Thursday, November 10, 2011

My health insurance company is bracing for the worst

I just got a letter from my insurance company telling me that as of January 1, my premium will go up almost $100 a month. Why? Because I turned 45.

This same thing happened five years ago, when I turned 40. It was a different insurance company, but as soon as I hit the big 4-0, apparently the chances of me suddenly coming down with some middle-age malady skyrockets, so my premium follows suit.

I guess if I had health issues I'd understand. But I don't. In fact, I probably take better care of myself now than I did in my 20s and 30s. Not to jinx myself, but I've never broken a bone. I've never had major surgery. I've never had any sort of life-threatening illness. I've never been hospitalized other than giving birth and an unfortunate incident involving a slightly-septic knee injury (and a bottle of rum).

Which is why, at age 45, I balk at the prospect of spending hundreds of dollars a month on this "hit by a bus" medical insurance, which is basically a high deductible plan that sticks me with the first $5,000 of any catastrophic medical malady that might occur, like getting hit by a bus.

Thankfully, this insurance DOES cover wellness checks. Honestly, I think any insurance that doesn't is worthless. If I'm paying hundreds a month to you people, at least thrown in a yearly medical exam, ob/gyn visit and mammogram just to make sure things are ticking away properly. I understand my drop in the bucket is going toward all the other people's claims, but cut me that small break, please. You're killing me.

And dental? Don't get me started. I haven't had dental insurance in years. So what do I do? I don't go to the dentist. Why? Because it's money out of my pocket. And how is that working out for me? It means I have an emergency appointment to look at a tooth that's been giving me so much pain I can't even eat on that side. I have a feeling this is going to cost me.

Same with vision. I know vision insurance is probably a thing of the past, but that's what's going south faster than my health. Do I remember to have my yearly eye exam? No. I'm just glad they can get me in quickly when I realize I can no longer read the signs on the highway.

I wish medical insurance premiums had discounts like car insurances do. I mean, I know you'll get a better rate if you don't smoke or drink or skydive, but hey, give me a discount for exercising five days a week. Or by eating the recommended daily allowance of fruit and vegetables a day. Or by not drinking soda. Something.

When I do my monthly budget, I try to see what line items I can decrease, like my cable, my phone or my grocery bill. Insurance never seems to be a negotiable. It's kind of like property taxes - you begrudgingly fork over the money but rarely seem to see the payout.

I know I'm lucky - there are people out there with major medical conditions that they either can't pay even after insurance or worse yet, are denied insurance coverage all together. I can't imagine having to decide between medications or groceries. So in comparison to them, I'm living the high life with my couple hundred dollar a month premium and few doctor bills.

My point is, I wish there was a better way. A more affordable way. A fairer way. Maybe we healthy people get lower premiums if we agree to help out a sick person in financial straits. Maybe we restructure the whole healthcare system to reflect the fact that everyone's medical plate is different. Maybe we mandate that doctors allow certain percentage discounts to patients who truly need them.

I don't know. I don't claim to be an expert in the health insurance field. But apparently after 45, I'm going to have enough claims that the insurance industry feels I should pay into now, just in case.

Let's hear it for health.

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