My Side of the Fencepost

What am I complaining about?

By Jim Dickerson

Doggone it, I’m getting older, and I’m beginning to understand why people get upset with health insurance costs.

I have a letter in front of me from our current health insurance company. It tells me that our health insurance premium is due to increase by 25 percent effective May 1, 2009.

We’ve been paying premiums to this company for about three years. The previous company had decided to take a 25 or 30 percent jump in one year, so we dumped ‘em and went with this one.

In three years, this insurance company has never paid a claim for us. I guess we’ve been lucky, because we’ve pretty much always enjoyed good health. About the only thing we do is sprain our ankles or stub our toes once in a while (knock on wood).

The other thing is that we stopped buying traditional health insurance a long time ago because of the cost. We started a health savings account and purchased insurance only for catastrophic illnesses. Our insurance carries a $5,200 per person deductible each calendar year. We have to pay all of our own medical expenses below that level.

We’ve had our health insurance set up this way for eight or nine years — saved a lot of money, too.

But now the age bracketing is catching up with us. We’re now 56 going on 57. I guess they figure the older we get, the better the chance that some “catastrophic” illness will hit and they’ll finally have to pay a claim.

Like everyone else, we’d like to beat the odds that the actuaries spend their time computing.


Two things bother me most, based on personal experience.

First, staying healthy doesn’t necessarily mean your health insurance premiums will be stable or even affordable these days.

Second, age seems to be a bigger factor than anything else in determining health premium rates.

The sad fact is that many older people can’t afford health insurance right now. As of 2007, 7.1 million people (13 percent of the U.S. population) in the 50 to 64 age group were uninsured. That is a 37 percent increase from 2000, according to a report from the AARP last month.

That number is expected to rise to 8.2 million by 2015.

AARP estimates that many of those in the 50 to 64 age group (one in four) spend at least 10 percent of their disposable income on health care. This includes both the insured and uninsured population.

There is reason to be concerned that, because of cost, these people won’t get the preventive care they need. If that happens, they could end up costing the Medicare system much more when they reach qualifying age (if they get there) than would otherwise be the case.


We 50-somethings are the tail-enders of the “Baby Boom” generation. We’re rapidly reaching Medicare age — bringing along with us special concerns, problems (and costs) for the next generations. We’re part of the nation’s fastest growing age demographic. We’ll have political power in numbers. If I know my generation, we’ll want benefits at least equal to those now available.

Heck, what am I complaining about?

It’s my children and grandchildren who should be complaining!