Never Fear! The Obamacare Sign-up Period is Here!

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Like a recurring herpes outbreak the sign-up period to get your “affordable” health insurance is upon us once more. You can go to Healthcare.gov today to preview the premiums, deductibles, and benefits to see just how much money you’ll “save” this year. So that’s what I did.

I’m a 52 year-old self-employed male who also covers his 18 year-old son and I have been buying my own insurance since 2004, so I do know how much this stuff cost before the Affordable Care Act came into affect. I also have a pre-existing arthritic condition but this never caused me a problem for obtaining insurance. In addition, I am eligible to buy insurance through my wife’s employer, the state of North Carolina, if I want to pay $700/month. Uh … thanks North Carolina, but no thanks!

With that information in hand I dove into the Healthcare.gov website to see what deals I could get. After several abortive attempts caused by the twisted logic that guides you through the site’s questionnaire (no Healthcare.gov, I want to insure my son, NOT my wife!) I finally got to see what ACA insurance would cost this year.

I nearly choked when I saw the rates.

To insure my son and myself, the cheapest bronze plan would cost $683/month. The deductible is $4,200 per person. I would have to spend $12,396 over the course of a year before the insurance would start kicking in to cover 70% of the cost. Holy #@*%! I could buy a $225,000 house for that!

Now, I’m not necessarily representative of the average person getting insurance through Healthcare.gov because I can get insurance through my wife’s employer, thus making me ineligible for welfare … I mean a subsidy … to lower what I pay toward the premium. So I decided to see how much I could save if I could get a subsidy.

This is where Healthcare.gov plays a con game. When you look at the plans, the site shows you what you would pay with a subsidy for the bronze plans. The $683/month bronze plan would now only cost $354/month with a $329 subsidy. That’s still a lot compared to what I paid prior to the ACA (it’s 89% higher), but it’s much better than the non-subsidy premium. But NOBODY can get this deal. You are NOT allowed to use a subsidy to buy a bronze plan. So why is Healthcare.gov showing premiums for a bronze plans with a subsidy? Did Hillary Clinton program this part of the site?

So, I looked at the silver plans to see what I’d spend with a subsidy – $450/month with a $5,000 per person deductible. I would still have to spend $10,400 in a year before the insurance would cover anything! In the combined 70 years my son and I have walked this planet only once did either of us have medical costs that surpassed that amount (and it wasn’t by much). In other words, there is about a 1.4% chance that this insurance would ever get used. What sane person would throw away so much money on such long odds?

In case you think I’m exaggerating, here are a couple of examples provided by United Healthcare (UHC), the insurer who runs this plan:

UHC Bronze Plan

If you’re having a baby UHC will pay $2,450 while you must pay $5,000. If you’re getting diabetes treatment UHC will only pay $860 while you pay $4,540. Remember, this is after you’ve already paid them thousands and thousands of dollars in premiums. Most people would be better off not getting the insurance and saving the premiums to cover unexpected medical costs.

Not only is ACA insurance expensive in absolute terms, it’s also expensive compared to last year. The most affordable bronze plan would have cost me $529/month in the 2015 enrollment period. In my case, ACA insurance went up 29%. And before this idiocy was slammed down our throats I only paid $187/month. ACA insurance now costs 265% MORE than my insurance did in 2013! How can anyone claim this affordable?

There are stories in the media about people who are saving money because of this, and those stories are true. I plugged in some numbers and discovered that a 27 year-old man from my town could get away with paying just $31/month with a $0 deductible as long as he’s only making $16,000 a year. That insurance is a no-brainer – buy it! And thank the taxpayers for paying $284/month toward your premium. Also, if you are someone with a chronic or expensive medical condition, you’ll probably save money by getting an ACA plan despite the horrendous premiums and deductibles. Of course, these people are ridiculously costly and are causing some insurers to leave the market while bankrupting a third of the country’s insurance co-ops.

However, these lower income and unhealthy people are a minority of the folks who were uninsured when the ACA passed. According to Gallup figures there were about 51 million Americans without health insurance in 2010. That figure is now down to 37 million, a decrease of 14 million. But of the 14 million, about 5.5 million got insurance through work as the economy recovered, leaving 8.5 million. Medicaid also picked up 10 million people when it expanded as part of the ACA law. From these numbers it appears that Obamacare’s health insurance didn’t actually do anything to lower the number of uninsured, and in fact may have added 1.5 million to the uninsured by pricing previously insured people out of the market.

So what is someone like me, and I suspect many of you, to do? I’m certainly not going to pay $683/month for something I’ll probably never use, but I do want some kind of coverage in case a catastrophe happens. So I bought a short-term insurance plan. My son and I are now covered for the cost of $205/month with a $5,000/person deductible. This is not ACA insurance and I am therefore subject to the “shared responsibility tax” (could they have come up with a more Orwellian name?), but this tax is easy to legally avoid. If the premiums of the cheapest ACA plan exceed 8% of your income then you don’t have to pay the tax. At $8,196/year I’d have to make over $102,000 before I’d have to pay the tax. But even if my income is too high, there are other ways to get out of it. Did your house flood? Did a family member die? Did you receive a shut-off notice from a utility company? Were you a victim of domestic violence (how are they going to verify that)? Are you an American Indian or Eskimo? Do you have religious objections to insurance? Were you in jail at all? These are just some of the ways to avoid the fine … I mean tax – thank you Chief Justice Roberts, you moron.

Even if you can’t get an exemption, the tax plus the premiums for the short-term insurance is probably cheaper than the cost of Obama’s un-“affordable” plans. So get out your calculator and shop around. You’ll probably find you’re better off not participating in this colossal government #@*%-up.

Wayne Middlesteadt is the author of Five Ways to Beat the Market and The Golden Age of Distance Running.

About Author

Wayne Middlesteadt is a 1986 graduate of Georgia Tech and has an MBA from Georgia State University. Currently working as a financial writer and track and field historian, his latest book is Five Ways To Beat The Market.