When the envelope came in the mail, I tossed it aside until I was ready to open it. I knew the letter inside would bear depressing news. I knew I would sigh and be upset after reading it.
I finally opened the envelope two weeks ago. Inside was the annual notice from our health insurance company, stating our premiums for the coming year. The premiums have always gone up, usually between 60 to 100 dollars a month (720 to 1,200 dollars a year). This year, our monthly premium is increasing 578 dollars (and that doesn't include the premium for pediatric dental insurance). I couldn't believe it. How can a company that is supposedly in the business of helping people be capable of this kind of rate increase?
Because they're concerned about their bottom line. According to comments from the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Commerce, our health insurance company and others in Minnesota had to pay out more for claims last year than they took in through premiums. So, those companies applied for rate increases and the commerce department approved them. The commerce department approved rate increases of up to 49 percent, but, somehow, our rate went up 57 percent. The department also said these rate increases will only affect 6 percent of the population. Gee, am I thrilled to be part of the group.
Our new monthly premium results in an annual increase of 6,936 dollars. That figure might not sound big to some, but for us, it is. Health insurance was already our largest personal expenditure by a long shot. It made up over a quarter of our family living expenses.
After I did the math, I almost lost my cool. Where are we going to find 7,000 extra dollars when the 2016 milk price is expected to hover around 14 dollars for at least half the year?
I've thought through several options for generating 7,000 dollars and, ironically, all of them would have negative impacts on our health.
We could milk more cows, but I don't think our bodies could handle it. Our bodies already require ridiculous amounts of coffee and ibuprofen to function.
We could spend less on vacations and relief milking. But every health expert in the country touts the benefits of taking time off and we see that benefit, too.
We could spend less on groceries. By buying fewer fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, and whole grains and replacing those calories with cheap, packaged foods, I could slash our family's grocery bill. Thank goodness we won't have to skimp on milk or meat.
The other option - investing less in our business and using those dollars to pay for health insurance - would have a negative impact on our business.
The whole situation is more than upsetting. Here we are, being told that we'll need to pay close to 20,000 dollars next year for a product we barely use. Our policy covers one preventative care visit a year for each of us; we pay for everything other than those check-ups because our deductibles are set at 5,000 dollars.
I have an appointment on Monday with our insurance agent to discuss options for our policy. I know it won't end well. I have exercised every bit of my positive attitude and still can't see any good coming from this. We'll either have to raise our deductibles again, find a new company or switch networks. When we reenrolled a couple years ago, we kept a policy with a premium network that allowed us access to the best hospitals in Minnesota if something were to happen to one of us. Whichever option we choose, it will have a negative impact on our health or our business in the event of an accident or serious health condition.
I'm sure my agent and I will discuss MNSure options, too. The Department of Commerce encouraged consumers in the individual market, like us, to consider purchasing our insurance through MNSure, since policies purchased through the exchange could qualify for federal financial assistance. I'm not holding my breath, but it may be to our advantage to trade hours of paperwork for a lower premium.
It would be especially gratifying to tell our health insurance company to take a hike, but we cannot afford to not have health insurance and, now, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, that option is no longer legal. This is the ultimate definition of frustration.
I'll end my rant now. Some things in life just seem unfair and this will be one of them. Please forgive me for venting my frustrations; I know I should be thankful to have access to health care at all.