I Didn’t Sign Up. But the Obamacare Website Seemed to Work for Me

Obamacare exchange 550x360

I didn’t sign up because I already have health care coverage.

However, I did go to the Obamacare website at healthcare.gov and put myself through the steps. I got to the point where I select a plan and click “buy.”

It worked ok for me.

I dunno. Maybe I didn’t go far enough with it.

Or maybe I have a magic touch.

What I did learn is that the premiums for health care are no bargain. If health insurance wasn’t affordable before Obamacare, it will become a major burden, at least for the middle class, after Obamacare. The premiums I was offered were actually higher than what my employer pays for my insurance.

I played with the numbers a bit, and if I had an income under $35,000 and a family of four with two children under 20, the premiums would become affordable. This is because the government pays a tax credit directly to the insurance company, which subsidizes the health insurance costs of the family. That’s part of where the huge increases in government spending come in.

Obamacare appears to be set up a lot like Medicare, except that Medicare actually is a big cost reducer for the citizen taxpayer. The best plan that I was offered also included the messiness of paying at least 10% of my health care costs out of pocket. Ten percent of the cost of treatment for cancer or something equally serious puts most people into bankruptcy territory.

Beginning in 2015, employers who offer health insurance are going to have to meet the coverage requirements of Obamacare. I imagine that will lead to considerable sticker shock for these employers and that many of them will stop offering health care to their employees.

That will push people who had previously had their health care subsidized by their employer into paying for their own costs through Obamacare. Many of these people will earn enough money that they don’t qualify for the tax credit. They will face a sudden increase in expenditure for health care, and, based on what I saw on the web site, it won’t be a small one.

I am not talking about wealthy people. I mean households with a combined income of say, 90,000 dollars or more. These are people who have to make car and mortgage payments, deal with ever increasing costs in everything from gasoline to tuition, and who fall through all the cracks when it comes to getting help. Obamacare is going to squeeze them.

To summarize: I think Obamacare will be an expensive problem for both the middle class and the government. The people it will help the most are lower-income working couples with young children who make too much money to get other forms of aid and don’t get employer-sponsored health insurance.

I need to add a serious disclaimer to these conclusions in that this is a cursory take on a complicated program. Also, I went through the web site as an Oklahoman and Oklahoma has not set up health care exchanges. Maybe I got higher premiums because of that.

But my takeaway from visiting the web site is that, yes, I at least can use the web site, and, yes, I think Obamacare itself has serious flaws regarding costs to the taxpayer, both in terms of coverage and the costs to our government.

  • AnneG

    I went on the site, too, just to check it out and could never get through. Looks like there are cheaper and better ways to deal with this. We need reform but this isn’t it.

  • FW Ken

    I’m on record opposing Obamacare, but this is a red herring. Debate the subject in its merits, not a technical glitch like this.

    • Mary E.

      There’s no easy way to separate the merits of the Affordable Care Act from the website because the automated exchange (the “insurance marketplace”) on HealthCare.gov is supposed to be one of the major merits of ACA. Automating the process of shopping for insurance and enrolling for a plan is critical to the efficient operation of the envisioned system, especially in terms of holding down operating costs. If the insurance marketplace isn’t functioning properly because of a poorly designed and coded website, then the only fallback is to revert to time- and labor-intensive manual processes (sending out catalogs with insurance information, filling out paper forms that must be keyed in by hand, etc.), and that will drive up costs. And of course, one of the big selling-points for ACA was that it would drive down the cost of healthcare, as we were repeatedly told. There’s also another potential problem which is a given in all group health insurance coverage, and which has been widely discussed in the media–the success of ACA’s healthcare system depends on getting a sufficient number of enrollees in a fairly short period of time, including many relatively young and healthy enrollees who will help to subsidize enrollees with much higher healthcare costs. Attracting those younger customers through a quick, easy online enrollment process has been part of the goal all along. Only that “quick, easy online” enrollment isn’t happening.

      • FW Ken

        Point taken, Mary E., although I was thinking more in terms of political posturing, as we saw in the Congressional hearings today.

  • USKensington

    “Squeeze” doesn’t even begin to cover it. For a lot of people, this will mean the end of saving money, much less making car payments.

  • http://acatholicviewoftheworld.wordpress.com/ Roki

    The best plan that I was offered also included the messiness of paying at least 10% of my health care costs out of pocket.

    This sounds like coinsurance, which is a standard part of most medical plans – at least it is up here in Washington State. Indeed, most plans I see have a 20% coinsurance level, and a growing number have 30%. 10% is Platinum level coverage.

    This is not supposed to lead to bankruptcy because there is a dollar-amount cap on the out-of-pocket expenses. Again, speaking only for Washington State, that Out-of-Pocket Maximum (OOP) is $6,250 for an individual, and $12,500 for a family. Some plans have lower OOPs. Once a family has spent $12,500 in a calendar year, the insurance company should pick up the rest of the tab.

    Once the calendar year turns, the OOP resets, and the family is on the hook for another $12,500.

    Now, $12,500 is still a lot of money, but on its own it wouldn’t necessarily lead to bankruptcy. It probably would put most families into debt; if the family already has other debts (mortgage, car loans, credit cards, etc.), then it could easily drive them into bankruptcy.

  • Bill S

    It seems that Obamacare might be flawed but is it flawed enough for the Tea Party to shut down the government unless it is delayed or repealed?

