Insurance Rates … Up, Up, and Away

So my company sent a company-wide e-mail on December 22nd. It was a summary of the changes to our insurance plan for 2010. It was laced with phrases like “exciting changes,” and “choices,” and “highlights,” but even though the wrapping looked like  a shiny new Christmas present, it turned out to be a giant lump of coal.

If you have a chronic illness, I’m sure you know where this is going. The promised “choices” were nothing more than a disguise for a new ala carte plan which replaced our previous all-inclusive plan. Now I can “choose” one of three medical plans, one of two dental plans and a vision plan. In the past, I received all three for one lump sum. Now I pay for each component individually.

Let me be fair. My previous insurance coverage was generous by American standards. I have heard of better plans, but only for members of unions. I had a 90/10 plan and my premium was only $100/month for both my husband and me. That premium included medical, dental, and even vision coverage. Prescription drugs were not cheap, but they were reasonable. This package was one of the main reasons that I choose the job I am currently in. The insurance benefits far outweighed the higher salaries offered by other potential employees.

Even with this great coverage, though, I still faced ongoing expenses. I estimate that my routine medical and dental costs last year, including my premium, were a little over $2500.

This year, I will be forced to reduce my dental coverage and drop my vision coverage. I have run the numbers over and over again and I am astounded.  I am looking at a 47% increase in medical costs over last year! For the same exact services! And even with a cost of living increase, I am facing a reduction in my take home pay.

It feels like a swift punch to the stomach. What did I do to deserve this? I work hard and do a good job for my employer. I pay my taxes and bills on time and I am healthier than most of the people I know who do not have chronic health conditions. My annual review was positive, but I am being “rewarded” with a reduction in pay.  The whole thing just makes me sick and angry at the same time.

When will this nonsense end? I realize that my company is forced to incur more and more expense for health coverage and so must pass more of the cost on to me, but I also recognize that their eye is on the bottom line. I do not for a minute kid myself with the notion that they care more about my well-being than the bottom line in the ledger book.

I guess there is no easy answer here.  All I can say is that this really stinks. Certainly we can all agree that this system is broken and it is costing us all more money and stress than is necessary. It is times like these that I really miss my German insurance plan. And the peace-of-mind that came along with it.

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