If you think the ObamaCare exchanges and premiums were bad …

posted at 12:01 pm on October 14, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

then Barack Obama’s hometown newspaper has news for you.  The initial shock of the premium increases and the incompetent use of $94 million [see update] to create the world’s biggest 404 exchange are just the starting shocks of ObamaCare.  Wait until people have to actually start using their new insurance, and perhaps the biggest surprise of all will be waiting:

Adam Weldzius, a nurse practitioner, considers himself better informed than most when it comes to the inner workings of health insurance. But even he wasn’t prepared for the pocketbook hit he’ll face next year under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

If the 33-year-old single father wants the same level of coverage next year as what he has now with the same insurer and the same network of doctors and hospitals, his monthly premium of $233 will more than double. If he wants to keep his monthly payments in check, the Carpentersville resident is looking at an annual deductible for himself and his 7-year-old daughter of $12,700, a more than threefold increase from $3,500 today.

“I believe everybody should be able to have health insurance, but at the same time, I’m being penalized. And for what?” said Weldzius, who is not offered insurance through his employer. “For someone who’s always had insurance, who’s always taken care of myself, now I have to change my plan?”

That’s right — not only have premiums doubled in the individual markets, the coverage has gotten worse in a very concrete way.  The new system has now opened a wide chasm between the employer and individual markets on actual cost coverage, too:

To promote the Oct. 1 debut of the exchanges, the online marketplaces where consumers can shop and buy insurance, Obama administration and Illinois officials touted the lower-than-expected monthly premiums that would make insurance more affordable for millions of Americans. But a Tribune analysis shows that 21 of the 22 lowest-priced plans offered on the Illinois health insurance exchange for Cook County have annual deductibles of more than $4,000 for an individual and $8,000 for family coverage.

Those deductibles, which represent the out-of-pocket money consumers must spend on health care before most insurance benefits kick in, are higher than what many consumers expected or may be able to stomach, benefit experts said.

By comparison, people who buy health insurance through their employer have an average individual deductible of just more than $1,100, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Bear in mind that Democrats claimed that the ObamaCare exchanges would make insurers treat individuals better in relation to group insurance plans.  Instead, they’ve made the markets for individuals even worse than before, thanks to the deluge of costly mandates imposed on insurers, who must pass the cost of risk pools to the consumers.

The higher deductibles are the result of attempting to tamp down the premium hikes, but this raises a big question about the structure of the reform itself.  If consumers end up with $4000 deductibles, how are these costs different than the alternate reform model of hospitalization insurance, health-savings accounts (HSAs), and emphasis on the cash/retail system for routine medical care? What we’ve ended up with is the same deductible costs — no one will use $4000 in routine medical care a year — without the cash-market reforms that would drive costs downward through price-signal clarity and competition, while incentivizing providers to get back into routine medical care by wiping out third-party payer red tape and costs.

Plus, we’ve now made it a crime for consumers to refuse health insurance, although many will make that choice anyway:

Millions of Americans may be wrestling with computer glitches to try to sign up for Obamacare — but many people eligible just won’t bother and will pay a price for it.

Some will flout the mandate to buy coverage on ideological grounds, a health insurance version of civil disobedience.

Some will opt for the penalty because it’s cheaper than paying for insurance, even with subsidies — as long as they don’t get sick and have to pay their own medical bills.

And some are so confused about the president’s health care law that they may not even realize they have to pay a penalty — or a tax, as the Supreme Court called it — until they get slapped with the fine when they file their 2014 tax returns. And sign-up rates may be affected, too, if the technical problems on the exchange websites persist.

If you have to pay the first $4000 out of your own pocket on insurance premiums that have doubled, why bother at all?

Update: The Blaze debunked the $634 million price tag — but at $94 million, it’s still a hugely expensive virtual brick. Thanks to Dustin Siggins for pointing this out.

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