Obamacare is coming to town...

The new year is almost upon us and change is coming. Oh boy, is it coming. Today I wanted to share with you a bit of first hand evidence of some of the real world effects your government has in store for you. This week I had the opportunity to stop by with friends at a local, small business (less than 40 employees) and sit in on a presentation being given by their insurance provider regarding changes to the employer provided program. (The provider in question also offers programs for private contractors and individuals which was of interest to me.) It was eye opening to say the least.

One of the first things I learned was that some of the employees were bracing for a big hit in terms of their costs. Single person coverage hadn’t changed very much – around $50 each two week pay period – and seemed fairly reasonably priced to me. But the employee plus spouse plan (2 people) had shot up more than 30% and was well over $150 per payday. The full family plan which covers children had taken an even bigger hit and was going to be costing almost $290 per paycheck. One woman who works in the computer graphics section was wandering around afterwards looking stunned, saying to three people in a row, “That’s half of my paycheck. That’s half of my paycheck. What am I going to do?”

There were other changes to the cost structure, with co-pays, deductibles and maximum out of pocket expenses being altered. None of these new price plans seemed to be very popular.

The presentation given by a young man from the insurance group was equally eye opening. Right off the bat he made reference to Obamacare. (And for the record, yes… he said “Obamacare” and not “The Affordable Care Act.”) He spoke of “some great things” it had mandated already, such as allowing children to stay on their parent’s policies longer. (Yes… he used the word “mandate” about half a dozen times during the presentation.) But after “the good stuff” he went on to professionally explain that other mandates involved providing a number of new bits of coverage at no cost, which affected the total cost of the plan to the employer. He handed out some useful flyers with the specifics. Most of them were, as he described it, in the area of women’s health issues. They include:

– Well-woman visits
– Gestational diabetes screening
– Sexually transmitted infection counseling
– FDA-approved contraception methods and counseling
– Human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing (age 30 and over)
– HIV screening / counseling
– Domestic violence screening
– Breastfeeding support and supplies

The rep seemed to be well aware of how these rising costs would affect people and was prepared with a handy tip sheet on how savvy health care shoppers could reduce their costs. It would almost be funny if it wasn’t so real. (And I would like to stress the fact that noneof this is my usual snark. These are real items on the company’s tip sheet.) Included on the list:

“When your Dr. prescribes a drug, ask if a cheaper alternative is available.”

“As you may know from your everyday shopping, it’s cheaper to buy in bulk…”

“Prescribing half as many high strength pills and splitting them to achieve the desired dosage can reduce the cost of some medications by 50%.”

“Drug companies give thousands of samples to doctors every year. Your doctor may be able to provide you with weeks’ worth of the medication at no charge.”

“Look into a discount card, either through a drugstore chain or national plan.”

So apparently this is the future of your health care under the “affordable” health care act. Be sure to look into those discount cards, kids. And by the way… did you know that many of the drugs your vet gives you for your dog are almost the same as the ones for humans? Savings SCORE!