MSNBC.com’s Suzy Khimm wants you to know that the Affordable Care Act has made significant positive impact on the life of Raghu Raju and those of his family.
For 12 paragraphs, he serves as an avatar for all those who would like to view the ACA in a favorable light. But the meat of this report begins to become clear nearer towards its end when Khimm begins to discuss anticipated cost increases for the nation’s 7.1 million Obamacare enrollees.
It turns out that Raju and the millions of others in his position are probably going to have to change their plans if they do not want to see their costs spike.
But if those enrolled want to prevent their health care costs from rising in 2015, many will have to be willing to change their insurance plans. About 83% of the 7.1 million enrolled in the exchanges receive subsidies that are designed to insulate them from premium price hikes, as they are calculated according to the cost of the second-lowest cost “silver” plan in an area, as well as an individual’s income. (In 2015, premium subsidies will be available for individuals earning up to $46,680 annually and up to $95,400 for a family of four.)
So many enrolled will either have to change to a different plan or face higher health care costs in 2015. “It’s likely to be a confusing situation for consumers,” says Levitt “The onus will be on consumers themselves to go search out their options—a lot is changing.” [Emphasis added]
Do not fret for Raju, though. Khimm reports that our intrepid hero is happy to pay more for his ACA plan in 2015, “provided that it’s relatively modest.”
The Wall Street Journal elaborated on the surprises facing ACA consumers in the coming days, some of which are not welcome developments from the point of view of the White House:
The Obama administration is racing to prevent consumers from facing an unexpected jump in their insurance costs next year. An early look at 2015 rate proposals and final premiums posted this week on HealthCare.gov, which serves more than 30 states, showed that many large plans increased their premiums for next year.
“We are encouraging consumers enrolled in a marketplace plan to update their information and shop for a plan so they can get a plan that best fits their needs and budget,” said Aaron Albright, a spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency running HealthCare.gov.
That advice is late in coming. The federal government said earlier this year it was planning to automatically renew existing coverage for most people who don’t return to the site, with the same subsidy they received for 2014. The goal was to avoid millions of people dropping out of coverage if they didn’t come back to the site to re-enroll.
Time Magazine noted in a report published on Friday that the contours of the debate over Obamacare have changed. The relatively minimal penalties applied to Americans who opt not to purchase health insurance, for example, are set to more than triple.
“For the 2015 plan year you’ll owe the greater of $325 for an adult ($975 per family) or 2% of family income, which you’ll pay with your taxes in spring 2016,” Time reported.
While most premiums for the ACA’s low-cost “silver plan” are not going to rise appreciably, that condition varies from location to location:
Premiums are also changing. An early analysis of monthly plan costs across 15 cities found that the premium for the second-lowest-cost silver plan, before taking any income-based tax credits into account, is decreasing by an average of 0.8%, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. However, that’s not true everywhere. The premium for that silver plan will jump 8.7% in Nashville, for example, 6.6% in Burlington, Vt., and 6.0% in Portland, Ore. The cost will drop 15.6% in Denver and 11.4% in Providence.
While the impact of fluctuating insurance costs, premiums, and tax credits are sure to change the nature of the debate over Obamacare, it is clear that debate is not going to disappear.