Monday, August 11, 2008

Starting over again at 64

Consumer's Union (the folks who publish Consumer's Reports) are almost finished with their tour across America in which they have interviewed and logged stories from all classes and socioeconomic classes regarding healthcare insurance... or more appropriately, the lack of affordable coverage.

The article below is a reprint from their blog of their North Carolina stop. Woefully, if my father didn't have good coverage from Lowes, this very same scenario would play out with my parents. Still, he is, at 50, essentially working for healthcare. What will Medicare look like for him in 15 years? What will it look like for my mom (now 55) in 10 years? How did we let insurance and more specifically, healthcare coverage, get this way in America? The picture was so rosey 20 years ago. Who was alseep at the wheel? And how do we get back on the road?

I encourage you to check out the Cover America Tour. Your children, parents and even yourself are likely to be affected by this issue at some point.

Starting over again at 64

We waved goodbye to Dave and Betty and climbed back into the RV, our arms full of goodie bags packed with fruit, snacks and Betty’s sour cream chocolate bundt cake for the road. They had raised three boys (now grown) and Betty, like many southern moms, had never felt right sending them out the door without some of her home cooking for the road. Now she insisted we do the same – and who were we to argue.

It looked like a nice life they had carved out here in Asheboro, NC. A cozy home on a quiet street with lots of greenery, Champ the dog and Jaybo the goat roam the back yard together; the grandkids had been here this morning. The perfect set up for a couple of retirees – if only retirement were an option.

After 42 years with the same company Dave’s position was eliminated, forcing him into what he thought would be an early retirement. Not long after, the company decided to stop subsidizing retiree health benefits, and the $1000 a month premium suddenly became their burden.

If they both were about to turn 65 and qualify for Medicare, that would have been okay for a short time. Or if they’d found a reasonably-priced individual plan, that would have worked too. But the cheapest plan they could have bought on their own would have been $3000 a month, and, while Dave is 64 now, Betty is still four years away from Medicare.

So Dave went back to work full-time for the healthcare benefits. He got a good job with the county, and now every day, 8 to 5, Dave works so he and Betty have an affordable health care plan.

He’ll keep working until they both qualify for Medicare, and by then he’ll be 69. It’s certainly not the future they envisioned. Says Dave, “So much for the retirement plans that we had made!"

By the time we left it was after 7:00. We drove off through the rolling Carolina foothills, dotted with tiny churches and a perfect sunset – and we were frustrated. Dave and Betty had struck a nerve. They were our dads and moms – people who worked hard for decades for their families and deserved a break when they were ready to take one, not being forced back into the workplace until almost the age of 70 by the high costs of health care.