Video: The Affordable Care Act is looking pretty darned unafforable

posted at 10:41 am on October 16, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Remember when the proponents of the Affordable Care Act promised that ObamaCare would save most Americans $2,500 in premium costs a year? And perhaps you remember when Barack Obama claimed “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan” so often that it became a mantra, too.  Oregon television station KATU discovers that both of those promises turn out to be empty, and the “Affordable” in the bill’s title a case of bitter irony (via Tim Carney on Twitter):

Is the Affordable Health Care Act making health care unaffordable for some people?

Some customers of Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield, one of Oregon’s largest insurance providers, say that’s exactly what’s happening. They say they are finding their health care plans are dramatically changing under the Affordable Care Act.

“Policy holders are seeing almost double their monthly premiums,” said a KATU viewer named Larry in an email. He said his wife’s premium will increase by $300 under the Affordable Care Act.

Cover Oregon spokesman Michael Cox says most insurance plans that focus on lower premiums and higher deductibles will be replaced by plans with lower deductibles and higher benefits.

Let’s get back to the direction deductibles actually take in a moment and address the idea that there is a balance in this.  In the two examples shown by KATU, which we have seen repeatedly is the norm rather than the exception across the country, prices have jumped $300 a month for KATU’s viewers (and they have been pushed out of their preferred plans, too).  That comes to $3,600 a year more for health insurance.  Even if the plans now have lower annual deductibles, they would have to have decreased more than the $3,600 to make up for the difference.  After all, premiums come out of your pocket first, and then the deductibles.  Even if deductibles dropped to zero, that $3600 extra gets paid up front.

Unfortunately for KATU viewers and everyone else, deductibles aren’t going down, they’re going up. The Chicago Tribune reported on rising deductibles this week, and I explain why that matters in my column at The Week:

The Tribune‘s Peter Frost found that a typical user in the system — a 33-year-old single father in this case — would see his premiums “more than double” from the current average of $233 a month. But if the single dad wants his premiums to remain in range, he’ll need to sign up for an annual deductible of $12,700. The average deductible before ObamaCare for this consumer would have been $3,500.

Nor is that an isolated example, although it’s on the far end of the spectrum. In order to keep prices low, 21 of the 22 approved plans on the Illinois state exchange have deductibles of more than $4,000 for individuals, and $8,000 for families. Frost notes that the average employer-based coverage puts the individual deductible at $1,100.

Consider what this means to the consumer. First, the government forces Americans to buy comprehensive insurance when many don’t need it. At $466 a month, the single father in the example above will spend about $5,600 a year on comprehensive insurance, which would far outstrip the medical expenses for most 33-year-old single men, who might expect only a wellness check and perhaps a couple of acute visits to a clinic for urgent care a year. At retail costs, even with labs, that’s going to run less than a thousand dollars a year at most.

Now, though, his insurance won’t even cover that much. Before Illinois consumers see any benefit at all from their insurance policies, they will have to spend more than $4,000 each year out of their own pocket — and without the benefit of health-savings accounts (HSAs) to use untaxed income for that purpose. That means that some consumers will spend much more each year over and above their newly inflated premiums, making it less and less likely that they will ever see any benefits from their mandated insurance policies other than avoiding the small fine from the IRS for noncompliance.

Affordable? Yeah, right indeed.

Update: The schadenfreude has run deep on the Right over this Daily Kos entry from September:

My wife and I just got our updates from Kaiser telling us what our 2014 rates will be. Her monthly has been $168 this year, mine $150. We have a high deductible. We are generally healthy people who don’t go to the doctor often. I barely ever go. The insurance is in case of a major catastrophe.

Well, now, because of Obamacare, my wife’s rate is gong to $302 per month and mine is jumping to $284.

I am canceling insurance for us and I am not paying any f***ing penalty. What the hell kind of reform is this?

Oh, ok, if we qualify, we can get some government assistance. Great. So now I have to jump through another hoop to just chisel some of this off. And we don’t qualify, anyway, so what’s the point?

We’ve been making these points for years.  Too bad the DKos diarist here didn’t pay attention.

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weaselyone on October 16, 2013 at 12:45 PM

A parent’s obligation ends once they stop claiming a child as a dependent.

IRS: Parents Must Pay Federal Fine for Uninsured Kids

NotCoach on October 16, 2013 at 12:53 PM

gerrym51 on October 16, 2013 at 12:51 PM

He forgot his sarc tag.

NotCoach on October 16, 2013 at 12:54 PM

They already get free care by just showing up and giving false information to the hospital, in Spanish of course.

astonerii on October 16, 2013 at 11:18 AM
Maybe we could all try that.

Cindy Munford on October 16, 2013 at 11:23 AM
Yo quiero medico?

questionmark on October 16, 2013 at 12:22 PM

Being of Norwegian descent, I’ll go with “Jeg snakker ikke engelsk”.

Since they can’t discrimnate, in California it’ll get me free health care and a drivers license, no questions asked.

