Under Obamacare, my family’s monthly premiums went from $402 in 2014 to $519 in 2015 to $722 in 2016. Next year, the coverage will cost me $980 a month.
Deductibles, which began at less than $4,000, have crested to $14,000 in 2017. It seems as if I’m about to bid good-bye to Obamacare. I can no longer afford it and it looks like I’m packing it in and heading for the group market.
I will say this, though, for the Affordable Care Act: it served its purpose. Whether it continues to do so is for others to decide.
Several years ago, I rejoiced at being a participant in a grand social experiment of individual and family affordable health plans designed for people like me who at the time were employed, but were not covered under a group benefit plan.
A family could find affordable coverage that was not employer-based at a time when I relied on freelance income as an independent contractor.
It was the first time I’d joined the freelance economy after nearly 25 years of employer-sponsored benefits. Like millions of other Americans participating in the “on-demand” model, I soon found myself exposed to higher risks overnight.
While my pretax wages from a freelance writing service were fair, the generous protection benefits of full-time employment had vanished: group health coverage, disability income coverage, life insurance and 401(k) automatic contributions. All of them gone.
The protection wall offered by insurance had suddenly vanished.
But in stepped Obamacare, doing exactly as it was designed to do: offer affordable coverage for folks without access to the employer-based system of health care. At the time, that meant folks like me and we slept soundly at night because of it.
In 2014, under Obamacare we were covered by Aetna for medical and dental coverage for what now seems like a steal: $402 a month, albeit for a very high deductible of $10,000.
We were under no delusion that prices wouldn't rise as insurers slowly gathered their claims histories and adjusted pricing. But we thought a robust market of a half dozen or more insurers offering dozens of plans would keep a lid on pricing — that was the theory anyway.
A year later, in 2015, we benefited from a subsidy of $283 a month. This meant we paid $519 for a health care plan that retailed for more than $800 with a $3,200 deductible for a family of three. Dental coverage was an extra $49.
We had a choice from among 40 health plans from four insurers.
As my employer at the time did not offer group health coverage, we were entitled to the generous subsidy and took full advantage of it, purchasing a silver-level plan from United Healthcare.
It was the golden age of Obamacare: price competition, plenty of choices, reasonable prices. The good fortune would not last, though.
In 2016, we no longer qualified for the subsidy because of higher income and we were out of pocket $722 in medical premiums each month with a deductible of $11,000 for our bronze-level plan, also from United Healthcare.
Next year, if we renew under Obamacare, we’re looking at $980 monthly for a bronze plan from the only insurer left in the Pennsylvania market – Independence Blue Cross Blue Shield. My wife will be eligible for a subsidy of $16 a month.
If we stick with Obamacare, our health premiums will cost us $964 a month with a deductible of $14,300. Dental premiums are extra, of course.
In the three years in which we’d participated in Obamacare, the trend has been in only one direction: rising premiums and higher risk exposures foisted on consumers through higher deductibles.
For too many people, the Affordable Care Act is rapidly becoming unaffordable. Voters made their disgust known at the ballot box last week.
Kudos the to the healthcare.gov website, though. The “Google Guys” and whoever else they brought in to improve the online operation deserve credit. After a disastrous launch, the site is clean, fast and can teach a health insurer a thing or two about how to present health care products to consumers.
For all the scorn heaped on Obamacare, it protected my family and me from catastrophic medical illness, which we're thankful hasn’t come to pass. We were covered in 2014, 2015 and even in 2016 at reasonable cost.
President Obama always said the ACA was only a starting point, that the ACA was a work in progress.
No doubt he was right but now we know exactly what that means.
New leadership in Washington will scrap the ACA in exchange for a better way to cover the tens of millions of Americans struggling to find affordable coverage. If the new administration and a new Congress find a better way, the I’m all for it.
InsuranceNewsNet Senior Writer Cyril Tuohy has covered the financial services industry for more than 15 years. Cyril may be reached at [email protected].
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