  • Chesire11

    Premiums for individual coverage purchased through the exchanges are cutting premiums in half in NY state, and by about 30% in California. The Massachusetts Health reforms upon which the ACA is modeled has been in place for seven years, and has neither driven employers out of state, inflated insurance premiums, nor has it resulted in employers dropping health insurance from their benefits packages, and we now have the lowest rate of uninsured in the union.

    Will there be adjustments that will need to be made when the program is up and running? Of course! There were adjustments to the reforms in MA, but the reforms were made, the system works and not even the staunchest libertarian in the Commonwealth complains about it.

  • Dave

    I suppose I should log on, just to get a morbid laugh at what healthcare is considered “affordable” and compulsory for my family.

  • Mary E.

    It sounds like you successfully got through the first stage, e.g., creating a user account, going through eligibility verification and shopping for a plan. That is the “application” process, and HHS announced a few days ago that just under 500,000 applications have been submitted since the online exchange was launched. However, that figure can be misleading because “applications” are not the same as “enrollments.” Enrollment is a separate stage that begins when the user hits that “buy” button. The information on enrollment is spotty so far, but the numbers that have been reported are drastically lower than the “applications” figure. That disparity points to problems that are just beginning to be understood. It could be that a good number of those half-a-million applicants (the lucky ones that are able to get through to the enrollment stage) are evaluating the options and making the same decision you did: not to purchase insurance through the exchange.

    • FW Ken

      I should add one more observation. It’s becoming clearer to me that the uninsured population includes a lot of young people and others who chose to remain uninsured and save the money. Now, a lot of these folks could go down to the public hospital and get care, but, in my admittedly cynical opinion, they and their white middle-class parents don’t want the precious darlings mingling with the sort of people who use public health facilities. You know, those people.

  • Lance Greene

    I got through to the premium estimates page. I was sticker shocked as i honestly thought this would be a excellent marketplace. I believed in it. Once i seen the premiums and now that i am hearing that the actual premiums are even higher i am stunned and confused as to why Mr. Obama would think it is good for everyone. He does say though that if you have a pre-existing condition like cancer etc that it will save you a lot of money. Well that is true i am sure. However for most people and for people like me it would destroy our household, there is simply no way we could afford another $360 – $400 for me to have insurance. My fiance works and i am unemployed. I run our nonprofit outreach (which i do not receive a wage from) while at the same time looking for employment. No way we can afford this healthcare and there is no way someone making minimum wage or even $12/ hour will be able to afford it if they want to have a roof over their head. I am not putting down the efforts of the Administration, i simply do not think this will be the answer, and i am sorry but i do not have an answer other than to transform our healthcare into one like Canada has. So i guess i will simply remain without insurance for the future.

    • Mary E.

      Since you mention Canada’s healthcare system, that reminds me that CGI Federal, the Canadian company who is the lead contractor for the HealthCare.gov site, previously worked on developing a healthcare-related site for that country. However, their work on the site was of such poor quality that the Canadian government cancelled the contract after three years. As far as supporting the development of a Canada-style program in this country, I just cannot do that, because I have no confidence in the ability of HHS to control and operate our entire healthcare system. There’s got to be a better way than that.

      • FW Ken

        I have never encountered a Canadian who didn’t like their health-care. They admit it has problems, but for my money, out problems are worse. And that’s for those who have insurance. I’ve been going through some health issues myself, and am not impressed.

        Scale is one big problem. I think the population of Canada is something like two mid-sized states in the U.S. One option would be to mandate universal health care, and let each state decide how to provide it. That might be through insurance, medical savings accounts, our public health facilities.

        • Mary E.

          One proposal that has come up from time to time, and which has just been raised again, is to open up the federal worker health insurance plans to all Americans. I’m a federal worker, and the premiums for my plan aren’t low but aren’t unreachable either. However, I have a fee-for-service plan, but there are lower-cost HMOs and other plans to choose from, and of course there would have to be subsidies for low-income people who don’t qualify for Medicaid. I would like to see some good analyses done of the potential benefits and risks. As far as the Canadian system, I don’t have enough information. The quality-level is good, but I have heard of some very long wait times for certain procedures, and of Canadians regularly crossing the border into the United States for health services. I have also heard that carrying supplemental health insurance (through employers or individual plans) is becoming more and more popular, so the overall costs for the average Canadian may be rising too.

          • FW Ken

            European socialized healthcare is notorious for poor quality, although my mother had an excellent experience in Scotland when she was hospitalized for two days with an insulin reaction. Canada, however, doesn’t have socialized medicine so much as socialized insurance. While it enacts a lot of rules and limitations on healthcare providers, I can’t imagine it’s worse than those of American insurance companies. And medical billing isn’t a complex and expensive process.

            I’ve often said that the right-wing lie is that Canadians hate their healthcare. Yes, they have waits for discretionary procedures. On the other hand, I’ve had various problems and can’t get in to see my doctor. I could go to the emergency room or an urgent care center, it’s true, but they are expensive and I would end up waiting a long time for the type of problems I was having (leg pain, wheezing, so on). Here is one article (of many) dealing with Canada/US system myths:

            http://www.aarp.org/politics-society/government-elections/info-03-2012/myths-canada-health-care.html

            The left-wing lie conflates health insurance and health care. They are not the same.

            My dad was a federal employee and our family always had excellent health insurance. Mother had it until she died. I work the state and it’s not so good.

      • Lance Greene

        Let me add, i am 54 now but when i was in grade school and high school my family lived in Canada and we never had a problem with their healthcare system. But like everything else, can’t please everyone, we will all find something we do not like about certain things be it healthcare or a local restaurant.


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