Oops: Slightly Over Half Of Counties In Federal Exchange Lack Affordable Obamacare Plans

Sticker shock

(USA Today) More than half of the counties in 34 states using the federal health insurance exchange lack even a bronze plan that’s affordable – by the government’s own definition – for 40-year-old couples who make just a little too much for financial assistance, a USA TODAY analysis shows.

Many of these counties are in rural, less populous areas that already had limited choice and pricey plans, but many others are heavily populated, such as Bergen County, N.J., and Philadelphia and Milwaukee counties.

More than a third don’t offer an affordable plan in the four tiers of coverage known as bronze, silver, gold or platinum for people buying individual plans who are 50 or older and ineligible for subsidies.

This goes to those making just over the 400% of the poverty line, which would be $47,780 for an individual or $61,496 for a couple, who are ineligible for any sort of subsidy. USA Today looked at the premiums for all plans to see if they broke through the 8% of income level, which, according to Los Federales, is the affordability threshold.

The number of people who earn close to the subsidy cutoff and are priced out of affordable coverage may be a small slice of the estimated 4.4 million people buying their own insurance and ineligible for subsidies. But the analysis clearly shows how the sticker shock hitting many in the middle class, including the self-employed and early retirees, isn’t just a perception problem. The lack of counties with affordable plans means many middle-class people will either opt out of insurance or pay too much to buy it.

Isn’t it funny how everything always seems to be a “small slice”? Yet, a small slice here, a small slice there, pretty soon the entire country is killed by a 1000 paper cuts.

“The ACA was not designed to reduce costs or, the law’s name notwithstanding, to make health insurance coverage affordable for the vast majority of Americans,” says health care consultant Kip Piper, a former government and insurance industry official. “The law uses taxpayer dollars to lower costs for the low-income uninsured but it also increases costs overall and shifts costs within the marketplace.”

Essentially, redistributing money. And, let’s face it, even if these folks obtain health insurance, they still won’t be able to afford the deductibles. Someone making $20K, $30K, etc, won’t be able to pitch out $6k or so.

Although premiums are unaffordable in many places now, protections in the law will prevent the massive jumps in premiums that characterized the individual insurance market before the ACA, she says.

Individual policies before had only the “optics of affordability and no dependability,” Pollitz says. “What good is protection if it doesn’t work when you need it?”

What good are plans that one cannot afford right off the bat, and have deductibles that are a massive chunk of people’s income? That’s the reality of Obamacare.

Crossed at Pirate’s Cove. Follow me on Twitter @WilliamTeach.

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