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Adele Israel Headshot

Health Insurance Hell

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Just thinking about health insurance makes me sick. I live in Grand Junction, Colorado, an area touted as a model of functional health care. That's why President Obama selected this venue for one of his Town Hall Meetings last summer.

So far I haven't been asked to testify before any congressional committees about health insurance and health care reform, but maybe I should be invited. My family has suffered for many years in the particular circle of hell known as individual health insurance.

For your sake, I hope you never have a reason to apply for coverage under individual health insurance policies. Maybe you are one of the relatively lucky people covered through your job or from serving in the military. Most people I know have never had to venture into this dangerous territory.

Applying for individual health insurance, like having all the skin peeled slowly away from your body, is an excruciating process. Be sure you've got detailed records of everything in your medical and health insurance history since the day you were conceived. You'll need that data for each family member applying for coverage. Over the past couple of decades, I've endured this torture half a dozen times trying to maintain coverage without going broke.

I know everybody is hurting, paying more for health insurance and getting less coverage due to higher deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance. Our health insurance policy, covering just little ole me, is second only to our mortgage in the hierarchy of monthly bills.

I dread the end of each year when I learn how much the premium will balloon. For 2010, the jump was about 25%. At this rate my health insurance will soon cost more than the mortgage. This is no Cadillac plan; we're talking high deductible and no coverage for an annual physical or colonoscopy. So much for preventive care.

If I want to take advantage of a Health Saving Account, I need to have a specific HSA policy, which means submitting to yet another round of applications. At least by applying online it's only virtual torture.

With the current set-up, any new medical diagnosis can be very dangerous. You can lose your current policy and then be denied coverage by other companies or the condition can be "excluded." I don't mean a six-month preexisting-condition exclusion, I mean totally excluded from the policy - forever. For instance, high cholesterol is excluded from my current policy because it was diagnosed before I applied.

Right now, we are one of those rare middle-class families that is not in debt, has modest investments and some money set aside for retirement. However, I still have nightmares about losing everything due to the high cost of health insurance and medical care. Without insurance, we would be one health crisis away from draining all the savings we fought so hard to squirrel away.

Something is very wrong with this picture. We need health care reform badly, but I fear piecemeal changes will result in even higher premiums for those of us unlucky enough to be in individual plan hell. Go ahead and call me a socialist, but universal health care looks mighty good from down here.