Kelly Conklin: We are headed back to where we were pre-ACA

Kelly Conklin

My wife, Kit, and I first started Foley-Waite, an architectural woodworking company, 40 years ago, in 1978. She was on one end of a sheet of plywood and I was on the other. And it’s grown since then to a 16-person company.

Just before the Affordable Care Act we were looking at double-digit year-over-year increases in our insurance premiums. And in the last year before the ACA passed they raised our rates 126 percent. We were getting older, and my wife has a chronic illness, Discoid Lupus.  After a couple of big claims, the insurance company just wanted to dump us.

After the ACA was enacted, our rates stabilized.  Our premiums rose just between five to seven percent annually. If it weren’t for the ACA’s protections for preexisting conditions Kit would most likely have been labeled uninsurable. And we wouldn’t have had any insurance coverage when she had her first stroke two years ago.

Kit and I recently reached the Medicare eligibility age.  Earlier this year, she had her second stroke, and the surgery that followed was covered under Medicare. But if we had to pay the medical bills on our own, it would have brought us to financial ruin.

But Medicare, Medicaid, and protections for preexisting conditions are all under assault. After President Trump was elected, his Administration and Congress began attacking these critical programs.  In 2017, Foley-Waite got hit with a 26 percent premium increase. The vacancy on the Supreme Court could lead to the end of protections for preexisting conditions all together. It’s clear to me that we are headed back to where we were pre-ACA. 

As a responsible business owner, I have to be pragmatic and figure out what we can afford.  We are really already at the threshold.  I am likely going to have to stop providing health insurance to my employees and they will have to go out and find coverage in a collapsing individual market with skyrocketing premiums.  What the country does next is critically important.

Kelly Conklin is the owner of Foley-Waite LLC, a custom woodworking business in New Jersey.