Walking the Healthcare Insurance Tightrope
This month’s Harpers Index reports that 2,629 inmates in a Chicago county jail were successfully enrolled in Medicaid because of provisions contained in ObamaCare. Compared to the thousands of Americans who are scrambling to find affordable healthcare coverage for themselves and their families, it appears the inmates got the better deal.
ObamaCare has forced many people to make gutwrenching decisions about their healthcare insurance -- for the first time in their lives, some are faced with the possibility of becoming uninsured. Men and women in their late 50s and early 60s are hardest hit -- many can’t afford to retire early, they are too young to enroll in Medicare and under the new law they are paying the highest premium cost because age is a factor that is nowused to set premium rates.
Income is another factor. Under the law, qualified low-income individuals and families receive substantial financial assistance with the cost of their monthly premium, while individuals earning more than $45,960 (400% of the federal poverty level) don’t. Whether 60-year old single individuals earn$50,000, $60,000, $70,000, $80,000 or more, their monthly premium rate is the same and they are required to pay 100% of the cost. ObamaCare’s ban on pre-existing conditions may be a good idea, but linking age and income with premium rates is not.
As a single woman turning 60 later this year, the cheapest premium I could find on Covered California comes with a $535 monthly price tag. Even at that price, my doctors, who have been my medical security blanket since I was diagnosed with a chronic illness fifteen years ago, are not part of the plan’s coverage network. Although I have maintained good health over the years with minimal doctor visits and tests, I will be forced to select a more expensive healthcare plan at a monthly out-of-pocket cost of approximately $700, the equivalent of two car payments, if I want to keep my doctors. And as others are now discovering, I may still lose access to my doctors. Because I’m not self-employed, I can’t write off the high premium cost even though ObamaCare penalizes me at tax time if I don’t maintain healthcare insurance. Using age and income to set premium rates has produced the same result that banning pre-existing conditions was supposed to eliminate -- thousands of uninsured people. Only now the uninsured are middle class individuals and families like me who can’t afford their healthcare premium.
After crunching the numbers so often I know them by heart and spending countless sleepless nights agonizing what to do, I have become fatalistic about my options. I will purchase the cheapest plan that allows me to keep my doctors and then try to absorb the cost by severely cutting back on essentials, eliminating all nonessentials and hoping for the best. If I can’t make ends meet and without other options, I will be forced to cancel my healthcare insurance and assume the risk of becoming uninsured for the first time in my life.
Ironically, ObamaCare has given me a new reason to celebrate turning 60. If I survive the next five years, I will be eligible for Medicare. It’s hard to imagine how 20, 30 and 40-year olds with families and mortgages will fare as they face a decades-long uphill financial slog if this law is not repealed.
Despite White House claims otherwise, the reality is that only low-income people and inmates in county jails benefit under ObamaCare. People with high incomes were never concerned about the law’s impact because they can afford the Cadillac plans and concierge medicine. Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats have betrayed a rapidly evaporating middle class by putting them into a healthcare straitjacket, while the Republicans’ inability to repeal the ObamaCare juggernaut and offer a viable alternative underscores the extent of disunity within the party. Both are guilty of sacrificing the public good for political calculus and advantage. This November the candidate who goes on record with the promise to repeal this nightmare law gets my vote. No other issue matters.
ObamaCare has heaped more hardship on a timorous American public already stumbling from a stagnant economy, a lack of job opportunities, an unsustainable national debt, and despair about the future. There was a time not too long ago when magazines would not have found it newsworthy to mention inmates in a county jail simply because they obtained healthcare insurance. Apparently, those of us caught in ObamaCare’s stranglehold and walking a healthcare insurance tightrope are not worth mentioning.
Constance Jacobs is a freelance writer living in Oakland, California.