By Tracy Seipel via San Jose Mercury News
Cindy Vinson and Tom Waschura are big believers in the Affordable Care Act. They vote independent and are proud to say they helped elect and re-elect President Barack Obama.
Yet, like many other Bay Area residents who pay for their own medical insurance, they were floored last week when they opened their bills: Their policies were being replaced with pricier plans that conform to all the requirements of the new health care law.
Vinson, of San Jose, will pay $1,800 more a year for an individual policy, while Waschura, of Portola Valley, will cough up almost $10,000 more for insurance for his family of four.
“Welcome to the club,” said Robert Laszewksi, a prominent health care consultant and president of Health Policy and Strategy Associates in Virginia.
For years, the nation has been embroiled in the political rhetoric of “Obamacare,” but this past week the reality of the new law sank in as millions of Americans had their first good look at how the 3 1/2-year-old legislation will affect their pocketbooks.
This much quickly became clear:
As state- and federal-run health insurance exchanges debuted across the country offering a range of prices for different tiers of insurance coverage, the new online marketplaces — which represent the centerpiece of Obamacare — could greatly benefit more than 40 million Americans who now lack coverage. But an additional 16 million — who buy individual health insurance policies on the open market — are finding out that their plans may not comply with the new law, which requires 10 essential benefits such as maternity care, mental health care and prescription drug coverage.
In California, 1.9 million people buy plans on the open market, according to officials with Covered California, the state’s new health insurance exchange. And many of them are steaming mad.
“There’s going to be a number of people surprised” by their bills, said Jonathan Wu, a co-founder of ValuePenguin, a consumer finance website. “The upper-middle class are the people who are essentially being asked to foot the bill, and that’s true across the country.”
Covered California spokesman Dana Howard maintained that in public presentations the exchange has always made clear that there will be winners and losers under Obamacare.
“Some people will see an increase who are already on the individual market purchasing insurance,” he said, “but most people will not.”
Covered California officials note that at least 570,000 of the 1.9 million people who buy their own insurance should be eligible for subsidies that will reduce their premiums.
Even those who don’t qualify for the tax subsidies could see their rates drop because Obamacare doesn’t allow insurers to charge people more if they have pre-existing conditions such as diabetes and cancer, he said.
Finish reading via San Jose Mercury News