MichaelGabriel on October 16, 2013 at 12:54 PM

cherry picked bitter tears

Dave Rywall on October 16, 2013 at 12:59 PM

A parent’s obligation ends once they stop claiming a child as a dependent.

IRS: Parents Must Pay Federal Fine for Uninsured Kids

NotCoach on October 16, 2013 at 12:53 PM

… um… the article you quoted contradicts that.

The Schaef on October 16, 2013 at 1:03 PM

So, Liberals will still get that “free health care” they’ve always wanted….as long as they are willing to pay for it?

In the “old days” that was what you called health insurance, today its ACA health insurance…Please Lord let me live long enough to watch them implode…..

E9RET on October 16, 2013 at 1:03 PM

… um… the article you quoted contradicts that.

The Schaef on October 16, 2013 at 1:03 PM

No it doesn’t. I probably wasn’t precise enough though. If a parent can claim a child as a dependent they are on the hook for the “tax”.

NotCoach on October 16, 2013 at 1:07 PM

That’s a pretty strong distinction, though, and the truth of the second basically puts the lie to the first.

If you ARE ABLE to claim the child as a dependent, the IRS DOES NOT CARE whether you actually DO claim the dependent or not.

That is a HUGE difference, because it effectively means the parents are entirely on the hook until age 26, notwithstanding any other circumstances, as opposed to saying they have a way to divest themselves of that obligation somehow.

The Schaef on October 16, 2013 at 1:14 PM

That is a HUGE difference, because it effectively means the parents are entirely on the hook until age 26, notwithstanding any other circumstances, as opposed to saying they have a way to divest themselves of that obligation somehow.

The Schaef on October 16, 2013 at 1:14 PM

Qualifying Child

In addition to the qualifications above, to claim an exemption for your child, you must be able to answer “yes” to all of the following questions.

Are they related to you? The child can be your son, daughter, stepchild, eligible foster child, brother, sister, half brother, half sister, stepbrother, stepsister, adopted child or an offspring of any of them.

Do they meet the age requirement? Your child must be under age 19 or, if a full-time student, under age 24. There is no age limit if your child is permanently and totally disabled.

Do they live with you? Your child must live with you for more than half the year, but several exceptions apply.

Do you financially support them? Your child may have a job, but that job cannot provide more than half of her support.

Are you the only person claiming them? This requirement commonly applies to children of divorced parents. Here you must use the “tie breaker rules,” which are found in IRS Publication 501. These rules establish income, parentage and residency requirements for claiming a child.

Maximum age would be 24, and only if that child is a full time college student. There are two exceptions. If a child is not capable of taking care of themselves because of some disability (so you hold power of attorney over them), or they are a qualifying relative.

Qualifying Relative

Many people provide support to their aging parents. But just because you mail your 78-year-old mother a check every once in a while doesn’t mean you can claim her as a dependent. Here is a checklist for determining whether your mom (or other relative) qualifies.

Do they live with you? Your relative must live at your residence all year or be on the list of “relatives who do not live with you” in Publication 501. About 30 types of relatives are on this list.

Do they make less than $3,900? Your relative cannot have a gross income of more than $3,900 and be claimed by you as a dependent.

Do you financially support them? You must provide more than half of your relative’s total support each year.

Are you the only person claiming them? This means you can’t claim the same person twice, once as a qualifying relative and again as a qualifying child. It also means you can’t claim a relative—say a cousin—if someone else, such as his parents, also claim him.

Most children are not full time college students or disabled, so most parents are no longer responsible for their children once they reach the age of 19.

NotCoach on October 16, 2013 at 1:23 PM


Murphy9 on October 16, 2013 at 1:34 PM

You wanted it America.

You got it.

You deal with it.

Gatsu on October 16, 2013 at 10:56 AM

Most of the polls back then consistently showed that people didn’t want it. Most of the polls STILL show that people don’t want it.

Yet, when there was a chance to vote for people who would do something about it last year, more people voted to keep the Democrats who wanted this piece of crap legislation to stay just as it was -because, voting for Republicans was racist, sexist, un-cool etc.

Well, lack of disposable income, diminished quality of life, and poverty are pretty un-cool as well. Here’s hoping some of these voters start to experience this, and start blaming Democrats for it. With the crap MSM we have, it’s not a sure bet that they ever will……

djm1992 on October 16, 2013 at 1:37 PM

To bad we had to do the stupid shutdown nonsense, which stole all the thunder. Stupid Tea Party.

rubberneck on October 16, 2013 at 2:03 PM

No it doesn’t. I probably wasn’t precise enough though. If a parent can claim a child as a dependent they are on the hook for the “tax”.

