A chance to go to the doctor

Connie dropped her insurance in 2005, when her premium to take part in Michael’s state teachers’ retirement skyrocketed by $400 a month.

Her chest pains didn’t turn out to be anything serious, Connie said, “but now we’re faced with several thousands of dollars in health care bills.”

Lamented Michael, “We make too much for her to be helped, but we don’t make enough to pay the bill.”

Connie avoids going to the doctor’s, even for more routine concerns. “I’m afraid of the bill,” she said.

She hopes that nothing drastic happens before she purchases insurance through the Affordable Care Act. She is frustrated with Congress’ continued efforts to repeal or defund the Affordable Care Act, and she’s resentful when politicians describe programs such as Social Security and Medicare as entitlements.

“They should have to rely on Social Security and Medicare and see if they see it as an ‘entitlement,’” Connie said. “They are supposed to be our employees, but they are not looking out for our interests.”

In 1999, Michael retired from his 31-year career as a Springfield elementary school teacher. For the first several years, insurance for his wife was affordable. After the couple dropped Connie’s coverage, Michael fielded calls from insurance representatives asking, “What would it take to bring her back?” Michael responded tersely, “Lower your rates!” Instead, the premiums for spouses continued to climb.

Connie, 64, works part-time for as an office manager for a tax service, but it’s seasonal, part-time work that doesn’t provide benefits. She has thoroughly researched her options online, and found plenty of helping information on the official government Web site, www.healthcare.gov. Connie plans to choose the Bronze level, the most affordable tier of health care with the highest deductible. She’s eyeing a premium that would cost $142 a month.

“It will allow me to go to the doctor or the emergency room without fear,” Connie said.