My health insurance company, Aetna, sent me a letter on Thursday. It was polite, up until the point where they raised our monthly premium 25%. On the same day, Aetna announced a 16% jump in their second-quarter earnings.
I have been an Aetna customer for years. They took good care of us. But we officially cannot afford them anymore. My husband is a self-employed carpenter. I am a self-employed writer. That means we don’t have any companies helping to pay our premiums. (The policies offered by SCBWI and the Author’s Guild do not extend to where I live. Think long and hard about this, friends, before leaving your day job to become an author.)
With the rate hike, we are looking at paying $18,000 next year just in premiums – for two people. (We do not have any dental or vision coverage, but we do have a decent prescription plan.) We cannot afford to basically spend an entire salary on health insurance.
Now don’t go feeling sorry for me. We will find other coverage. BH spent half of yesterday working the phones and we have a couple of different options. The next insurance company that we go to will be expensive, but not out-of-reach. The other option is that one of us could get a job that offers benefits. If any local colleges want to hire me to teach, I’d do it for a minimal salary as long as I could have benefits. Regardless, we will find a way to make this work.
But you know what really makes me mad? Makes me want to scream and hurl spears? Makes me want to chain myself to the Washington Monument or wear a sandwich board that says SHAME while walking back and forth in front of the homes of health insurance execs like UnitedHealth Group CEO William McGuire, who made $125 million in 2005?
Too many people don’t have the choices I have. In my country, which I dearly love, having a job with benefits can mean the difference between life or death. About 18,000 people died last year because they didn’t have insurance. Fifty-four million people were uninsured at one point or another in 2006. Fifty-four million – this is an obscenity.
Our local newspaper is always announcing a spaghetti dinner or a pancake breakfast or a bake sale to raise money for someone’s surgery or chemotherapy. This is an abomination.
I am not the only person who has snapped about this. In a recent poll, health care was the second-most important issue that voters wanted to hear presidential candidates discuss, behind only the Iraq War. I don’t want them to talk about it. I want them to be leaders and make a change for the good.
If you are lucky enough to be covered and to have premiums that you can afford (this could change tomorrow), I ask you to do me a favor. Spend a little time figuring out what it would cost you if your employer dropped your coverage. After you pick yourself up off the floor, please write a letter to your congressional representatives and demand that they quit sucking up to the health insurance lobby.
I’m really tired of letting the bad guys win.