A Stockton woman called me not to complain about the Affordable Care Act -- she truly believes it is beneficial for many people -- but rather to speak up for a bunch of folks who are facing monumental increases in insurance premiums.
Patty, who asked that her last name not be used because of the personal nature of the information she shared, worked hard for three decades as a nurse, retiring several years ago as a hospital operating room manager. She then moved to Stockton to take care of her ailing mother, who passed away last year.
Now 61, Patty has done quite well with investments and rental properties, earning about $80,000 a year. She buys her own health insurance and pays attention to her health, suffering only from borderline high blood pressure that has shown improvement in the past year.
Patty's current health insurance costs her $484 a month for a $3,500 deductible PPO plan.
"Now my private insurance will triple, and I can't afford it," Patty said. "I don't want to pay one-quarter of my income for insurance."
The new product for 2014 that has been offered to Patty will cost her about $1,300 a month for a $6,000 deductible plan. She makes too much for subsidized coverage through California's health insurance marketplace, Covered California, and is too young for Medicare. She has consulted with her insurance agent and her accountant, and they're still looking at alternatives.
"We are looking at a $20,000 deductible plan for insurance. I don't have the option of staying with the care I've had, and that is not fair. ... I'm really, really worried. Where do I turn? At this point I don't think anybody really knows what is going to happen," Patty said.
A spokesman for the insurer that provided Patty her coverage offer said the quote is plausible.
"All coverage is changing. Health plans as a result of the Affordable Care Act are being required to cover more things than they usually do. For instance, it covers pediatric dental care even for those who don't have any children. There are no lifetime limits. These things are good, but they come with a cost," Health Net of California spokesman Brad Kieffer said. "They are getting a richer level of benefits as a result of the (Affordable Care Act)."
As Patty wondered aloud what she could do, I thought California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones might be able to help. Nope.
"Most people are really surprised to learn that the insurance commissioner actually has no authority over health insurance rates," said Nancy Kincaid, spokeswoman for the commissioner. "He's used the bully pulpit to call health insurers out, and in some cases he's been successful. (But) they can use and charge whatever they want, and they do."
Patty and all those who earn a sizable income but lack access to employer-sponsored health care are now facing the severe sticker shock of what the insurers have been saying for some time. With no reasonable solution in sight, an exasperated Patty is giving serious consideration to moving to Costa Rica.
Contact Joe Goldeen at 209-546-8278 or firstname.lastname@example.org.