Because her $54 per month plan was cancelled due to Obamacare's new higher requirements — and because her insurance company's recommended replacement would cost her nearly 10 times as much — Dianne Barrette became the face of Obamacare's so-called victims.
But in a new report from the New Republic, Barrette, after factoring in her tax credits and going through her options with reporter Jonathan Cohn, is now singing Obamacare's praises, even going so far as to say her previous plan's cancellation was "maybe" a "blessing in disguise."
When Cohn detailed for Barrette how much she'd be paying for far more comprehensive health insurance, Barrette told him she'd "jump at" the chance to secure the plan. "With my age, things can happen," she said. "I don’t want to have bills that could make me bankrupt. I don’t want to lose my house."
OK, but what can she get from Obamacare? Using plan data provided to me by the Kaiser Family Foundation, residents of Polk County, Florida have dozens of insurance options from which to choose. The cheapest option for somebody of Barrette's age has premiums of $440 a month, the most expensive goes for $914 a month. But Barrette wouldn’t pay those prices. Obamacare offers tax credits to people with incomes of up to four times the poverty line, or about $45,000 for an individual. Given Barrette’s income, she’ll be getting a tax credit worth nearly $331 a month, according to the Kaiser Foundation’s subsidy calculator. And that tax credit works like a discount, upfront. To figure out what she’d pay, you subtract the value of the tax credit from the price of the plan.
Accounting for that discount, it looks like the cheapest plan available her would cost about $100 a month—in other words, about $50 a month more than Barrette pays now. Obamacare divides plans into categories based on generosity—with platinum the most generous, bronze the least generous. This is a bronze plan and you can tell by reading the benefit summary. It covers periodic wellness visits for free, like all plans must under the new law. But it doesn’t pay for virtually anything else until the beneficiary has paid $6,250 of his or her own money, the maximum out-of-pocket allowed under Obamacare. The plan might protect Barrette from bankruptcy, something her current plan doesn't do, but it would do almost nothing to insulate her from less extreme medical expenses.
For an additional $50 or so, Barrette could apparently get the second-cheapest silver plan. It’s from FloridaBlue, the same company that provides Barrette with what she has now. Included in that policy: the usual free checkup, free vision care (one exam plus one pair of corrective lenses), free clinical lab work, and a drug plan with prices ranging from free for some generic, mail-order drugs to $250 for some high-end specialty drugs. It would cover primary care physician visits, though with a $75 co-pay per visit. Other coverage—for hospitalizations, specialist office visits, and so on—would kick in after her out-of-pocket expenses reached an annual deductible of $5,750. Her total out of pocket expenses could be no more than $6,250, in accordance with the law’s maximum.