My wife and I were ecstatic that we could sign up for the Affordable Care Act in late November.
It took me all of 20 minutes to complete the online application and get our policy.
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A little background on our health-care situation: My wife andI have owned our own IT-consulting business for 30 years near Chicago. We do not have any employees and therefore cannot qualify for any group insurance coverage. I was diagnosed with a rare type of blood disorder in 2001 that is now classified as a blood cancer called polycythemia rubra vera. There is no cure but the disease progresses very slowly most of the time. This disease requires blood tests on a regular basis as well as regular monitoring by my doctors. My wife was diagnosed with diabetes in 1996. Based on these diseases, we are basically considered uninsurable.
My wife was able to qualify for the state of Illinois I-Chipprogram and I have been with Blue Cross of Illinois. Compared to what most group policies offer, and what probably 80 percent of Americans are getting for health coverage, I would classify our policies as basically catastrophic coverage.
My policy carries a $5,000 deductible with max out-of-pocket of $10,000 and this year I was paying $870 a month. Whereas my wife's policy has a $2,500 deductible with a max out-of-pocket of $5,000 and a premium of $591 a month. For 2014, our premiums were going to increase to $970 and $960 a month. My wife's deductible was going to increase to $5,000.
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This year we paid, on average, another $1,500 a month for our out-of-pocket prescriptions, lab test and doctors' visits. This brings our monthly health-care costs to about $3,000 a month, or $36,000 a year.
As you can imagine, with this amount of money going to health care and having to self-fund our retirement, it doesn't leave a lot of discretionary income — especially if our company had a bad year.
Unless you have a family member that has a serious illness, most Americans have no idea of the cost of the health-care benefits that they receive. If you have a group policy or work for the government, you are getting coverage that people with pre-existing conditions can only dream about.
Under the ACA, we are going to pay $898 per month for the both of us, a savings of over $900 per month! Our pharmacy benefits will be substantially improved and we should save another $400 a month for the discounts we will now receive on our drugs. We are also going to get substantially better coverage as our physician visits will only cost a $35 co-pay and most lab tests will now be covered.
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Our max out-of-pocket expenses could total $12,000 for the both of us but that will still be substantially less than our current policies. plus we will be saving over $1,000 a month on premiums alone.
We are more than willing to pay for our health-care costs and are not looking for a government handout.
We would just like to be able to get the same benefits and costs that the majority of Americans receive from their group policies from their employers.
So, as you can see we may be the minority but we are very happy with the new health-care law. It will benefit some people —especially people with pre-existing conditions who were previously uninsurable and were forced to pay whatever premiums the insurance company wanted to charge — or go without coverage.
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I feel that there has been substantially more negative coverage on the health-care law by the media. I would totally agree that the website HealthCare.gov should have never opened on Oct. 1 if it wasn't ready. Owning an IT company, if we put out a product like this, we would have been fired, sued or both. However, if you can get past the technical issues, the ACA does have benefits that were previously unavailable.
I hope this offers a different perspective.
— By Wally Graff
Wally Graff and his wife have owned IT-consulting firm CLG Consultants near Chicago for 30 years.