Ellen Ratner is the White House correspondent and bureau chief for the Talk Radio News service. She is also Washington bureau chief and political editor for Talkers Magazine. In addition, Ratner is a news analyst at the Fox News Channel.More ↓Less ↑
I finally had a free weekend, so I spent an hour or so looking over my most recent mail that was not a must-be-paid bill. I savor the magazines, loved the catalogues and spent time looking at some real mail, which included a few holiday family updates that people sent early.
Then I opened my bill from United Healthcare informing me that my premium has now increased to a whopping $2,041.01. It said “the new rates reflect the significant increase in healthcare costs in our area.” “Wow,” I said to myself, “people must be luckier than me.”
I had a preapproved thyroid scan which showed significant disease, and only after the scan did United Healthcare disapprove the charge. If I am but one example of this shell game, how is it that the costs have gone up almost $250 a month?
Of course, I am old, but not eligible for Medicare. At 61, I have four years to go.
Yes, I lost my retina in my right eye, but I have not had any problems other than that thyroid scan in six years. When I try for a group rate for my business, which includes me, our costs go through the roof. Without me, health insurance for our employees is quite doable. It doesn’t matter that I have more energy than the 20-somethings or that I am in shape. I am old by the standards of the actuaries and, therefore, have to pay through the nose. I pay more for health insurance than my rent.
The good news is that if I make the payments for the next 13 months, I will soon be able to take advantage of the Affordable Care Act. Affordable is the operative word here because what I have is not affordable. According to the American Public Health Association, I will be able to shop for health insurance in a virtual marketplace and be able to get insurance for my small business. Companies will not be able to charge higher premiums based on the fact that I am female or because of my previous health status. I will get a minimum set of benefits, and there will not be lifetime caps on my benefits. There is even a provision on how the insurance companies must spend their money, and it can’t be all executive salaries and marketing.
Some of the people reading this might think that it is unfair government interference. Really? Recently I read about some hospitals being in trouble for jacking up prices. This was not breaking news to me. I worked for almost 20 years in health care and for six of those in a for-profit health-care company. Managers were routinely called on the carpet for not having the treatment centers ancillary charges (tests, etc.) as a larger percentage of the daily room-and-board charge. That isn’t good health care. It is pure profit, and that isn’t good for anyone except the shareholders.
Groups like FamiliesUSA are keeping the pressure on. They are informing consumers and making sure Congress pays attention to people who can’t afford health insurance or can’t get it or people like me, who pay though the nose. It is a noble effort. Spending more than $2,000 a month for health insurance can’t be great for the economy. It sure isn’t great for me. I could be putting that $2,000 toward my business, toward investing in growth for my company. Instead, I am putting money into a premium that most likely doesn’t reflect real controls on costs.
Bring on Obamacare! It has to get better than this.