If you are a regular reader of this column, you know that the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is one of my least favorite topics, but its influence on our economy and politics has been so pervasive that it simply can’t be ignored.
Obamacare has produced a flurry of news lately, so let’s recap some of the highlights. First, David Axelrod made headlines for reporting that he cried when Obamacare passed. I didn’t cry, but came close to doing so when student after student after student at UNC Pembroke and Fayetteville State University lamented to me about how their full-time jobs had been converted to 25-hour jobs/week, not enough to pay their rent and other bills. The upside, of course, is that about 3 million people who were not insurable before now are, but to take away about 3 million jobs from the poorest people in the country, and a disproportionate number of them in our region, is too high a price to pay. I did not get a response before deadline, but I estimate Southeastern Health has now paid more than $5 million a year because Obamacare penalizes poor communities like ours. Think of all of the jobs of physicians, nurses, and health care professionals of every type that Southeastern Health can’t hire because of this massive penalty.
The Internal Revenue Service released statistics showing that the vast majority of people who are paying the individual penalty rather than signing up for insurance are in the lower income bracket. These unfortunate people paid over $3 billion in penalties from their low incomes to avoid having to participate in Obamacare. Think about that for a second.
Next was the news that President Trump signed an executive order allowing for the creation of health care associations that can cross state lines. When these come into effect, they will allow some people to save vast sums of money because people can choose policies without coverage they don’t want, such as dental pediatrics.
Later reporting states such as Florida revealed that the average ACA premium for 2018 will increase by 45 percent. Utah’s average increase will be 39 percent. For many people who use ACA, the premium payment is the most expensive monthly bill they have. Can you imagine your biggest monthly bill increasing by 45 percent?
President Trump’s ending of the cost sharing subsidies made headline news. There was quite an outcry from some even though the legislature had never voted to fund them, and the courts rejected the practice when President Obama simply directed the Department of Health and Human Services to pay for them. So, that illegal practice has now ended. We may see some legislation, the legal way to do this, pass that will continue these subsidies for at least a couple of years.
So, for 2018 in Robeson County, we will have no choice of health insurance provider. By law, we must pay our money to Blue Cross Blue Shield. A silver plan premium for a single person is $1,125 a month with a $7,000 deductible, and for a family of four $3,130 a month with a $7,800 deductible. Of course many people are eligible for subsidies that reduce these amounts.
Eric Dent is endowed chair professor of Ethics at Florida Gulf Coast University.