health insurance costs.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


32 Responses to “Surprise (not): Another increase in health insurance premiums…”

  1. This is a subject that infuriates me. We are in the same boat. We have the option of going with Mike’s employer’s insurance at a much lower rate, but I’m on the Mayo early retiree plan (which is astronomical and the coverage gets more ridiculous at the dawn of each year). However, changing insurances lowers the prescription medication coverage (I have RA and the weekly injections are around $7000) and would require me to change rheumatologists and other physicians I’ve seen for the last 30 years. The cost would even out to about the same, no matter which coverage we choose. The current coverage also requires us to travel to Florida two times a year to have our followups, since Mayo’s percentage of coverage will go down even if I’m seen at a Mayo facility outside of the state of Florida. In all the hoopla about regulating our health care and making it more accessible and affordable, Washington politicians have made a huge mess which has allowed loopholes for insurance companies to gouge the average hard-working American. What is even more sad, the changes in what insurance will and will not pay for dictates what is done on a medical visit and has lowered the quality of medical care across the board. Oh, my, I’ve gone off. I’m so sorry to vent on your post!

    • Absolutely do NOT apologize for venting on this issue. You have every right to feel infuriated, just as I do. I expect the subject of this post to raise considerable ire. My blood pressure rises just thinking about the cost of health insurance.

      I am so sorry you are dealing with so much crap (excuse the word), including where you must seek your medical care. How can weekly injections cost $7,000? My gosh, that’s nuts. I have a friend with cancer who has had to go off a med because she can’t afford it. There’s something broken in our current system.

  2. Oh Audrey!! That is so awful. I’m so sorry! I am blessed that my employer pays for my health coverage. I don’t know what I would do if he didn’t. I have no idea of your age, please forgive me, but is Medicare an option?
    Take care of yourself Sweet Woman. ❤

  3. Beth Ann Says:

    That is ridiculous Chris got our health insurance all set for next year and while we will be spending more as self employed than when he was with a company it is still not nearly as high as yours. There has to be a solution. I am so sorry. There are just no words.

    • I wondered how you would be affected.

      Interesting enough (and I hope I have my facts right), the NAPA corporation has a nation-wide plan. But Minnesota NAPAs can’t get health insurance through that plan because of some state laws about not crossing borders to buy health insurance. Insurance for us would be a lot less expensive if we could access that large group pool of insured.

    • Beck Says:


  4. Sandra Van Erp Says:

    You’re going to get “thoughts” off the page. I don’t understand the article’s chart, MNs colors reflect state is getting 10% decrease or more. At my age, my criteria won’t help you. But, because you’re in a county U-Care covers and it’s state based (which makes my moving to CO tough), I’m suggesting checking them out. https://home.ucare.org/en-us/health-plans/mhcp/mncare/

    • I can’t get on a state plan because I have access to insurance through my husband’s employer.

      • Sandra Van Erp Says:

        I’m sure you’ve explored your options, but I’m confused and this is none of my business. When I was with 3M, they were with Aetna that is a national company. My married co-workers were always comparing if they should be covered under spouse’s plan or theirs or a separate policy. Having your own policy with a company of choice sounds more costly than covered under spouse’s plan, but at what you’re paying….you are a MN resident, should count for something! And you are self-employed. I have mixed feelings about ACA requiring all to be insured. I thought even that allowed marrieds to have a choice of individual coverage. It looks like NAPA is with United Health. Certainly national, but if they need to go elsewhere for MN employees….at 3M all employees were under the same company, same rates. We were urged to. Larger group gets lower rates. Obviously this is a state issue here and elsewhere. https://www.napabenefitscenter.com states “NAPA National Health Program available in all states except AK, HI, ME, MN ND, NY and SD”

      • Thanks for doing that research. Yes, I can buy an individual plan. I just can’t go through MNSure (I once went through the entire application process with a navigator only to realize I didn’t meet the qualifications). Buying through the individual market is an option, but more unaffordable than going with the small group plan through NAPA. And what’s with Minnesota and the other states that can’t be part of that national plan. It’s time to open up the marketplace to more competition in Minnesota.

  5. Claudette Says:

    Who needs to eat, or buy shampoo, or god forbid enjoy a meal out at a diner once in a blue moon… when you can just give your money to the government. Ridiculous. I am sorry to hear this.

