Image credit: CBS News
Millions who buy health insurance brace for double-digit increases
WASHINGTON — Millions of people who buy individual health insurance policies and get no financial help from the Affordable Care Act are bracing for another year of double-digit premium increases, and their frustration is boiling over.
Some are expecting premiums for 2018 to rival a mortgage payment.
What they pay is tied to the price of coverage on the health insurance markets created by the Obama-era law, but these consumers get no protection from the law’s tax credits, which cushion against rising premiums. Instead they pay full freight and bear the brunt of market problems such as high costs and diminished competition.
On Capitol Hill, there’s a chance that upcoming bipartisan hearings by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., can produce legislation offering some relief. But it depends on Republicans and Democrats working together despite a seven-year health care battle that has left raw feelings on both sides.
The most exposed consumers tend to be middle-class people who don’t qualify for the law’s income-based subsidies. They include early retirees, skilled tradespeople, musicians, self-employed professionals, business owners, and people such as Sharon Thornton, whose small employer doesn’t provide health insurance.¹
“We’re caught in the middle-class loophole of no help,” said Thornton, a hairdresser from Newark, Delaware. She said she’s currently paying about $740 a month in premiums, and expects her monthly bill next year to be around $1,000, a 35 percent increase.
“It’s like buying two new iPads a month and throwing them in the trash,” said Thornton, whose policy carries a deductible of $6,000. “To me, $1,000 a month is my beach house that I wanted to have.”
A suggestion that she could qualify for financial assistance by earning less only irritates her more. “My whole beef is that the government is telling me: ‘If you work less, we’ll give you more,'” said Thornton, who’s in her 50s.²
If people such as Thornton drop out, they not only gamble with their own health. Their departure also means the group left behind gets costlier to cover as healthier customers bail out. That’s counter to the whole idea of insurance, which involves pooling risk.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
Buying health insurance has always been a challenge for people getting their own policies outside the workplace. Before “Obamacare,” insurers could turn away those with health problems or charge them more. Former President Barack Obama sold his plan as the long-awaited fix.
It would guarantee coverage regardless of health problems, provide tax credits and other subsidies for people of modest means, and generate competition among insurers to keep premiums in check for all. The overhaul sought to create one big insurance pool for individual coverage in each state, no matter whether consumers bought plans through HealthCare.gov or traditional middlemen such as insurance brokers.
But an influx of sicker-than-expected customers drove up costs for insurers, while many younger, healthier people stayed on the sidelines. Political opposition from Republicans complicated matters by gumming up the law’s internal financial stabilizers for insurers.
The result was a 25 percent average increase in the price of a midlevel plan on HealthCare.gov heading into this year. Many states expect a similar scenario for 2018, but this time insurers say uncertainty about the Trump administration’s intentions is driving up their bids ahead of the Nov. 1 start of open enrollment.
About 17.6 million people buy individual health insurance policies, and half of them get no subsidies under the law, according to estimates by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. The number of unsubsidized customers with ACA plans outside the health insurance marketplaces dropped by 20 percent this year, after the big premium increases.
“The unsubsidized part of the market outside the exchanges has shrunk noticeably as premiums have increased,” said Kaiser’s Larry Levitt. “It’s likely that the people dropping out of the market are healthier overall. So the pool has potentially deteriorated.”
It’s time to shift focus in the health care debate, said Sen. Alexander, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which plans hearings beginning this coming week.
“The people who are really getting hammered – they are the ones we need to help,” said Alexander, R-Tenn. “We’ve got a few weeks to come to consensus in this seven-year-old partisan stalemate and if we don’t break it, some people will be priced out and badly hurt.”
Alexander envisions limited legislation that guarantees disputed subsidies for copayments and deductibles another year, while giving states more leeway to design less-costly plans. Democrats are looking for financing to help insurers with high-cost cases. Experts say that guaranteeing the subsidies should lead to an immediate cut in premiums in many states.
Thornton, the Delaware hairdresser, said she doesn’t know what to believe anymore. She said she voted for Donald Trump – her first time for a Republican – partly out of frustration with her health care costs.
“I’m ready to stomp on the White House lawn,” she said. “I am fuming.”
Article source: CBS News
¹What if I told you the Middle class was designed to fail from day one? The middle class, according to the creators of this whole system, was created by the oligarchs, and were not meant to create but to be worker bees and consume. They’re middle class because they’re stuck in the middle of the income bracket which is taxed at a higher rate than the poor and middle class. They consume their way into financial poverty under the disguise of prosperity via bad debt. They’re always a victim of Wall Street related busts and crashes through gambling bets in the name of bond funds, 401(k)s and home equities. They’re even still haunted by the 2009 financial crisis.
²Earnings is income derived from wages and salaries which is taxed higher as it increases which is different from portfolio and passive incomes. Although not mandatory or forced, it is paid for by most in the middle class under the assumption and pretense that it must be paid under punishment of a policy – not law.
Unfortunately for most of USAers they’re still depending on Uncle Sam to pass some law determining a product they feel like they’re obligated to buy while claiming not to depend on Uncle Sam for anything because they work hard for a living. See the contradiction?
Here’s the thing, and I’m going to play devil’s advocate here
If I was the CEO of a health insurance company then I’ll make damn sure that you the consumer believe that you must buy my product under the penalty of law, which there isn’t any law, but it’s important that you believe there is. I would strategically spend every dollar in sophisticated marketing to not only convince you to believe that, but have you condemn or criticize those who are trying to wake you up to the game.
Next thing I’ll do is spend millions of dollars on advertising and content to distract you on what’s the single most important health insurance exist today – your DIET.
Oh yes, even though it’s true that you are what you eat (so if you eat food from sick animals or pesticide and GMO laced produce, you’re going to become sicker and genetically modified), my job is to distract you from that biological truth by keeping you distracted and angry with your politicians in Washington, D.C., Inc. (which has absolutely nothing to do with you)…and debate about anything regarding a product that talks about a problem that actually don’t exist.
But see that doesn’t matter, because all I (the CEO of health insurance, Inc.) need you to do is believe that you need insurance from Uncle Sam while pretending you don’t depend on Uncle Sam because you’re a hard working middle class USAer that’s proud not to take any “handouts” from the government.
Handouts – that is what they call it right?
My job is to make sure, my livelihood, my mistresses, mansions, my wife’s lavish lifestyle and my entire work staff won’t be interrupted by depending on you – the middle classer – to be distracted from what’s in your refrigerator and pantry – to be distracted from what you’re putting IN your body that determines your health status (including reading the chemical-laden labels), but to instead debate and argue with your TV set and your co-workers at the water cooler on how sucky the Republicans are with your healthcare versus what the democrats did with your healthcare and wanting to “stomp on the White House lawn” fuming instead of…..
Paying attention to the REAL health insurance – your DIET.
You can control your OWN health insurance right now without the bickering of the White House or fuming with the POTUS, democrats or republicans. You can lower the overall cost of your health insurance TONIGHT without worrying about what I, the CEO of Health Insurance, Inc., will do next to play with your political emotions ANYMORE.
TFI joined forces with an amazing partner to help you and your family detach from the middle-class drama that’s been going on for too long, and start enjoying your life YOUR WAY. Click HERE for more info. (WARNING: No Tire kickers allowed)