Tama Greenberg – San Francisco, CA

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I’ve been self-employed for 20 years, but went back to school about five years ago and switched from marketing to interior design. I also sell my own art. The recession clobbered me just as I was getting started. If I hadn’t been frugal when times were better and saved a pretty good nest egg, I wouldn’t be able to pay for my health insurance now.

I’ve had Anthem Blue Cross since 1991. It’s gone up increasingly since, but you have to have it. Without insurance I would not get the managed care prices for the minimal medical care I do get, and it is necessary if something catastrophic should happen.

My deductible is now $5,000 a year. It was $1,500 for a long time, but in 2002 my premium nearly doubled and in 2003 I had to go to a $2,500 deductible—then a couple of years later to $5,000. The only time I ever met the deductible was in 2000, so my monthly premium is nothing but catastrophic backup.

I was lucky last year…  Blue Cross announced it was going to increase my premium by 39% but there was a big public brouhaha and the Department of Insurance got them to rescind the increase. But that luck didn’t last. This year, Blue Cross sent me a notice saying that my rate would increase 19.6%, or $104 a month (after suggesting the increase was going to be even higher, at 29.9%). Even with the big jumps in deductible, my premium has gone from $91 a month in 1995 to $635 a month now.

I don’t understand why in California the auto insurance companies have to be transparent and justify their increases to the Insurance Department, and increases can be rejected—but none of that applies to health insurers. It was great when public protest backed down Blue Cross last year, but that’s a one-time success. We really need the same kind of regulation that we have for auto insurance.

With my big deductible, I have to weigh going to the doctor for anything but an emergency. Yet I feel lucky to be insured at all.

What’s bugging me lately is that I send my payment to Blue Cross in time for them to get it by the 1st of the month, but in two different months I’ve gotten nonpayment notices and threats of cancellation. Yet when I check my bank account I see that the check has been cashed.

I feel like they are trying to get rid of me, even though Blue Cross has made money on me in the last decade as my premiums have exceeded expenditures they have made for my limited medical expenses.

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