NotCoach on October 16, 2013 at 1:07 PM

Yep. This is one of the huge absurdities of the law. I don’t know why the GOP hasn’t pushed this. Well, actually, I do. They are incompetent buffoons who are so in love with statism that they don’t even push for decreasing the power of the state when it makes political sense for them to do so.

besser tot als rot on October 16, 2013 at 2:26 PM

Actually, the act keeps my costs down in two ways – preexisting conditions, and it seems to cap out the number of children that you need to pay for at 3. So, it looks like the insurance companies are on the hook for the other 3 at no additional cost?

besser tot als rot on October 16, 2013 at 2:28 PM

You do realize that illegal aliens are officially not allowed to get subsidies or even apply for insurance through the exchanges, right?
Deadbeats though, totally!

astonerii on October 16, 2013 at 11:07 AM

According to the California application, all you have to do is APPLY for AMNESTY – a rather long process – to become eligible for Obamacare. Read the pdf.

LarryinLA on October 16, 2013 at 2:31 PM

The Daily Kos diarist is one of millions who are choosing to “Just Say No!” to Obamacare. Is it possible that ordinary Americans will succeed in stopping Obamacare when Republicans in Congress have failed?

Ordinary American on October 16, 2013 at 3:08 PM

I think your logic is solid and a real possibility. The bad is thinking the pain it will cause to our fellow Americans.

itsspideyman on October 16, 2013 at 11:36 AM

The pain is a good thing. Like a child who puts there hand on a hot but not exceptionally hot pan feels the pain, it becomes a lesson for learning. For too long the Republicans have been shielding the people from the pain that their actions demand. 17 trillion dollars of debt and hundreds of trillions of liabilities all on the backs of non voting children and the yet to be born are proof positive of this.
Time to allow consequences become the educator they are meant to be.

astonerii on October 16, 2013 at 3:22 PM

The one defining tenet of socialism is the art of euphemistic slogans stating the exact opposite of the truth. In ‘1984’ the ministry in charge of economics was the Ministry of Plenty–responsible for a decaying, rotting society producing, not only less and less progressively, but of increasingly shoddy, inferior quality. Obamacare, the “Affordable Care” Act is not only far inferior to the product it is replacing, but it costs two to five times as much.

MaiDee on October 16, 2013 at 3:36 PM

NotCoach on October 16, 2013 at 12:54 PM

what i meant was the premiums quoted were not under obamacare. they were his current premiums.

obamacare has plenty of faults but it does lower premiums for pre retires by shifting costs to younger buyers.

under obamacare he will benefit-but many others will not

gerrym51 on October 16, 2013 at 3:49 PM

“If so, then these people are effectively uninsured anyway, even if they are not paying any premiums. You have to work hard to get to the point of the insurance anyway, and if you qualify for the subsidy, you aren’t going to be able to afford the 5000 to pay the deductible, let alone the 40% after that.

Vanceone on October 16, 2013 at 11:16 AM

I work at a pharmacy. Just as the medical deductible is exponentially increase, so will (already begun) the prescription deductibles and copays.

All the plan years for 2013 have either just started or will start in January, which means they all have revised formularies. Part D people are seeing it first, and I have lots of people with new cards updating their insurance info who don’t yet realize that means the new prices are applicable. The copays are all determined by the insurance companies…our prices haven’t changed per se from the manufacturers. They’re just paying more than they used to. I have patient after patient putting back life-changing medicines on the shelf because $765 for a cystic acne medication, for a few months, is so prohibitive and overwhelming to a family with school-aged children that it takes their breath away and is tear-inducing. They know their children are often depressed, social pariahs, and outcasts because of their acne, chose to help them, and can barely believe the deductibles.

This is separate and apart from the medical deductibles described in most of the blog and lamestream media coverage.

Now…replace “Accutane” with “insulin” and tell me we don’t have a problem. Instant Medicaid recipient, because no plan offered any more will have the high premium/low deductible option. And they have NO idea that their HSA accounts are disappearing…none.

I can’t wait to see what kind of prescription deductible Sandra Fluke gets. No birth control in the U.S. is pricey enough to eat up a deductible of the 404Plan size. She’ll pay full price, every month, for her licentiousness. And all her other female Obama voter friends. And so will all other women who fought against this evil legislation. Access? Like Tantalus, Sandra, just within reach, all too “accessible,” but now you can’t afford the real price for these medications. Enjoy your baby.

winoceros on October 16, 2013 at 3:52 PM

Is it me, or is this really starting to look, feel and sound like a tax? I mean, it’s hitting a lot of wage earners and business owners out there. It’s hitting folks as if they jumped from one bracket into another (for those of you who remember ‘bracket creep’.)

That foxy ol’ Justice Roberts – he just may have given us some sort of gift after all!

ronco on October 16, 2013 at 4:31 PM

That’s a pretty disgraceful report. the only good thing about Obamacare is seeing what happens when people find out what it’s going to cost them – like the Daily KOS guy. You dummy. You voted for it, you supported it and the people who did this to you. The only question left is, will you wake up?

Rose in CA on October 16, 2013 at 6:02 PM

I wonder how many people will turn to a life of crime, simply so that they can get caught and sent to jail, where we will have to give them their diabetes or CHF treatments, the ones they used to be able to afford until the #UnaffordableInsuranceAct came into effect?

LibraryGryffon on October 16, 2013 at 12:51 PM

So, “Breaking Bad” may be a documentary?

AesopFan on October 16, 2013 at 7:12 PM

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