Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

Community News Network

November 4, 2013

For health care consumers, sticker shock leads to anger

Americans who face higher insurance costs under President Barack Obama's health-care law are angrily complaining about "sticker shock," threatening to become a new political force opposing the law even as the White House struggles to convince other consumers that they will benefit from it.

The growing backlash involves people whose plans are being discontinued because the policies don't meet the law's more-stringent standards. They're finding that many alternative policies come with higher premiums and deductibles.

After receiving a letter from her insurer that her plan was being discontinued, Deborah Persico, a 58-year-old lawyer in Washington, D.C., found a comparable plan on the city's new health insurance exchange. But her monthly premium, now $297, would be $165 higher, and her maximum out-of-pocket costs would double.

That means she could end up paying at least $5,000 more a year than she does now. "That's just not fair," said Persico, who represents indigent criminal defendants. "This is ridiculous."

If the poor, sick and uninsured are the winners under the Affordable Care Act, the losers appear to include some relatively healthy middle-income small-business owners, consultants, lawyers and other self-employed workers who buy their own insurance. Many make too much to qualify for new federal subsidies provided by the law but not enough to absorb the rising costs without hardship. Some are too old to go without insurance because they have children or have minor health issues, but they are too young for Medicare.

Others are upset because they don't want coverage for services they'll never need or their doctors don't participate in any of their new insurance options.

"There are definitely winners and losers," said Sabrina Corlette, a senior research fellow at Georgetown University's Center on Health Insurance Reforms. "The problem is that even if the majority are winners . . . they're not the ones writing to their congressmen."

The administration says that about 12 million Americans, or 5 percent of the population, buy individual polices — they don't get coverage through their employers or programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Millions of them will be required to get new policies, but many will qualify for federal aid to pay for the premiums. Thus, they will end up with better coverage at lower costs, officials say. If they are sick, they won't be denied coverage or charged more.

But conveying such information is difficult because of the "calamitous" launch of HealthCare.gov, former White House senior adviser David Axelrod said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." He said that "many of the people who have to transition are going to get better insurance for less money, but they just can't tell that right now because they can't get on the website."

Republicans have showed little sympathy. Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, appearing on the same program, attacked Obama for his often-repeated pledge that people would be able to keep their health plans if they liked them. Romney said that Obama has engaged in "fundamental dishonesty" that has "undermined the foundation of his second term."

The disruptions being caused by the new law have been especially jolting for those who support the ideals of the health-care overhaul.

Marlys Dietrick, a 60-year-old artist from San Antonio, said she had high hopes that the new law would help many of her friends who are chefs, actors or photographers get insured. But she said they have been turned off by high premiums and deductibles and would rather pay the fine.

"I am one of those Democrats who wanted it to be better than this," she said.

Her insurer, Humana, informed her that her plan was being canceled and that the rate for herself and her 21-year-old son for a plan compliant with the new law would rise from $300 to $705. On the federal website, she found a comparable plan for $623 a month. Because her annual income is about $80,000, she doesn't qualify for subsidies.

A cheaper alternative on the federal exchange, she said, had a premium of $490 a month — but it was an HMO plan rather than the PPO plan she currently has. "I wouldn't be able to go to the doctor I've been going to for years," she said. "That is not a deal."

And both the HMO and PPO exchange plans she examined had family deductibles of $12,700, compared with her current $7,000.

Robert Laszewski, an industry consultant, said he thinks the rise in rates was inevitable. The new law, he said, has resulted in an estimated 30 to 50 percent increase in baseline costs for insurers.

"We've got increased access for sick people and an increase in the span of benefits, so something's got to give," he said.

Beginning Jan. 1, the new plans must cover 10 essential benefits including pediatric care, prescription drugs, mental-health services and maternity care. In general, policies that don't offer those can't be sold after 2013. (Plans that were in place before March 2010 and essentially haven't changed are "grandfathered" and allowed to continue.) Critics, such as Obama, say that the discontinued policies are too skimpy to offer real protections, but some consumers contend the plans meet their needs.

David Prestin, 48, who operates a gas station and diner at a truck stop in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, was unhappy to learn recently that his premiums are slated to rise from $923 to $1,283 next year under Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. The insurer said it needed to add maternity care to comply with the Affordable Care Act.

The issue of maternity coverage is a sensitive one for Prestin and his wife, Kathie. They had one child seven years ago, but after she had five miscarriages, they discovered she had an immune issue that prevented her from successfully completing a pregnancy.

At the same time, Prestin said, the new plan would reduce coverage for things he and Kathie need, such as free annual checkups.

The Prestins explored HealthCare.gov. They are not eligible for subsidies, but they found a cheaper plan than the one being offered by their insurer. However, there was another problem: It would have required the couple to switch from the doctors they have seen for more than 16 years and travel more than 100 miles from their home to the nearest major hospital center for treatment — in Green Bay, Wis.

