The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had great Obamacare news last week: premiums nationwide will “be around 16 percent lower…
“…than originally expected.”
The second part of that talking point — about future savings relative to year-old government estimates — is crucial to understanding the public-relations war over the Affordable Care Act.
After years of conservative criticisms about Obamacare’s costs and effects, supporters desperately want more good news published about the unpopular but little-understood program. It goes online Tuesday when the public will have the first chance to get a real look at new plans for the individual-insurance market.
But though HHS Wednesday advertised the act’s “significant choice and lower than expected premiums,” some might find limited choices and Affordable Care Act rates that don’t look so affordable.
In the end, people don’t care about government expectations. They don’t buy insurance with estimates and projections.
People pay with money.
Many will likely pay less under Obamacare, thanks to tax subsidies. Those who earn in excess of four times the federal poverty limit won’t get subsidies and likely would pay more.
And others will be like Rebecca Reichert of Dania Beach, whose family probably falls somewhere between when it comes to paying premiums.
Reichert’s middle-class family is a case study in Obamacare costs and benefits, and how the president’s promises could play in Florida.
Under the lowest-cost Obamacare plan averages, Reichert might be able to save about 9 percent monthly; but under the highest-cost average plan she could pay up to 78 percent more, according to preliminary estimates produced for The Miami Herald by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.
“I was hoping it would be more affordable,” Reichert said.
But relative to what the market offers now, Reichert notes, her family would get more for less thanks to tax subsidies. Her husband, who has a pre-existing condition, is uninsurable now but would finally get coverage.
So Reichert’s family could ditch her three-person, $700 monthly plan and get a four-person plan for an average as low as $636 after tax credits.Under the Affordable Care Act, she should have better benefits, limits on co-pays and deductibles, and more of a guarantee that her insurance company spends her money on coverage instead of profits.
Reichert will probably switch.
Miami builder Eddy Gugliotta, who makes too much for subsidies, probably won’t. Under one scenario, Gugliotta might have to pay three times more. And though he’ll get better insurance, the cost could be too high.
“I could almost adopt a poor family!!!” he said in an email of the costs.
Still, these are just state estimates of averages; the final and specific numbers become clear Tuesday.
Obamacare boosters want the press to focus not on the Gugliottas, but on the Reicherts of Florida and, even more so, on as many as 3.8 million Floridians who have no insurance.
They want the debate centered on better coverage, better value and, when it comes to the 900,000 Floridians currently insured in the individual marketplace, the tax credits that help people get relatively more for less.
“Just look for yourself,” Obama said last week at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York. “You will discover that this is a good deal for you.”