    • Yeah, who needs all that stuff? I have dropped our membership in the local art center and we attend a lot fewer events there as a way to save money. And I love the arts. We dine out only occasionally as I then think about how many groceries we could have bought with that money.

      I don’t mean to sound like we don’t have money. We have enough to pay the bills, put food on the table, gas in the vehicles, shampoo in the bathroom, etc. But we have to be careful with spending beyond that.

      The money we spend for health insurance goes to the health insurance company, not the government. Just to clarify.

  6. Valerie Says:

    I’m sorry to hear this. It is sad, and frustrating, that healthcare insurance is so ridiculously high.

  7. Brenda R Says:

    My husband and I also used to have an “insurance poor” problem. Thankfully it was back in the days when we “only” paid about $350-$400 a month through my employer when I was a hairstylist and my husband was self employed. Of course our income was much less back then also!! When he got a different job with health insurance things were somewhat better for awhile, until our premiums rose to between $600-$700 a month! I remember telling my husband- that’s a couple really nice vehicle payments!! I ended up taking on another part time job that offered really good health insurance for a moderate cost to part time employees. I had been a substitute Rural Carrier and was waiting for the regular carrier to retire. He retired 10 years ago and I wish everyone had access to our health insurance!! Of course the USPS pays a lot toward it. This time of year we are definitely earning every bit of it as we wear out our bodies delivering everyone’s packages 😝 I will be enjoying the respite tomorrow!!

    • I’m glad you were able to get out of that “insurance poor” problem, which is a fitting way to phrase it. I told Randy that pretty soon we will have to pay his employer (for Randy to work there) rather than the employer pay him (given so much is taken out of his check for health insurance).

      When people hear how much we pay in premiums, they are appalled. Typically those people work for the government, school districts or large companies. We are not alone. Many other people our age are facing the same unaffordable health insurance.

  8. Kathleen Says:

    Oh, Audrey! This is beyond ridiculous and thoroughly unfair!

    I am one of the most fortunate of souls whose employer pays for my health insurance premiums and even a part of my husband’s. And each year the benefits decreases and the costs increase. Yet I realize how incredibly fortunate we are. Because of some medical issues that have come up for Justin and me in the past few years, we know we would be bankrupt without the insurance we have. Without a doubt. So I feel both grateful beyond words and also guilty because we want everyone to have the coverage as we have.

    I have a dear friend whose one prescription costs $3000/month – one pill a day. Without it she will die – it is the only medication that keeps her in remission. Her insurance pays $2000 of the $3000 monthly cost for this one life giving medicine. But she continues to work no matter how ill she feels so she can keep her insurance. As you said, this system is broken.

    I truly believe until the politicians who are supposed to represent all is us have to experience the same health coverage and rates as the general public – nothing will change.

    I will step off my soapbox. And as I do, Audrey, I’m send you my love, sympathies and hugs.

    • Stand on your soapbox all you want because your voice needs to be heard. I also have a friend who had to stop taking a med for her cancer because she could not afford it. I’m sorry your friend is in a similar difficult financial spot because of the med cost (which is ridiculous).

      I agree that unless politicians have to experience the same health coverage and rates as the general public, nothing will change. That and stop taking money from insurance pacs.

  9. Philip Holum Says:

    It’s good to hear the real life experiences of people trying to get insured. I’m sad to say that insurance companies hold sway over lawmakers of both parties. That is not the way things should work. But to get re-elected year after year, our so-called representatives need the contributions from insurance pacs. Not good, and unfortunately, they will come up with some other scheme where these insurers will just get more government (taxpayer) money at a huge profit to themselves.

    • I absolutely agree with you, Philip.

      During the campaign, I emailed my local state representative about my health insurance situation. That was after my mailbox filled day after day with campaign lit from him promising to make healthcare and health insurance affordable. I never heard from him. He didn’t get my vote. And now he’s back in office. If you can’t respond to your constituents…promises mean nothing.

  10. Sandra Van Erp Says:

    I have to look more into the technicalities of MNSure, one would expect they are working for all MN residents through the maze of competition to get insured. I appreciate our public servants, but I do agree if our politicians had to live under the same constraints, would affect their thinking with each other and all. Certainly is a bell ringing issue. Blessings to you all and the work you do.

  11. Jackie Says:

    Sorry that health care costs are even worse than last year, its just so crazy 😦

  12. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    That is absolutely frustrating! That’s more than our mortgage payment and at least that expense we can keep and sell in the future.

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