I might be an Obamacare winner. After months of frustration, I might qualify for a policy with better benefits, slightly lower premiums and a smaller deductible. But it comes at a steep price.
The cost of my Obamacare policy cannot be measured in dollars and cents but in dignity. It is transforming me from a contributing member of society into a welfare recipient; its corrosive system of subsidy incentives discourages me from working harder. My familiarity with the law has only bred contempt. Now that I see whats in it, I dont just hope but pray that it is overturned, replaced with reforms that actually improve the health care system.
My Obamacare story began in September. I liked my Blue Cross/Blue Shield policy covering the five members of my healthy family. I wasnt crazy about the $440 monthly premium and $10,000 deductible, but our out-of-pocket expenses were only about $1,200 a year. Because of the tax savings of using a health savings account, we were paying less than when I had employer insurance. We didnt have free contraception, but we made do.
I didnt realize my plan was substandard until I received a letter from BCBS in early October saying that a policy deemed adequate by the president would raise my premium to $1,100 a month and my deductible to $12,400.
After some spirited discussions with the presidents supporters, I went online to see whether I could get a better rate through the federal exchange. The problems with the website are now legend, and I wont bore you with all the mind-numbing details (unless, of course, you want me to and then I wont shut up; just ask my wife). I will say that anyone who described those problems as glitches was ignorant of the facts and shilling for the administration.
As someone who works on a PC all day, I am used to spinning wheels but I have never seen them whirl and twirl with such sound and fury as they did on healthcare.gov. The unfailingly polite people at the customer service center and I talked to lots of them were using the same system, so they couldnt help. The phone number I was given for local navigators did not work. The paper application I requested was missing pages needed to add my children.
In early December, BCBS said I could keep my old policy for $565 a month but I hadnt given up on healthcare.gov.
I was finally able to delete my first Obamacare application and fill out a new one over the phone, in about 30 minutes. The system, however, would not allow me to pick a plan, so I had to call back to fix that. Now, with the Dec. 23 deadline looming to ensure no lapse in coverage on Jan. 1, I must send a letter from my employer verifying my salary. I assume hundreds of thousands of others must do the same. I am not confident that each of our applications can be approved, by hand, in a day or two during Christmas.
Lets pretend everything works out a big if, given the massive problems insurance companies are having getting reliable information from the federal government. According to the website, I will be paying $452 a month for a policy with a $6,000 deductible and a few favorable co-pay rates. That rate includes a subsidy of $10,140 a year, which far exceeds what I expect to pay in federal income taxes during 2014. Instead of giving money to the government, I am now a taker. This sickens me.
Because my subsidy is based on income, I may think twice about earning more because my effective tax rate on each extra dollar will be about 50 percent. This saddens me.
Without the subsidy, my policy would cost $15,672 a year with a $6,000 deductible (before I was paying $5,280 for a $10,000 deductible). This angers me.
Nancy Pelosi famously said we have to pass the law to know whats in it. We now know that President Obama told profound lies to sell his program he should call his next book The Mendacity of Hope.
And now we know why he lied. Obamacare replaces a flawed system with one that is far worse. It gouges the affluent and turns the middle-class into wards of the state. This is Obamas legacy, and it is a tragedy.
Contributing columnist J. Peder Zane
can be reached at email@example.com.