ARBOR OUTLOOK: Holiday shopping, health care and Jackson Browne
"Doctor my eyes have seen the years ... and the slow parade of tears ..." — from "Doctor My Eyes," as performed by Jackson Browne
No bargains were to be had for the main item on my holiday shopping list. In fact, it was out of stock before Black Friday and Cyber Monday in virtually every store.
What was I looking for at a discount? A big screen television? A new iPhone? A top of the line cappuccino maker? What’s at the top of my wish list is affordable health insurance. Admittedly, it's not your typical holiday item, but revised policies accompanied by higher premiums are hitting the market in January.
Like so many Baby Boomers, I make too much money to access any ACA programs. But I have not yet reached the age where Medicare can provide any financial relief with my health insurance costs. So my husband called the health insurance companies who serve our area.
He was on hold an average of about 45 minutes per call before he spoke with an actual person. Four times out of five, when he did reach someone, it was the wrong department. Frequently he was transferred, resulting in the call being disconnected or a return to another series of prompts similar to the original ones. If the health care industry desires to prevent individual Americans from connecting with sales personnel who can actually sell them health insurance, they are succeeding spectacularly.
Two companies are utilized most often in our area. One of them announced recently that it is no longer working with physicians in this region. So you can purchase health insurance with them, but you must see a physician in another part of the state or completely out of state to use your insurance. A representative from the other insurer freely admitted that their premiums are so high that they have effectively priced themselves out of our market.
We constantly see clients fighting this same losing battle. Premiums for many are approaching $1,000 monthly. The cost of health care accelerates continually. Most times what our clients ultimately purchase is essentially catastrophic illness insurance, since policies rarely cover many expenses until one reaches their deductible for the year. The problem is ripping at the financial fabric of millions of American families.
We all must constantly revise our estimates upward, lately by as much as 20 percent annually, of what we will pay for health insurance. Of course this estimate does not include the out of pocket costs not covered by insurance when we actually need treatment.
Our best and brightest youth recognize the trend and fewer wish to serve as physicians. Until the health care system undergoes significant changes, avoiding illness may be our best and only hope.
Margaret R. McDowell, ChFC, AIF, author of the syndicated economic column "Arbor Outlook," is the founder of Arbor Wealth Management, LLC, (850-608-6121 — www.arborwealth.net), a “fee-only” registered investment advisory firm located near Sandestin.