Sticker Shock At the OTHER End Of Obamacare Is Coming

I’ve written before about the Affordable Care Act giving people “sticker shock.” But now there is concern about the same problem from a different direction. Young people and poor people are signing up for insurance and choosing, for obvious reasons, the cheapest policies available—the “bronze” plans.

This could mean yet another disaster. As Associated Press reports:

Increasingly, experts in health insurance are becoming concerned that many of these first-time buyers will be in for a shock when they get medical care next year and discover they’re on the hook for most of the initial cost.

The prospect of sticker shock after Jan. 1, when those who sign up for policies now can begin getting coverage, is seen as a looming problem for a new national system that has been plagued by trouble since the new marketplaces went online in the states in October.

For those without insurance _ about 15 percent of the population_ “the lesson is it’s important to understand the total cost of ownership of a plan,” said Matt Eyles, a vice president of Avalere Health, a market analysis firm. “You just don’t want to look only at the premium.”

Counselors who have been helping people choose policies say many are focused only on the upfront cost, not what the insurance companies agree to pay.

“I am so deeply clueless about all of this,” acknowledged one new buyer, Adrienne Matzen, 29, an actor in Chicago who’s mostly been without insurance since she turned 21. Though she needs regular care for asthma and a thyroid condition, she says she’s looking for a low monthly premium because she makes less than $20,000 a year.

Hospitals are worried that those who rack up uncovered medical bills next year won’t be able to pay them, perpetuating one of the problems the new health care system is supposed to solve.

While I don’t have enough data to do the math, it is easily possible that a person who was uninsured and paying out of pocket for regularly needed medicine might be worse off with an Obamacare plan. That person who was paying for expensive medicine before, might still need to pay most of the price. But now he will have less monthly income because of the new insurance premiums he is forced to pay for the plan he was forced to buy.

What is so weird is that, for all the rhetoric about the need to “fix” healthcare, the Affordable Care Act doesn’t fix much of anything. It leaves us with the same problems as before: medical bills that will bankrupt us.  All it has done is move some of the dollar amounts into different parts of the budget. But it is not clear that expenses are going down.

Obamacare has taken less-expensive, high-deductible plans off the market and replaced them with expensive, high deductible plans.

Some who had private insurance policies that were canceled may find that keeping the same deductibles may mean higher premiums.

In California, Diane Agnone complained in an online post on her state’s health marketplace. “How is this affordable? I am a healthy 62-year-old single woman and these new premiums will cost me over $200 more per month than my existing plan.”

Making someone pay $2,400 a year more, and still require her to meet a high deductible, is not an improvement.