"I pay my taxes. I'm assistant chief of the volunteer fire department here in Cedar River and a first responder for Mid-County Rescue," Prestin said. "You try to be personally accountable and play by the rules, but the more you play by the rules, the more you get beat up on."

1
Text Only
Community News Network
  • Affirmative action ruling challenges colleges seeking diversity

    The U.S. Supreme Court's support of Michigan's ban on race-based affirmative action in university admissions may spur colleges to find new ways to achieve diversity without using racial preferences.

    April 23, 2014

  • A 'wearable robot' helps her walk again

    Science is about facts, numbers, laws and formulas. To be really good at it, you need to spend a lot of time in school. But science is also about something more: dreaming big and helping people.

    April 23, 2014

  • Cuba is running out of condoms

    The newest item on Cuba's list of dwindling commodities is condoms, which are now reportedly in short supply. In response, the Cuban government has approved the sale of expired condoms.

    April 23, 2014

  • The waffle taco's biggest enemy isn't McDonald's. It's consumer habits.

    Gesturing to Taco Bell, Thompson said McDonald's had "not seen an impact relative to the most recent competitor that entered the [breakfast] space," and that new competition would only make McDonald's pursue breakfast more aggressively.

    April 23, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 4.42.47 PM.png VIDEO: Leopard attacks crowd in India

    A leopard caused panic in the city of Chandrapur when it sprung from the roof of a house and charged at rescue workers.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • The top 12 government programs ever

    Which federal programs and policies succeed in being cost-effective and targeting those who need them most? These two tests are obvious: After all, why would we spend taxpayers' money on a program that isn't worth what it costs or helps those who do not need help?

    April 22, 2014

  • In cuffs... 'Warlock' in West Virginia accused of sexual assault

    Police in West Virginia say a man claiming to be a “warlock” used promises of magical spells to lure children into committing sexual acts with him.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Cats outsmart the researchers

    I knew a lot had been written about dogs, and I assumed there must be at least a handful of studies on cats. But after weeks of scouring the scientific world for someone - anyone - who studied how cats think, all I was left with was this statement, laughed over the phone to me by one of the world's top animal cognition experts, a Hungarian scientist named Ádám Miklósi.

    April 22, 2014

  • McCain 1 House Republicans are more active on Twitter than Democrats

    Your representative in the House is almost certainly on Twitter. Your senator definitely is. But how are they using the social network? Are Democrats more active than Republicans, or vice versa? Who has the most followers on the Hill?

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Do your genes make you procrastinate?

    Procrastinators, in my experience, like nothing better than explaining away their procrastination: General busyness, fear of failure, and simple laziness are just a handful of the excuses and theories often tossed around. Now researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder have added another option to the list: genetics.

    April 21, 2014

  • Do White Castle prices tell us anything about the minimum wage?

    The paper looked at how many delicious steamed sliders the minimum wage has been able to purchase over time. The point is that as it notes, in 1981, the $3.35 minimum could buy a whole dozen. Today, at $7.25, it could purchase just 10.

    April 21, 2014

  • VIDEO: Moose charges snowmobile, flees after warning shot

    While snowmobiling in New England, Bob and Janis Powell of Maine were charged by a moose and caught the entire attack on camera.

    April 21, 2014

  • Can Hillary Clinton rock the cradle and the world?

    What's most interesting to contemplate is the effect becoming a grandmother will have on Hillary's ambition. It's one of life's unfairnesses that a woman's peak career years often coincide with her peak childbearing years.

    April 21, 2014

  • Smartphone kill switches are coming

    Smartphones need kill switches. It's a relatively easy solution to the pricey (and irritating) problem of smartphone theft. But who would have thought that the big carriers would team up with Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung and lots of other manufacturers to voluntarily begin adding the technology by July 2015? The cooperative spirit! It makes so much sense!

    April 18, 2014

  • Why do wolves howl?

    Of all the myths that dog the wolf, none is more widely accepted than the idea that wolves howl at the moon. Images of wolves with their heads upturned, singing at the night sky, are as unquestioned as a goldfish's three-second memory or a dog's color-blindness (both also myths).

    April 18, 2014

Obituaries
Featured Ads
Poll

The Iowegian wants readers to think about rental permit fees. The Centerville City Council has conducted two working sessions and a third one is planned in order to get a feel for the public's appetite about raising rental permit fees from charging a landlord $25 every two years to charging a certain amount per rental unit per year. So, the question of the week is, "Are you in favor of Centerville increasing rental permit fees?"

A. I'm in favor.
B. I'm not in favor.
C. I'm not sure.
     View Results
Iowegian on Facebook