Like many health care subscribers who have been with one provider for many years, electronics engineer Michael Fry thought he had some minimal security from his health plan. He doesn’t think that anymore, after receiving a notice from Kaiser that pushes his monthly premium up by 73 percent, to $961, beginning Jan. 1.
The increase is $406 and means he and his wife will have to pay $11,532 next year. There is also a new $200 daily hospital co-pay, and a regular office co-pay increase to $25.
Fry, who has spent hours on the Internet researching health care since his notice arrived, says he and his wife can weather the storm – in the short term. "We could ride through a year of this," he said. But after that they would be in trouble.
And not just financial trouble: this price gouging takes away something that you can’t put a dollar value on: security and a sense of well being and optimism about the future. "Now you think, what if I had to go to the hospital for a month?"
"It’s a real violation of security," Fry says. "You think that you’re under a nice umbrella. It’s a fatal event in what’s become a dysfunctional relationship."
This is the second straight increase. "Last year was quite a shock," Fry says. His premium went from $450 to $550. But when he opened the envelope this year, "the world became a dark place."
It is all the more alarming, he says, because Kaiser heretofore has been "a moderating force" in a world of health care excesses, "a real giant. Now they are accelerating the increases."
Fry, a San Diego native who lives in Poway and attended San Diego State University, has been with Kaiser since 1967. He has not had serious complaints with the coverage although he warns that "you have to be proactive with Kaiser. You’ll fall through the cracks if you’re not vigilant."
Still, he was satisfied, until the rates started shooting into the stratosphere. Now he’s angry, and worried, and he wants to the state to step in and regulate the health care giant. "There needs to be governmental control of the rates," Fry says.
He adds that employers also are suffering. "Kaiser has existing contracts with huge employers," and they, too, are struggling to keep up with increases.
As bad as it is for him, Fry worries about those who are even less able to pay for health care coverage. "The whole bottom third is going to fall off the charts," he says. "They’re low-income people and they’re going to do without. They’re going to die quietly, at home or in emergency rooms."