Monday, September 21, 2009

How Can This Be?

I used to like opening the mail. A letter, a postcard, a sale announcement and the local weekly newspaper accompanying a bill or two, all placed in the mailbox just to the left of the front door, underneath the house numbers. The mailman was a friendly and familiar face. He shared lemonade and iced tea and once I even got to have ginger ale before lunch because he would share it with me.

Now, sometimes I get my mail and sometimes I don't because it's mixed up with my neighbors' deliveries. And when it does arrive, it's advertisements for stores I've never heard of and solicitations and bills. And it's the bills I want to talk about.

Actually, it's one bill in particular. Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Arizona has raised our premium 9.2%. I just had TBG show me how to figure it out on the calculator (my miserable math skills will make for a very interesting post someday) and it's true.

We were healthier last year than we'd been the year before. In fact, the doctor told TBG last week that he is the healthiest patient in their practise. I didn't break anything except the alignment of my spine, and I paid for my physical therapy out-of-pocket since the insurance wouldn't cover it anyway. We only billed BCBSAZ for routine check-ups and blood work. True, my cholesterol is not responding to the statins (when did this happen to me??????) but that's a work in progress with a reasonable solution on the near horizon. And once I'm on the right dosage of the right medication I'll be less of a risk factor than I am now.

And they still raised the premium.

We demonstrate responsible, adult behavior. We exercise regularly. We get enough sleep. We take vitamins and eat a fairly healthy diet. We don't abuse our bodies and they repay us by remaining functional and pain-free. We get our 20 minutes of vitamin D and then cover up with sunscreen every single day. Where's my reward for good behavior?

I ought to be precise here: we are pain free except for TBG's knee. Or, as we now call it, his pre-existing condition. Since I'm younger, we're insured under my name. This saves us a small fortune in premiums. Foolish people that we were, we thought that the Blue Cross Blue Shield policy we had in California would continue to cover us when we moved to Arizona. Nope, that was not the case. There were probably steps we could have taken years ago to preclude our winding up in this situation, but who knew? We are well educated in many things, but apparently health insurance was not one of them. What we didn't know was surprising, and came back to bite us in the buttock-al region.

As I said, we were fools. There was another application process and a physical exam and a review of our records and suddenly, the knee that had been a problem when we moved to California but was still covered there, the knee that is the only thing (says his proud spouse) that's keeping TBG from competing in the Senior Olympics, the knee that is the only body part that's ever gone wrong with his body and which is the main reason he's insured at all, that they won't cover. It's excluded from our policy.

Sure, I could have argued with them. But I didn't have the energy. Again, foolishly, I assumed that our premiums would stay low and seem inexpensive when compared to the rates in California. Not. Even. Close. I turned 55 and all of a sudden the rate went up. Not a bump or a mogul, but conjure up a small hill and you'll be close to how I felt. Not only did the number make me feel old, but the insurance company smashed me into an age bracket that was costing me money. And then, last year, the rates went up again. I joined an affiliation policy with AAA and saved a fair percentage of the BCBSAZ rate hike that way. We also raised our deductible, basically turning the policy into what we used to call a major medical policy.

I think I'm out of tricks this time. If it were an appliance repair, I'd find another mechanic. If it were a car purchase, I'd go to another dealer. If it were a manicure, I'd change shops. This is different. I can't shop around; there's really no place else to go. We're dragging our pre-existing condition along with us.

It strikes me as odd, though, that in a time where every business is cutting prices and making deals, BCBSAZ raises my rates with impunity. I hate being part of a captive audience. It's not fair. I'm paying lots of money for less coverage than we need, the price keeps going up and there's nothing I can do.

I wonder if the Republicans who were sitting on their hands during President Obama's speech last week have pre-existing conditions? Do they have young adult children who want to strike out on their own? Do they have neighbors who want to retire to another state? Do they understand the ins and outs of their policies?

If they do, could one of them come over and explain mine to me? And while she's at it, perhaps she could help me understand why a 9.2% increase every 12 months is acceptable. Or appropriate. Or helpful. I'd much rather take those dollars and spend them in a local shop or restaurant.

This isn't something that's hurting a small segment of the people. We're all noticing it. I'm going to the next Tea Party event with a clipboard and one question - "Do you and your family have health insurance that covers what you need it to cover?" My guess is they'll all say yes.

Once they slip over to the other side of the slope, by moving or changing jobs or tearing an ACL, I bet they'll be singing a different tune.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't yet attended a high school reunion since I moved from the midwest to SoCal soon after college.

    I would be experiencing the same anxiety. I'm dying to ready your follow-up post after the reunion!


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