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Mandatory Private Insurance Is Unaffordable

Read what happened when Ron flew 3,000 miles from Massachusetts to California to explain to lawmakers why mandatory private insurance is unaffordable for his family.

I'm Ron Norton, an adjunct professor of radiology and an administrator at a Massachusetts community college. But like 66% of our community college teachers, I'm considered an independent contractor and don't get health insurance.

After a few years of making about $21,000, I made closer to $40,000 last year because I'm also doing an administrative job. Under the Massachusetts insurance law my family won't get a subsidy because even though my wife has health insurance with her employer, her income is counted against my eligibility.

Her small employer doesn't offer family insurance. I imagine lots of California families are in the same situation.

I'm 47 and have no health problems but the cheapest individual plan available in Massachusetts is $234 a month. That's 6.8% of my salary. That "cheap" plan has a $2,000 per person deductible pushing the cost up to 12.7% of my gross salary. Even if I bought the policy I still wouldn't have affordable health care, and the number of doctors is very limited.

I have a daughter, and it gets much worse if I want to insure her. The cheapest plan for the two of us is $440 a month, $5280 a year. That's 11.6% of my income alone. The cheapest medium-range plan - without the huge deductibles - is $632 a month, nearly 20% of my own salary.

I think that many people who struggle to buy a policy this year will find themselves priced out of the market in a year or two as premiums spiral upward. That's already started to happen in Massachusetts, with insurance companies talking about double-digit premium increases.

Think about it: families use their savings to pay for the policy and can't afford it the next year or the year after, ending up both uninsured and with no savings. That's one reason I refuse to use up my own small savings on mandatory insurance.

I'll probably have to quit teaching after this year, even though I love it, and look for a clinical radiology technologist job with benefits.

After a few years of making $21,000 I'm trying to dig out of a hole. A lot of my students will be in a similar bind, buried in student debt even if they're making decent pay.

We drive old cars and live a frugal life, but I need to pay for things like auto repairs, household appliances that need to be replaced and my daughter's orthodontia.

Our only family extra is my daughter's dancing lessons, to which she's devoted. That would be the first but not the last thing to go. It would just crush her.

All this so insurance companies can make more money.

If I lived in California I wouldn't be any better off.

I would have to insure both myself and my daughter, and we wouldn't be eligible for a tax credit or any automatic exemptions. The so-called mid-range plan that the state is considering would cost at least $350 a month, 11% of my salary. Add to that the plan's $2,500 deductible and I'd pay more than 17% of my salary. Plus the limit on out of pocket payments is $15,000. It's an expensive product that we could never afford to actually use.

I wish our government would stop catering to the private insurance industry and calling it universal health care. It's not, and the biggest victims of this scam are the middle class.