Laurel Kaufer – San Fernando Valley, CA

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As a self-employed single mother with two sons, I have struggled for more than a decade to balance the cost of health care and health insurance with the need to seek medical help. Our high-deductible health insurance policy with Blue Cross meant wrenching days of weighing a child’s spiking fever or sports injury against the out-of-pocket cost of seeing a doctor—or, even worse, going to an emergency room.

My sons are nearly grown now, and mercifully healthy, but the rising cost of health insurance hasn’t gone away. In 2009, our monthly premiums in a Blue Cross family plan rose to $824, an increase of more than 300% from our 2001 premium.

At that point, with both sons in college, I was able to get them individual plans with Blue Shield that cost only a little less but, because of their youth, were unlikely to rise as fast as mine. The monthly premiums went to $445 for me, and $179 for each son–$803 a month total.

Their premiums haven’t gone up since then, but mine continue to rise —from $445 a month in August 2010 to $626 in July 2011—a 41% increase in a year. Blue Cross also unilaterally raised my deductible from $1500 to $1750, raised the out of pocket limit from $6,000 to $7,050, and increased prescription drug costs. At this rate, my individual policy will soon cost more than our family policy did in 2009.

I can’t just go to another insurance company. I tried that but was deemed uninsurable by Blue Shield for minor ailments, some old surgical staples in my wrist and seasonal allergies.

So I’m stuck with Blue Cross, from which I am required to seek pre-approval before I can expect to receive coverage. There is no rational reason that the insurance companies should not be held to the same standard, and be required to seek pre-approval from regulators before demanding another double-digit premium increase from me.

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