Independent, Fee-Only Financial Advisor

Independent, Fee-Only Financial Advisor

Thursday, November 07, 2013

My Family's Experience With

My family has been waiting for the website,, to go live. Ken and I have been self-employed our entire married lives. We know the hassles that come with trying to find decent coverage.

My first husband worked for General Motors. This was in the day of fabulous coverage. When Keith got cancer at age 32, the coverage was a Godsend. Week after week, the bills piled up. One weekend of home health care came in at a whopping $14,000. The weekly drug bills were staggering.

Every time he went back into the hospital, we looked at each other and said, "How do people do this who don't have insurance?" After his death, I filled a drawer with the hospital and doctor bills and waited for the dust to settle. After the insurance company paid off the claims, I was left with a few hundred dollars to pay. What a relief!

I kept that great insurance until I remarried. Then it got really scary. Suddenly, we were on our own trying to get coverage that didn't break the bank. We have many horror stories about bad policies and rising premiums. As I crossed into mid-life, my policy was going higher than Ken's. I was still a long way from Medicare and nervous about where this would all end.

Then I started teaching at Mississippi College. This gave me access to their employer plan. Ken kept his BCBS individual plan, but the arrival of had us curious. Could he find better coverage and/or a better deal online?

The website has been a technological nightmare. Ken started trying to log on October 1st but with no luck. About a week later, he finally got in. There were some missteps along the way, but he finally got to the part where you get quotes.

First, some things to note. Age and state of residency are the only considerations in setting premiums. Ken did not answer questions about health problems. Thankfully, he's pretty healthy, but he's 57 years old. Second, household income determines eligibility for subsidies. We don't qualify, so the premiums listed for him are the starting points for coverage.

Mississippi has limited options and some of the highest premiums in the country due to our limited access to health providers. While some states offer a high deductible catastrophic coverage, Mississippi does not.

The bronze plan listed a monthly premium of $448 for him. It was hard to tell if this offered more or comparable services than his BCBS plan offers. His BCBS plan is $319 per month. He decided to stick with his individual plan for now. He logged off with his curiosity satisfied.

And what about his BCBS plan? Would he get the dreaded cancellation notice? Well, he got an e-mail about a change in the policy. We were a little nervous. Turns out they are going to increase the premium to $335 per month. Whew! That doesn't seem too bad.

For now, my coverage stays with my employer at the same rate as before. About half of Americans get their insurance through their employer. Another large portion gets coverage through Medicare or Medicaid. Only a small slice of the population will actually need these exchanges.

And while Ken is forgoing this coverage for now, it's reassuring to know we have options. After all, Medicare is still a long way off. And a serious health incident could derail our finances without good coverage. I'm telling you, folks. It's scary NOT having health insurance. For that reason, I hope this thing works.