NYT: My, many of these ObamaCare premiums aren’t really as low as they seem, are they?
posted at 9:41 am on December 9, 2013 by Erika Johnsen
In the latest in the Paper of Record’s recent series on their gradually creeping realization that There Is No Such Thing as a Free Lunch: ObamaCare Edition, the NYT has a story out this morning that hones in on the Obama administration’s desire to tout premiums that sound as gloriously low as is humanly possible — even if that means deliberately obfuscating the ways in which insurance companies are now looking to make up the increased costs of the overhaul in other, less immediately obvious areas.
The Obama administration will herald what appear to be “affordable” premiums available to so many lucky Americans through ObamaCare all day long, “but as consumers” [and, evidently, the NYT] “dig into the details, they are finding that the deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs are often much higher than what is typical in employer-sponsored health plans.” There’s plenty of cushion on behalf of ObamaCare in the piece, but the overriding message I’m reading is that ObamaCare is not the wondrous and automatic cost-saving measure officials are touting it as, and that a lot of people, if they’re ineligible for ObamaCare’s more blatantly redistributive effects, are going to have to pay for all of the added “benefits” they now have no choice but to include in their plans somehow:
Until now, it was almost impossible for people using the federal health care website to see the deductible amounts, which consumers pay before coverage kicks in. But federal officials finally relented last week and added a “window shopping” feature that displays data on deductibles.
For policies offered in the federal exchange, as in many states, the annual deductible often tops $5,000 for an individual and $10,000 for a couple. …
Mark A. York, a 60-year-old freelance writer in Hailey, Idaho, said he began shopping after he received a letter saying that his current insurance policy would be canceled because it did not meet the requirements of the health care law. In the exchange, he said, he found policies with premiums similar to what he is now paying, $440 a month, but “the deductibles were so high — $4,000 to $6,000 a year — that it defeats the purpose of having insurance.” …
Federal officials often point to premiums as evidence that the health care law has made insurance affordable. “Nearly six in 10 uninsured Americans can pay less than $100 a month for coverage in the health insurance marketplace,” Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, has said.
Except that those miraculously low premiums aren’t really much of a favor if they’re accompanied by much higher deductibles, co-payments, and drastically limited provider networks, are they? There’s been a sizable and obviously deliberate lack of straightforwardness going on with this law, and those aren’t the only hidden and/or “unexpected” costs that consumers might now find themselves facing, as the WSJ reported the other day:
Americans with chronic illnesses—who are expected to be among the biggest beneficiaries of the health law—face widely varying out-of-pocket drug costs that could be obscured on the new insurance exchanges.
Under the law, patients can’t be denied coverage due to existing conditions or charged higher rates than healthier peers. The law also sets an annual out-of-pocket maximum of up to $6,350 for individuals and $12,700 for families, after which insurers pay the full tab.
But depending on the coverage they select, some patients on expensive drug regimens could reach that level fast. Some medications for conditions including hepatitis, rheumatoid arthritis, HIV and cancer can retail for thousands of dollars a month, and some plans require patients to pay as much as 50% of the cost.