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
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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


My health insurance premium goes through the roof & I’m mad as… November 4, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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But still, I was hopeful it wasn’t.

And I am raging mad. I’d write mad as h*** except I prefer not to swear.

On Monday I received a packet of information from my health insurance carrier, PreferredOne. It contained not a single word of good news.

The letter I received from my health insurance carrier.

The letter I received from my health insurance carrier.

Instead, I was notified that, if I stay with my current SignatureChoice Plus plan with a $2,000 deductible, copay and 100 percent coinsurance, my monthly premium will skyrocket a whopping 76 percent.

That’s right. Seventy-six percent.

My new monthly premium, effective January 1, will be $777 compared to my current $441.

Are you kidding? I cannot even begin to express how angry I am at this ridiculous rate increase. If this is affordable health insurance, then I wonder what the definition is of unaffordable health insurance.

Likewise, my husband is seeing a similar increase in the cost of his health insurance. His employer pays half his premium, which will be $778/month effective January 1.

We insure our college-aged son, too, through a plan offered at his East Coast university. At $185/month, that seems dirt cheap.

I have no idea what we are going to do. None. But to pay $1,351/month in health insurance premiums is not affordable on our income.

Some of my choices if I stay with PreferredOne.

Some of my choices if I stay with PreferredOne.

I will spend the next few weeks exploring options. After my nightmarish experience with MNSure last year, I am hesitant to try that route. But I’ll grit my teeth, bite my tongue (maybe), attempt to check my disdain and wade through the process which is sure to anger and frustrate me. I anticipate a system overload as nearly 60 percent of those purchasing insurance through MNSure last year were with PreferredOne. Now that Golden Valley based company has dropped out of MNSure and all those folks, plus individuals like me, will be shopping for new plans.

Early on I was optimistic that healthcare reform might work, that costs might be contained, that the average person could afford health insurance. No more.

HOW ABOUT YOU? Are you, like my husband and me, facing unaffordable health insurance premiums? What are you going to do?

What’s your take on this mess? At whom should my anger be directed? Politicians? Health insurance companies? Who?

We need some accountability here.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Sick of high healthcare costs November 27, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 12:56 PM
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MY HEALTH INSURANCE premium arrived in the mail yesterday. Happy holidays!


It’s due shortly before Christmas.

Bah! Humbug!

In mid-June, the premium increased from $801 to $813 for three months of coverage. Do the math. That’s $271 per month or $3,252 a year.

I am not happy.

Here’s the deal. I foolishly thought healthcare reform would mean lower premiums and lower costs for medical visits, in other words, more affordable healthcare for families like mine. We are not wealthy. We live in a modest home in a modest neighborhood. We have no debt. We spend carefully and wisely.

But when it comes to health insurance, I believe the word “affordable” cannot fit, cannot even be squeezed, into the same sentence.

I pay $271 a month for coverage with a $3,000 deductible. In other words, my coverage is basically major medical.

I’ve evaluated getting onto my husband’s plan at work. That would cost me even more than the individual policy I have as a self-employed writer. His employer pays only a small portion of his health insurance premium and my spouse, too, has a high deductible.

I haven’t crunched the numbers lately, but my family (which also includes one still-at-home 16-year-old) is forking out a lot of money every month for health insurance.

Yet, we rarely go to the doctor because of the high deductibles and the high cost of healthcare. Cost is a great deterrent for skipping routine exams. I’m just being honest here.

Another problem I face is past medical history. I had total hip replacement surgery in 2008. I will need a new, and very costly, hip in 15 – 20 years. Insurance companies have these policies about pre-existing conditions.  So, even if I was to look for different insurance, the hip would likely be excluded from coverage.

I have no answers to any of this. I just know that I am sick and tired of the high cost of health insurance and of healthcare.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS on the topic and do you have any answers? What are you spending every month on health insurance premiums?

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling