A birthday present from my health insurance company

It seems like every year around my birthday, my health insurance company, Blue Cross of California, has to send me a "gift" -- a thick letter announcing it's upping the premium on my individual health plan.

Last year, I switched to a higher-deductible plan and a month later, I got a letter announcing it was upping the premium on that one too! It's not my laugh lines that make me feel older, it's my health plan. What makes me angrier is that my husband, who is too scared of the doctor to ever visit, hasn't had his premium raised since he got his own individual plan three years ago. Why must I get penalized for taking care of myself and getting a regular health checkup and pelvic exam every year, while my hospital-phobe husband gets away with his hazardous behavior? Then I read the New York Times story last fall about how it wasn't just me and my husband in this situation.

My birthday was last week and sure enough, my healthcare provider (now called Anthem Blue Cross since it was bought by health insurance giant WellPoint last year) sent me another gift -- a premium increase of 8%. And it wasn't just me this time. As of March 1, Anthem Blue Cross, California's largest for-profit health insurer, will raise premiums for four-fifths of its individual policyholders.