Fullerton resident Jennifer Harris thought she had a great deal, paying $98 a month for an individual plan through Health Net Inc. She got a rude surprise this month when the company said it would cancel her policy at the end of this year. Her current plan does not conform with the new federal rules, which require more generous levels of coverage.I want to sympathize with Ms Harris, but I want to ask first who she voted for in 2012. The depth of my sympathy would depend upon her answer. Her experience has been the experience of millions of others across the country who are seeing their premiums skyrocket:
Now Harris, a self-employed lawyer, must shop for replacement insurance. The cheapest plan she has found will cost her $238 a month. She and her husband don't qualify for federal premium subsidies because they earn too much money, about $80,000 a year combined.
"It doesn't seem right to make the middle class pay so much more in order to give health insurance to everybody else," said Harris, who is three months pregnant. "This increase is simply not affordable."
On balance, many Americans will benefit from the healthcare expansion. They are guaranteed coverage regardless of their medical history. And lower-income families will gain access to comprehensive coverage at little or no cost. The federal government picks up much of the tab through an expansion of Medicaid and subsidies to people earning up to four times the federal poverty level. That's up to $46,000 for an individual or $94,000 for a family of four.In order to insure more of those at the bottom of the socio-economic scale, Obamacare makes it almost impossible for those further up to afford insurance. The average premium increase across the country for males is almost 100%. The average for females is about 65%. In most states if you buy your own insurance, you'll pretty much be working just to pay your premiums. That's if you're working at all. Mr. Obama's economy is so depressed that millions of young people, especially minorities, simply can't find a job anywhere.
But middle-income consumers face an estimated 30% rate increase, on average, in California due to several factors tied to the healthcare law.
Some may elect to go without coverage if they feel prices are too high. Penalties for opting out are very small initially. Defections could cause rates to skyrocket if a diverse mix of people don't sign up for health insurance.
Let's close with this. The Times piece includes a statement by a young woman that should make her a finalist in the facepalm sweepstakes:
Pam Kehaly, president of Anthem Blue Cross in California, said she received a recent letter from a young woman complaining about a 50% rate hike related to the healthcare law.
"She said, 'I was all for Obamacare until I found out I was paying for it,'" Kehaly said.