WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Tens of thousands of North Carolinians got letters in the mail from Blue Cross Blue Shield this week, saying their already steep monthly health insurance premiums will close to double in many cases starting Jan. 1.
New Hanover County resident Deborah Conard said she got one of those notices on Tuesday, and the premiums for her and her husband will go from $1,009, to $2,245 a month.
Conard's health insurance plan was grandfathered in when Obamacare became law, but Blue Cross Blue Shield just announced it is no longer offering those plans, and the new options are much, much more expensive.
"I don't mind paying for health insurance, but what I do mind is when my health insurance is more than our mortgage. I have a problem with that," Conard said.
Deborah Conard is a small business owner, and so is her husband. That means they have to buy health insurance through the individual marketplace. She says they are healthy, and typically only see the doctor for routine physicals and skin checks.
She said she doesn't have any extra sources of income to help them cover this significant increase in their health insurance expenses, and making matters worse, they didn't get much notice.
"They sprung this on us," Conard said. "It's the middle of October. I have until December to decide do I want to apply for another plan, do I want to go on the Obamacare plan, otherwise, come January, they're going to start deducting $2,245.04 from my checking account. That's a lot of money for my checking account for one month."
Conard doesn't qualify for subsidies, and says she's angry that our lawmakers in Washington are still fighting over a health care fix, while her family is being crushed under the weight of health insurance that will cost them nearly $30,000 a year. And even with that hefty premium, she still has to pay co-pays, and could be liable for an out-of-pocket deductible of another $29,000.
The plan Blue Cross Blue Shield has suggested for the Conards is a one-size fits all option offered through the Affordable Care Act. It provides things like pediatric dental coverage, even though they don't have any kids.
Conard is in her 50s, and said at her age, she doesn't think she can afford the risk of going without insurance. But she also doesn't know how she's going to afford to have it. Blue Cross Blue Shield says roughly 50,000 other North Carolinians like Conard are also losing their grandfathered health insurance plans. But Conard says the financial impact will be felt by many more.
"We'll be hoarding our money to make our health care payment," Conard explained. "So maybe I won't be eating at a local restaurant anymore, or maybe I won't be shopping somewhere. It's definitely going to affect our household and how we spend money which is in turn going to affect other businesses and other relationships out in the community. We can't give as much to charity. It's just like a downhill spiral."
In addition to customers like Conard who have had their insurance plans phased out, another 500,000 North Carolinians already on Obamacare through Blue Cross Blue Shield are seeing premium increases of about 14 percent.