I was delighted when I was finally able to complete the application process and get enrolled for Obamacare last May. I had been struggling with their website since the previous November and was very happy that, for the first time since 1988, I could afford health insurance.
A few particulars: My wife is out of work, with little hope of finding even the most menial job, thanks to the shambles the Big Shot financial gamblers have made of our economy. We have to get by with the high cost of living in Philadelphia on just my paycheck. I estimated my 2014 gross would be around $28,000 at the time I completed my application. (My income varies depending on work availability, so I couldn’t give an exact figure.)
Based on that, I was pleased to discover that we could get coverage in 2014 for 53 cents per month. And not just any coverage. We got a Silver plan that had a zero deductible and low co-pays. The government paid the remaining $878.32 per month.
It couldn’t have come at a better time. At 58 years old, I’ve had hip and back pain for three years which has worsened to the degree that—beginning about 2 months ago—I can only walk about two blocks before the pain is too much to take. It takes several hours for me to fall asleep most nights because I can’t find a comfortable position. My wife is five years younger and has several medical issues as well.
So you can imagine our relief at finally acquiring health insurance. I mean, we didn’t even have a primary care physician because we couldn’t afford one. Like many of our nation’s poor and near-poor, prior to obtaining insurance we went to the emergency room when we had health problems. It was the only place an uninsured person could go that didn’t demand payment in advance for diagnosis and treatment.
True, it’s ridiculously wasteful and you get some enormous hospital bills with this approach but, like millions of others in our predicament, you can usually avoid paying charges that you could never afford (without foregoing such niceties as food on the table and a roof over your head, that is). It just means you can never again answer your telephone. (Thank god for voicemail!)
Because my pain wasn’t as bad last May as it is now, I put off finding a doctor and getting treatment. ‘Hey, I have health insurance now,’ I reasoned, ‘so there’s no rush in getting to the doctor.’ My job requires working seven days a week in order to get in my 40 hours (or less) and my schedule is varied and unpredictable, so I never seemed to find the time to select a doctor and set up an appointment.
So imagine my shock on receiving the renewal letter from my insurance company a few weeks ago. In order to keep the same good plan that we had received, I would now have to pay $177.38 per month! The letter suggested two other plans that cost less: One for $104.89 per month and the other for $24.05.
The total price—including the government subsidy—of our plan had gone from $878.85 to $1055.60 per month, an increase of approximately 20 percent. This is roughly 10 times the medical inflation rate!
Who knew that the Affordable (sic) Care Act allowed such flagrant gouging? It appears that Congress and the President have given the insurance moguls a license to steal.
But that isn’t the worst part, since the numbers that matter most to consumers are out-of-pocket costs. Well, the out-of-pocket cost for our premium went from $0.53 per month to $177.28.
This represents a price increase of 33,449 PERCENT!
Now we could afford either of the two alternate plans—albeit barely—but get this: The first has a $12,000 deductible per year for my wife and me! The cheaper plan has a $13,200 deductible per family. We would have unlimited visits to a primary care doctor for $40 each with the first plan without having to meet the $12,000 deductible. We would pay $30 per visit with the second plan—but only for the first three, then the deductible kicks in.
But we all know how it goes. The primary care doctor must make a diagnosis which—in most cases (including mine)—would require expensive diagnostic tests which are subject to the deductible. Then I would need even more costly treatment by specialists—also subject to the deductible.
Translation: If I want to get treatment for my hip, I’ll get the initial visit for $30 or $40, but will have to pay the entire remaining cost up to either $12,000 or $13,200, depending on the plan. In other words, I would be paying my monthly premium for what is, in effect, no coverage at all. I can’t afford to impoverish my wife and myself paying many thousands of dollars to meet the deductible.
OK. Plan B. I called the people at healthcare.gov in hopes of finding a less expensive plan from another provider (…and was kept on hold for 1-1/2 hours). After reporting my estimate of a slightly higher income for 2015, I was told I would still qualify for $798 per month. Good. The bad news was that the cheapest Silver plan she could find would cost more than $300 per month over the subsidy.
Very well. Plan C. The cheapest tier is Bronze coverage. The best price I could get for a Bronze plan is $94.74 per month. Although it would be a stretch, we could afford that. Problem is, it has a $10,000 deductible per person! Anything other than a primary care visit is subject to that deductible. In other words this plan, like the others, offers no affordable care at all.
In exasperation, I asked the representative what would be the penalty for having no insurance. She said it is either $650 or 2 percent of your annual gross, whichever is higher. For $28,000 income, 2 percent would be $560, so I would have to pay $650 for not getting coverage.
This is painful but, with Obamacare, I would have to pay the monthly premium and receive no meaningful coverage anyway. In all but the cheapest plan, it would cost me less to pay the penalty for no healthcare than to pay the premium each month (and still not be able to afford any healthcare beyond the initial doctor visit).
True, it would be cheaper just to take the plan that costs $24.05 and never go to the doctor unless I could pay the bill myself (as I have for the last 26 years). But I refuse to do it. Why? Because it galls me that some insurance company will be sucking up $798 from our taxes each month and offering NOTHING in return!
I refuse to be the victim of such a naked bait-and-switch con.
While I felt it didn’t go far enough (I support Single Payer, i.e. Medicare for all), I used to be an enthusiastic supporter of Obamacare. But now that I see how they lured us in with affordable prices only to allow the insurance companies to jack them up to obscenely high levels, I realize that Obamacare is just another swindle by the rich and powerful to take away what few coins remain in our pockets.
In reality, Obamacare is nothing more than a gigantic taxpayer subsidy for the (insanely profitable and corrupt) insurance industry. By forcing millions of citizens to trade down this year to policies that offer no protection at all, they can continue to collect billions in subsidies in return for policies that are effectively worthless.
It’s now clear to me that this was the plan all along.
So I went from having no health insurance for 26 years to having to pay $650 per year for the ‘privilege’ of having no health insurance. Thanks a lot, Mr. President! Thanks a lot Congress! In serving your corporate Masters, you have radicalized me to the point that I am boycotting Obamacare and urging all within earshot to do the same. It’s just another tool of the Big Shots for fleecing the rest of us.
And we’re all just about fleeced-out. I, for one, am mad as hell. You?