If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may remember that I’m unemployed and single. Being unemployed, young(ish), and without health insurance, you might think I’m thrilled about the implementation of Obama’s health care scheme.
I am not.
The legislation was sold as something that would extend health coverage to people who don’t have it, as a warm and fuzzy legislative accomplishment that would ensure basic services for everyone. And so I thought to myself that I’d visit the website to see what I’d have to pay. I may not have an income, but I was always pretty frugal and parting with a few saved dollars to get insured might not be a bad idea. Emphasis belongs on the word “few” because few is a euphemistic term for how many dollars I have.
Fortunately, the website links to a rate estimator (“subsidy calculator”) that asks for some basic information (age, income, number of dependents, etc.) and spits out some numbers. As it turns out, my income isn’t high enough to qualify for low-income assistance (Medicaid). The webpage explaining options for the unemployed offers up this little gem on other reduced rate possibilities:
You may qualify for lower costs for monthly premiums and out-of-pocket costs on private insurance based on your household size and income. Some people with very low incomes may wind up paying very small premiums. You can apply for Marketplace insurance now. Coverage can begin as soon as January 1, 2014.
You can click on that link in the quote if you like; it provides no new information. And I’m hardly surprised. The quote admits that “some” low-income people “may” pay very small premiums. Nothing concrete is promised, and that doesn’t match Obama’s lofty political rhetoric.
So let’s assume I’d have to pay full price. For the least expensive option, I’d be spending over $2,500 per year. As you might imagine, this is why I don’t presently have health insurance.
But fear not! I have discovered the silver lining. Although Obamacare assesses a penalty to people who don’t enroll in health insurance, the website explains what I can do if I can’t afford the premiums:
If you feel that any Marketplace coverage is unaffordable and you don’t qualify for other exemptions, you can apply for a hardship exemption. If you get an exemption, you don’t have to pay the fee paid by other people who do not have health insurance. Read more about exemptions.
So, for an unemployed person like me, Obamacare expands my health care options by allowing me to apply for exemption from a fee that wasn’t previously required. Brilliant!
Incidentally, the non-enrollment penalty is “sometimes” called the “individual responsibility provision,” which accurately describes things. The mandate to enroll is what Tea Party (radical conservative faction, for my non-U.S. readers) have opposed most vociferously. However, the requirement was originally a conservative invention in the early 1990’s that was devised as an alternative to Hillary Clinton’s proposals for reform. Back then, conservatives were selling the mandate as a way to make sure people who could afford it were paying into the system. After all, hospitals don’t turn away people without insurance or cash; insurance holders end up eating the costs for their uninsured neighbors through higher premiums. The conservatives didn’t make any attempt to sell this provision as “universal healthcare” and I laud them for their honesty and their recognition that people who can afford it ought to be contributing.
As for me, I look at Obamacare and see a massively expensive government program that in no way accomplishes anything it was promised to do in a country that is too far in debt to afford much of anything. Low-income assistance (Medicaid) already existed.
Shutting down the government and risking a debt default were rotten tactics, but now I understand the Tea Party’s continued opposition to Obamacare. I only wish someone on the liberal side would stand up and proclaim some objections that are more damning than what the Tea Party puts forth. In the meantime, I’ll have to grudgingly respect the Tea Party for having the sense to oppose this law… even if the ideological reasons they offer don’t resonate with me.