Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The saga continues: Unsustainable & unaffordable health insurance November 12, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

ELEVEN MONTHS CANNOT pass quickly enough for me. And, no, this has nothing to do with COVID-19 although I certainly wish for an end to that, too.

What I most anticipate, what I’m most excited about and looking forward to from a financial perspective in 2021 is turning 65. And getting on Medicare. Why? Because of the cost of my health insurance.

Recently, Randy brought home the new premium numbers for 2021. Since I’m self-employed, I get my coverage through his work plan. Based on media reports and based on the across-the-board decline in medical services provided this year (due to hospitals canceling elective surgeries early in the pandemic and fewer people seeking medical care, etc.), I expected our premiums would remain the same or even decline. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

We are facing another increase, of nearly $200 a month, to monthly premiums of $1,245 each. Times two, that’s $2,490 a month (up from $2,297/month) for policies with $4,250/each deductibles. That’s an 8.4 percent increase.

This is a photo of an x-ray showing the implant I have in my left wrist. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2018.

Let’s break that down. Randy’s employer pays half of his premium. None of mine. Therefore our portion of the premiums will be $1,868 a month, $144 more than the $1,724/month we currently pay.

This is unsustainable. And ridiculous. This is not affordable health insurance, to all you politicians out there who claim you’ve made healthcare affordable. Talk to me. I’ve remarked to Randy that soon he will need to pay his employer to work for him, just to cover our health insurance premiums. While I may be stretching that a bit, I see the numbers on his paychecks. When I do the math, I see that nearly three weeks of his base gross wage each month goes toward health insurance premiums.

I also recognize that employers, especially small businesses, feel the financial impact of such high health insurance premiums. If you are fortunate enough to work for an employer who covers your full premium and maybe even contributes to family coverage, consider yourself “lucky.” I have no doubt Randy’s employer is looking forward to his getting off the company plan in 11 months as that will save the business money.

An incorrect medical bill I received in 2018 after surgery to place a plate into my broken left wrist. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2018.

I’ve always been a financially responsible person, someone who spends her money wisely, who doesn’t need the newest/biggest/best. Live within your means, don’t accrue unnecessary debt. That will never change about me. Or Randy. But, still, I yearn for an updated kitchen to replace the 1970s yellowing cupboards, the brown sink with the leaky faucet, the Formica countertops, the worn vinyl flooring…, well, you get the picture. I could have had that lovely new kitchen years ago if not for the exorbitant cost of health insurance.

But, more than that, I dislike that my hardworking husband is giving up a sizable chunk of his paychecks to pay for health insurance that is basically only a catastrophic plan. Any suggestion that we simply go without insurance is not a financial risk we wish to take. Not at our age. So we wait. Eleven more months…

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

18 Responses to “The saga continues: Unsustainable & unaffordable health insurance”

  1. ALLEN WILLEFORD Says:

    So sorry to read about this. We are both age 82 and have very reasonable health insurance costs. We just received our estimates for next year and they will be only $7.20 a month for the monthly premiums and total costs only $33.00 a month for our estimated costs of our medicines. So sorry for you and your husband.

    >

  2. Todd Carver Says:

    Audrey,

    Have you checked into the MNSure website to purchase your insurance? I’m certainly no expert but I’ve got to believe you’ll find insurance less expensive there.

    • Yes, Todd, we’ve even met with MNSure navigators in the past and we are not eligible…because Randy has individual and family coverage offered through work. Never mind that my premium is not covered by Randy’s employer and only half of his premium is paid and that our premiums are unaffordable. According to the navigators we’ve talked to, we are ineligible for MNSure or any assistance due to the employer-offered insurance.

  3. jhc1218 Says:

    Ugh! That is not affordable nor sustainable.
    I’m lucky to work at a large corporation where most of our premium are covered by the company. My share is going up next year 4%. I will be paying $420/mo for family coverage on the higher deductible/HSA plan. Our HSA funds cover our deductible, so at least we get the tax advantage of that. All the numbers are fresh in my mind since I just did 2021 enrollment yesterday. I’ve been working for the same company 18 years, and when I first started premiums were <$100/mo and there was no deductible!
    -Jocelyn

    • Nope, our rates are not affordable or sustainable. Eleven more months. I read an article on MPR yesterday that Joe Biden wants to lower the Medicare eligible age to 60. That would sure help individuals and couples like us who are paying most of our income for health insurance premiums. But I don’t expect that will happen given the current political climate.

  4. lisasimons12 Says:

    Audrey, this is insane! I thought the ACA was supposed to help people out, which I thought it did for most people. Your case, however, is definitely an exception. I know this is one of the reasons people didn’t like the ACA. I’ve always been covered because of my husband’s plan or my plan, so I haven’t had to dig into it much. I’ve heard the opposite with the ACA, too, that it did help others lower their costs. I am so frustrated and sorry for you and your husband. I do hope the Biden presidency moves forward and the age does lower for you. In cases like yours, this is where I do look at counties like the U.K., Sweden, and Canada and think universal coverage with a private option would be the best…it is truly unfair.

    • I don’t know what the answers are, Lisa, but something has to change for individuals like us who slip through a loophole and are paying premiums that we can’t afford for health insurance that is basically only a catastrophic plan (because of the high deductible). The ACA brought many good changes, like coverage for pre-existing conditions, mental healthcare and preventative care. But I do think it really pushed up premiums, especially for us. Eleven more months…until we turn 65 and can get on Medicare.

