Cindy Kessler could be the poster child for lifelong fitness.
The trim 64-year-old weighs almost exactly what she weighed in high school.
She walks 2 miles a day on the treadmill. She lifts weights and practices Pilates.
With the exception of pain relief for the occasional migraine, she doesn't take any medication.
She is a healthy eater, too.
But in 2008, when the small business owner was looking for a single-coverage health insurance policy, she came down with a serious case of sticker shock. The best price she could find was $722 a month through Blue Cross Blue Shield.
Turns out that was a bargain.
Since then, her monthly premiums have climbed to $1,186.
"I'm working myself to the bone just to pay my health insurance," said Kessler, who owns Stuart (Fla.) School of Music, where she teaches about 30 private piano lessons a week.
She is literally counting the days until her 65th birthday in October, when she will qualify for Medicare.
Kessler and other readers were incensed when they read recent news reports that revealed state lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott pay rock-bottom monthly premiums for their health insurance through a plan for high-ranking state employees. The taxpayer-subsidized plans run $8.34 a month for individual coverage and $30 a month for families.
That's even less than Kessler will pay after she enrolls in Medicare.
Kessler wrote Scott and our local lawmakers, asking them to end the unfair practice.
State Rep. William Snyder, R-Stuart, was the first to get back to her. He vowed to do his best to be part of a "workable solution" --but there was a caveat.
"Florida categorizes us as a citizen legislature. Implied in that title is a concept that representatives will come from a cross-section of society," Snyder wrote. "The only other alternative would be a full-time well-paid legislature or a plutocracy in which only independently wealthy individuals would be able to serve."
He didn't mention the fact that he, Rep. Gayle Harrell and state Sen. Joe Negron -- all Republicans from Stuart -- reported incomes of at least six figures last year.
What about Scott, the governor who financed his campaign with millions of his own money?
A rep from his Office of Citizen Services (yes, there is such a thing) played up his humble roots.
"Having grown up in a family with daily financial struggles, Governor Scott understands the difficult choices facing Florida's families," Peggy Kassees wrote in an e-mail to Kessler.
"One of those difficult choices is how to gain access to affordable and quality health care. Governor Scott is actively addressing the concerns of Floridians with regards to this issue and understands its importance."
She didn't say how he was actively doing this, though she made sure to point out that Scott has waived his $130,000-a-year salary.
At least the governor's office replied. Kessler never heard back from Harrell and Negron.
She wasn't expecting an instant solution. She just wanted an acknowledgement.
"Wouldn't it be refreshing if they said three words: 'It's not fair,'" Kessler said to me.
It sure would be. It would be even more refreshing if they did something about it.
We shouldn't expect lawmakers to pay four-figure premiums like Kessler. As a Blue Cross Blue Shield executive explained to me, premiums for individual plans (as opposed to group plans) are largely influenced by a person's age.
But we should expect something that looks more like what many of us pay through group plans in the private sector.
Kessler loves her work, and she's grateful she has enough of it to pay for insurance. Her husband went without health insurance for two years before his 65th birthday because they couldn't afford premiums for both of them.
"So many people have to do that," Kessler said. "Thank God I have a music school so I can take more students and work 10 hours a day."
Eve Samples is a columnist for Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers. This column reflects her opinion. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Plenty of sunshine with high humidity, but low chances for an afternoon shower or storm inland.