Health care costs have become unaffordable

Published 8:36 am Monday, September 15, 2008

The fluffy part of me has been fluffed out this week. It is time for a serious column. My topic is the subject that is on many people’s minds. That subject is health insurance. It comes to mind this week because we had another slight emergency in my household that required a trip to the emergency room. The visit started in the doctor’s office with the requirement of having to travel onward to the emergency room for the person in my family to be treated. We got good care and everything turned out fine.

However, we will be adding to the bill that we already owe from illnesses the past year. We fall in the category of having to pay for our own health insurance because one of us is self-employed and my employer is too small to be able to offer health insurance. Our monthly premiums are huge and so is our deductible. We are caught in the income middle. We make a little too much to qualify for help, but it is hard to keep up with the health insurance premiums, the doctor bills and the prescription costs. There are many people and families that are just like us.

Clinics and hospitals are finding it hard to finance people like us. We make payments each month but can’t pay the entire bill at once. They then turn the bill over to a bank that is supposed to charge no interest. However, what isn’t told is the fact that the bill is received usually around the 28th or 29th of the month. It is due in New York by the 3rd of the next month. Even if you mail the bill immediately it may not get there by snail mail in time and you are charged a $35 fee. However, you can pay by going to a specific Web site. It happens to be a Western Union Web site. The charge for this is only $4.50. You also may pay by phone. The cost for this is $4.50. If you don’t want to take your chances of a $35 didn’t-get-there-in-time fee, even though it was mailed immediately upon receiving the bill, you may have a payment taken out of your checking account each month. The fee for this is only $1.50 per month. I think fees replace the interest. I don’t have a problem with this if they would have told us this when they signed us up. Maybe it was in one of those long explanations of terms that none of us seems to take the time to read. If it was, I missed it. After so many months they will charge you interest and it is a bunch.

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We can’t blame the hospital or doctors. They are trying to stay in business. We can’t blame ourselves. We can’t help it if we get sick or have an accident. In a way I can blame myself for giving up.

I know there will come a time where we probably will not be able to afford health insurance if something doesn’t change. I avoid the doctor unless I am very ill because I can’t afford the cost. But I haven’t done anything to advocate for change. A few weeks ago there was an article in the paper with the address of a Web site created by one of our legislators. At least I think it was a Minnesota person. That is how much I pay attention. I read the article and decided that visiting the Web site and telling my story would not make a difference. I had decided health care would not change because those of us that are in midst of struggling with insurance issues are not the ones making decisions on health care. Unless you are directly affected you do not realize the implications of those who have health issues and cannot get treated.

Have we all given up? Have we all decided that nothing we do can make a difference? We are all one person. We all have one story.

Because we are one person with one story we also do not know where to go for information. We do not know where to look for help. The Web sites are out there. I found one at There is a great deal of information on that site. It is hard and time consuming to find the information. So we give up and we worry and we wait to see what will happen.

I guess that is the reason for this column. Find out who your legislators are for your area and write them a letter. Take it as high as you can go in the government. Write to all of those who have the decision-making power for your life. I don’t like form letters. Write them a letter telling them your story. Encourage everyone you know who is struggling with paying his or her health care bills and insurance to write a letter. If thousands and thousands and maybe even millions of letters are received maybe it will make a difference.

I don’t want someone to pay for me. I am not asking for a government handout. I am asking for health care for people who are self-employed or work in companies that cannot offer health care to have the same choices that bigger companies give their employees. I am asking for a premium and deductible that I can afford. There are many hard-working people who deserve to be able to go to a doctor when they are sick. Our country is full of hard-working people who deserve good health care.

Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. E-mail her at