Jennifer Leavens was self-employed when she helped start a marshmallow business called Plush Puffs.

The business continued to grow over the years. But in 2009, a new mole on Leavens' back forced her to invest in her own health when she was diagnosed with skin cancer.

“It was terrifying. I had a two-year-old at home and it was a very scary diagnosis,” Leavens said.

At the time, her diagnosis was a pre-existing condition, meaning health plans - besides the one she already had, could refuse coverage or charge more for care.

“Premiums just for myself were $1,000 plus a month. It was extremely expensive,” Leavens said.

That’s whenshe caught a break. She said her health premiums were roughly cut in half with Covered California, a marketplace that sells health plans to 1.4 million people who don’t receive health insurance from their employer, Medicare or Medi-Cal.

But, even with her new plan, healthcare costs have increased for the fifth consecutive year in 2019.

Kerianne Lawson is with the Beach Cities Health District, an organization that helps people chose health insurance plans under Covered California. She said health care costs are rising due to a number of factors.

“Health care costs continue to rise as we sort out the insurance market. When we have healthy people insured then that balances some of the costs for everybody,” Lawson said.

After three surgeries covered partially by her health insurance, Leavens is nine years cancer-free. But, she said, she will need ongoing care to keep it that way.

“I have to go every year for follow-ups and every other year I have to get expensive scans to make sure I’m still cancer free and having health insurance, that’s the only way to take those scans,” Leavens said.

Until it’s time for her next appointment, Leavens will continue to be a part of Plush Puffs in Burbank, so she can afford health care costs as they go up each calendar year.