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(Updated 2/4/13)

We just received a 15% premium increase notice from Blue Cross that brought premiums for our family of four--my husband Tamir, myself and our two youngest children--to $2,176 per month as of February 1. This is an increase of $284.00 per month, and is in addition to three other increases since October 2010. Our premiums have gone up more than $800 per month in just over two years. The monthly insurance payment is now significantly more than our mortgage payment!

It is impossible for us to change our health insurance to a more affordable plan because my husband has an incurable cancer. Even with insurance, we struggle to get Anthem’s permission for tests and other care. He has been unable to work for years now; I run a small in-home childcare business and have lost many families during these recession years.

We have been Anthem customers for 30 years. Our current plan is the HMO SAVER 7879, which we have had for nearly 16 years, since we moved to San Diego. We have always paid our premiums on time. When our two older kids went off our plan due to their ages we got them their own Anthem Blue Cross plans.

I have tried through many Anthem customer service representatives to let  Anthem know how all of these increases are killing our family. I even wrote in January to Pam Kehaly, the new CEO at Anthem Blue Cross of California, about our plight, but no one seems to care.

Our health insurance premiums are making it almost impossible to hold our heads above water. We don't do anything like go to the movies or go out to eat or travel any more--we just pay our health insurance and our mortgage, trying to save our house.

All of these outrageous increases are affecting my health as well, worrying about how in the world we are going to pay our bills. Do we become homeless, not feed our family, quit paying the mortgage or lose our insurance and become a burden on the state?

Insurance companies keep trying to blame federal health reform for their rates. But our plan was “grandfathered” under health reform, meaning that it still doesn’t have to cover preventive services upfront. If our doctor recommended a colonoscopy screening, for instance, we’d still be out up to the $3,000 deductible.

It is sad to read articles that Anthem is purging their sickest customers while spending millions on exorbitant salaries and retreats for their executives. I learned that WellPoint’s last CEO, Angela Braly, received a 51% pay increase ($13.1 million or more) while we were at the same time victims of a proposed 39% rate increase. I was told by an Anthem representative that Angela worked very hard and had a lot of employees to take care of so she warranted her salary! I also work very hard but missed out on the million-dollar income.

I feel like Anthem, with its incessant double-digit increases, is treating Californians who struggle to get and keep access to health care like ATM machines. The human cost of their profits seems invisible to them.

 

(updated 03/08/12)

We are a family of six who are barely keeping our heads above water. We are being financially crushed by the $1,865 a month premium for our Anthem Blue Cross HMO “Saver” plan, which went up $500 in less than two years. Now we got a notice that it's going up a little more, to $1891 a month in in May. It's the same as our mortgage payment.

We don't do anything like go to the movies or go out to eat or travel any more--we just pay our health insurance and our mortgage, trying to save our house.

Our older two children were forced off our family plan, which we bought about 15 years ago, due to their ages. One has insurance that he pays for through his law school. We pay for a separate plan for our second oldest, now unemployed because of the economy. That one was $110 a month when she bought it in January. She just got a notice that it would go up May 1 to  to $141, which we're also paying.

Our family HMO plan now covers me, my husband, our 20-year-old daughter and 17-year-old son. It is impossible for us to change our health insurance to a more affordable plan because my husband has an incurable cancer. He can’t work, and my income from an in-home childcare business is suffering from the economy—many of my client parents have lost their jobs.

Blue Cross made things even worse by changing our deductible. Our deductible is up from $1,500 to $1750 for hospitalization, and our overall deductible is $3,000 per person, $6,000 for the family. I called Anthem and was told that they could change any plan and they decide the amounts. In the premium notice it also states that they could havemore than one increase a year.

My husband urgently needs some tests now and we can’t get them because Anthem won’t even tell us what our cost will be or if they’re covered.

Really, the only thing that “changes” is that the rates go up and coverage gets more restricted.

Insurance companies keep trying to blame health reform for their rates. But our plan is “grandfathered” under health reform, meaning that it still doesn’t have to cover preventive services upfront. If our doctor recommended a colonoscopy screening, for instance, we’d still be out up to the $3,000 deductible.

Even though the Department of Managed Health Care said the last round of increases were unjustified, Anthem raised them anyhow. What good are regulators if they can’t even stop unjustified rate increases?

We do not want to become a burden on the government and seek free services but we need help with fighting these unfair healthcare rates. We are the less than middle class who can’t afford our bills.

Our glimmer of hope is that this gouging on healthcare rates will be regulated and that somehow healthcare will become more affordable for all of us.