With the 2017 health insurance marketplaces now open, tens of millions of Americans are now learning about their insurance options for the coming year. And for the vast majority, it is not a happy education.
Here’s my 2017 Obamacare waltz.
On Tuesday, I logged onto the HealthCare.gov website. The same website President Obama says is now fully functional. My waltz into sad absurdity commenced without delay.
“We need you to wait here, so we can make sure you have a good experience on our site.” The holding page detained me for around five minutes. And as I waited I had two thoughts. First, that the delay was a harbinger, warning that I should not expect good options. Second, that the website’s holding page was an apt, if inadvertent, metaphor for socialized medicine: “hurry up and wait.”
Next came my eligibility report. Sadly, although my income is at the very middle range for a journalist of my age, I was told that my “household’s yearly income is too high for a premium tax credit.” Sad.
Then it was time to peruse the plans. The cheapest silver option (mid-level insurance plan) available was $262 per month. It included a $6,075 deductible and $10 for primary care doctor visits. But it offered no specialist doctor cost share provision. Anyone needing a specialist would have to pay from their deductible.
The website’s holding page was an apt, if inadvertent, metaphor for socialized medicine: “hurry up and wait”
The next cheapest silver plan was $274. It provided $5 primary care visits, $100 specialist visits, and a deductible of… $6,300. Think on the differential. The deductible for a plan that costs $144 more per year than the $262/month plan has a $225 higher deductible. With expensive specialist visit costs, except for those who regularly get minor illnesses, this plan was laughable to me.
Regardless, that trend of reliably bad options sustained throughout the silver plans. As the monthly premiums increased with each plan, the deductibles varied widely. Even the most expensive premium plan—$414 per month—had a $2,000 deductible and a $6,550 maximum out of pocket. It also required co-pays for doctor visits and prescriptions!
Silver plans were never an option for me. They’re simply too expensive. The gold and platinum plans that offer more easily accessible treatment? Forget it. In Obama’s America they are now the undisputed preserve of the elite.
Thus I was forced into the waltz’s crescendo: the bronze plans! The cheapest option here was $222 per month. And for that I’d get… wait for it… a $7,050 deductible. To see a primary or specialist doctor, I’d have to spend out of my deductible. The next cheapest bronze? A $230 monthly premium. This plan included a $6,500 deductible, a $7,100 maximum out of pocket, and a series of co-insurance charges after the deductible!
Bronze-zone soon became even more ridiculous. The most expensive bronze plan — $270 per month — had virtually the same provisions as the $230 per month plan!
Where did all this leave me? Simple. With hours wasted and soul depressed. After all, the cheapest option available represented a 42 percent hike on my 2016 premium and the gift of a major deductible hike. I’m better off paying the penalty fee.
The cheapest option available represented a 42 percent hike on my 2016 premium and the gift of a major deductible hike. I’m better off paying the penalty fee
Yet I’m not the issue here. The vast majority of middle-class — especially younger — Americans are. Health insurance companies cannot charge more for pre-existing conditions. That means that those using Obamacare are the ill and the old. And unable to cover their costs, health insurance companies are either dropping out of the exchanges or massively increasing premiums.
This dynamic causes harm to most Americans. As I’ve explained, a fairer health system would mean that older Americans, sickly Americans and those with pre-existing conditions — such as myself — paid premiums higher than those without pre-existing conditions. Some say that this idea is harsh, but I disagree. Life sucks sometimes and is unfair sometimes. But just as I was born with a heart condition, I was also born with a British accent and U.S. citizenship. And thus a great opportunity to find TV related employment! And just as Stephen Hawking was born with great potential for astrophysics research, Usain Bolt for sprinting and Steve Jobs for creating new technologies, life is also full of opportunity. We should protect the very poorest Americans and deal with the challenge of pre-existing conditions without dramatically increasing premiums for everyone.
The alternative to fairness is current reality. A reality in which hundreds of millions of Americans like Mary Katherine Ham suffer unduly. As she notes at The Federalist, in providing health care for herself and her two young children, Ham must wage war on her bank account. But her experience is only one of many increasing millions. Like shoppers in Soviet supermarkets, American health care buyers now face a very limited selection of terrible products at extortionate prices.
The president keeps insisting his landmark law is a great thing for all Americans. So, giving Obama the benefit of the doubt, I revisited HealthCare.gov on Wednesday. Sadly, the prices hadn’t changed. But the holding page had. Instead of a five minute delay, it lasted 20 minutes.
“We need you to wait here, so we can make sure you have a good experience on our site.”
Obamacare: It’s a truly sadistic notion of good experience. In fact, it’s immoral.
Tom Rogan is a foreign policy columnist for National Review, a domestic policy columnist forOpportunity Lives, a panelist on The McLaughlin Group and a senior fellow at the Steamboat Institute. Follow him on Twitter @TomRtweets.