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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Assurant Jacks My Health Premium 23%

I went to bed cussing and swearing inside. My health insurer, Assurant, keeps finding ways to suck up whatever little savings my wife and I manage to make in our household budget.

Last year we were able to save a little bit on our health insurance by moving Erin to the group policy Luther Seminary offers. The premium for our little one and me to remain on our individual policy thus came down to $565.05 per quarter.

Letter comes yesterday from the bastards (and I struggle to restrict myself to that one curse) at Assurant saying our quarterly premium is increasing to $695.01. That's a 23% increase. Not as bad as the 39% increase Anthem would like to foist on Robert Reich and other Californians... but still a hard hit to a family living on a single South Dakota income.

$520 more. That's the summer family trip. That's twenty relatively cheap dates with my wife (and she's already lucky if she gets that many a year from cheapskate me). That's a regular cell phone plan (which we don't have) or cable (which we don't have) or two repaired windshields (which we've put off for over a year).

That's a decent contribution to a real Democrat who would stand up to challenge John Thune this fall and fight for real health care reform.

But surely I'm getting something for this exorbitant rate hike?
  • Quality health care? No. We haven't made a claim on Assurant yet.
  • Financial peace of mind? No. Living on $35K/year, we can't afford much beyond this policy. It carries a $7500 family deductible. If we get really sick, we're still in a big financial hole.
  • Freedom of choice? No. I can't really choose a doctor, because I can't afford a regular visit in the first place. I can't really choose to shop around, because other insurers are jacking their rates the same. I can't really choose not to eat the rate hike, because I can't afford to let myself or daughter lose continuous coverage. The only choice I have is to change my family deductible to $10,000. That would make my premium rise only 8%. Yay: I can pay more to make my crappy policy even crappier.
The big things I'm supposed to get from my insurance, I don't. The only things I get from this premium are (1) keeping myself and my daughter insurable and (2) paying for my neighbors' health care costs. Of course, I'm also paying for the lawyers who fight to keep Assurant from paying for my neighbors' health care costs.

If I want to pay money just to help my neighbors, I'll do it through charity and taxes, not a for-profit gaggle of shysters whom I can't trust to provide the benefits I'm paying for. Give me that public option! (And holy cow—Harry Reid might get the Senate back on that horse!)

Stephanie, drop by some time and explain to me how a 23% rate hike for bupkis is really better than the bill you voted against?


  1. Because money is tight healthy people are dropping their individual plans. A smaller pool with higher sick to healthy ratio raises rates. That's their market explanation. At this point I wish the Dems would just present reforms one step at a time: 1) Competition across state lines 2) Portability 3) Mandatory Enrollment 4) ....

    If prioritized and presented that simply no one that wants to get reelected could stand in the way.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Instead of a quarter think about paying that out every month instead...and that's cheap compared to some of my peers in the photography business.

  4. Don't miss Paul Krugman's explication of what's going on -- one of the most concise I've read recently: (NYT, 2/19, California Death Spiral

  5. For such a high deductible that sounds excessive, unless you or progeny are in a high risk group for some reason. You have my sympathies, if not my agreement.

  6. Roger, none of us have any health conditions, and we are in the lowest risk category. Now imagine someone with heart disease or diabetes and how difficult it becomes for those people to get access to health insurance and care.

  7. Sorry I deleted my earlier comment, but I didn't notice your premiums were paid quarterly, so my comment wasn't accurate.

    A basic plan through Wellmark BCBS runs around $250 a month or $750 per quarter for a two-person plan that is basic coverage for a father and daughter. That's with a $1500 deductible. Even less with $3000 deductible, for comparison.

    The market is suffering from adverse selection right now. When healthy people drop or don't take out health insurance, the only ones left are those who have pre-existing conditions and can't afford to be without insurance, and the premiums they pay aren't adequate to cover all the costs. Thus, rates go up to cover the gap.

    Add the economic hardship of 10% being unemployed and probably uninsured, and you loose the balance of using healthy people's premiums to offset the expenses of unhealthy people, which is the basic concept of spreading risk through insurance.

    Earlier, the idea of allowing those over age 50 to become insured under Medicare was discussed, which would take out the largest segment of unhealthy people from private health insurance programs, drastically reducing health insurance premiums for those under age 50. Maybe that idea needs further discussion.

  8. Assurant just gave us a 40% rate increase per month.. My wife and i are in excellent health and have never had to use the policy except for a few prescriptions and routine visits to our local doc.. If these rates keep going up no-one will have health insurance..

  9. Free market means that if the insurance companies overprice insurance somebody else can come in and undercut them...like you! Provided state/fed regulations don't make it impossible to start and run a personal insurance company. If Cory and 1000 of his friends or teachers got together to self-insure themselves at the current premium they would have $2,260,000 to use towards health needs in the first year. Pay a few people to administer it and restrict benefits in ways acceptable to the group (cap benefits to 300k for the first few years until you have an adequate reserve) and you can tell Assurant to go frack itself.
    Erin: I have $1500 deduct and very low premium (just for self granted) so there is more to this story than a greedy company. online generic quotes look better than the $600/quarterly Cory mentions.

  10. Roger, if by saying "there is more to this story than a greedy company," you mean that we must not be telling the truth about our health conditions, then you would be incorrect. I don't think Cory has been admitted to the hospital his entire adult life. He's incredibly healthy with no health conditions(which his life insurance health work-up confirms). Since our daughter came home from the hospital after birth, she has not been to the doctor for anything other than well-child check-ups. She hasn't had so much as an ear infection. Their insurance rate hike is in no way connected to health issues, and the insurance company didn't indicate that they were.

    If you meant something else is going on that we would not be aware of, please feel free to explain. And your health plan--I'm assuming that it's a group insurance plan? Group insurance and individual insurance are two different things and a particular group insurance premium/deductible does not necessarily translate across to the individual insurance market.

  11. It's a screwed up mess. I read only 5% of the market is Individual, so those small pools will be very reactive.

  12. Erin: Actually, I meant only that I think there are other factors involved neither of us know. Otherwise Assurant could not get away with such a disparity between your pricing and mine.
    I have never and will never doubt Cory's, and by extension your own, integrity. I may think him warped in his moral understanding of governance, but I trust what he says completely.

  13. Thank you, Roger. Now, if you have an individual-market plan that gets you and a child better benefits than what we have or at least isn't jacking the premium 23% this year, send us the name of your agent! Hmm... any chance there are state regulatory issues that might be getting you a better deal?

  14. I don't know about which state's laws are better, or why they want $200/month from you for you and daughter. The ehealthinsurance seems to indicate you could get coverage through CoventryOne for less than $130/month for a high deductible plan...assuming that number isn't outdated


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