  5. Sandra Van Erp Says:

    I don’t know, a supplemental policy is still necessary on Medicare. I pay $185/mo for UCare that is offering coverage in Rice County. I also carry a separate dental. UCare is for MN and western WI residents that, if I have this right, focused on MN partners. My MN employer dropped retiree coverage 5 yrs after I retired, sending scads of people into the meetings all the carriers offer. It was a mess as other companies were doing the same. After always having employer coverage, the homework research was a pain. But, I suppose I’m a more informed consumer now. Thank God, my health issues aren’t great by comparison to my age group. I truly pray you get relief. There are some pluses to aging. Obviously employers are going bare bones on employee coverage now. I would like to see the govt pay back what they took from SS, then talk about health care for all. Not the panacea it seems. The bureaucratic admin costs alone, plus availability….I think all the covid costs are being covered 100% by the carriers, Medicare says it is. I’m glad there is some hope for your circumstances.

  6. Kathleen Ahern Says:

    Oh Audrey! It seems like I was just reading your past posts regarding how last year’s premiums increased (again) for you! I can’t even find the words to express my outrage and sadness at what you will have to pay!

    With my husband, Justin on Medicare, a supplemental plan and a separate dental plan and with me on COBRA – we are counting the days until next May when I am eligible for Medicare and supplemental plan(s). Until then, we bite the bucket each month with a $900 COBRA payment. I haven’t found out yet what the monthly COBRA increase will be. And my $900 seems like “a bargain” compared to your monthly amount! It is hard to grasp that amount every month! I am so very sorry!

    I cannot understand why you’re ineligible for a “market” plan just because Randy’s employer offers a plan. That must be a MN oddity. Again, I’m so sorry!

    When you get ready to dive into Medicare and supplement plans and advantage plans – let me know. I will send you the title of a wonderful book (copyright 2020) that HUGELY simplified things for us in that regard. It’s written by a man whose job is helping people navigate these issues. I don’t have the book handy or I would share its title now. After we read that book and then attended an (independent) information session, we were finally able to get a handle on choices, terminology, options, etc.

    In the county we live in, there are no Medicare Advantage Plan options, so we have Justin’s Medicare supplemental plan through Thrivent for Lutherans. We have been really pleased with it. It doesn’t include dental however.

    It seems to me that in 11 months, you’re going to get some great relief. My best guess is that between Medicare and supplement or Advantage plans and dental plans for you both, you will likely pay around $600/month total, with annual deductibles under 700 each. It’s still a lot to pay each month, but so much better than your current and 2021 premiums!

    I want the US to get the whole health insurance racket “fixed.” How can affordable health care not be a human right? Thanks for letting we rant!

    Sending you love and hugs always! Kathleen

    • Kathleen, thank you for your love and care. You and Justin have a lot to pay also and I’m sorry for that.

      Market rate plans here in Minnesota are just as expensive as Randy’s work plan. I’ve gone onto MNSure and checked. The issue is that we don’t qualify for any type of subsidy/tax break (whatever it’s called) because of coverage, for both of us, through Randy’s employer. If we did, that would help. And, yes, I do believe Minnesota has some laws that don’t allow crossing state lines to buy health insurance. Randy mentioned once that the nationally-based company (under which his workplace is an independently-franchised business), has an insurance plan available on a national level. But the stores in MN cannot get on that plan because of MN laws. I think I got that right.

      I’d be happy to get your help when it comes to figuring out Medicare and supplement plans. I’m not looking forward to figuring that out. There are two things I dislike: doing taxes and dealing with insurance. Not my wheelhouse.

      • Sandra Van Erp Says:

        Yes, you are right about the MN out-of-state coverage limitations offers on other natl plans. Logic being, protects MN based carriers. Obviously there are cracks in that logic, you can’t be the only one in this catch-22 almost bankruptcy situation. After your first post, I looked into it. Be sure to check out AARP offerings. My neighbor worked for the railroad, which is national and got coverage he was happy with. Looked reasonable to me. I checked into it too, then stayed with UCare. MN has limitations on all its carriers and employers based here. (“wheelhouse”, there’s a term I haven’t heard in a while.)

      • Maybe Minnesota needs to change some of its laws to make the insurance market more protective of consumers rather than carriers. Yeah, I think that would be a really good idea. Competition typically means better rates for the consumer.

  7. Judith Rowe Says:

    Oh Audrey, I don’t see how these bills are sustainable. Three quarters of your husband’s wages, and still such huge deductibles. And of course, you can’t think of being uninsured, especially during a global pandemic. I do hope you get some relief in the new year, from the new administration.
    UK’s NHS is under pressure right now, but we won’t let it go without a fight.
    I hope you and yours all remain healthy during this stressful time.
    The scientists are making real progress in beating Covid, with thanks to those of us masking and distancing!

    • Change takes time and I know how politics play into all of this. It’s maddening, really. But I am hopeful that with the election of Joe Biden, things will get better in this country, on many levels.

      And, yes, progress toward a vaccine gives me hope. We just all need to work hard to do the right thing for ourselves, and each other, from now until then. You and yours stay well also.


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