At an event on Monday to boost the Affordable Care Act after its glitch-rich rollout, President Obama asserted that his signature health care plan is a hit because "prices have come down." That's the administration's big lie: that Washington can mandate universal health care with beefed-up benefits and somehow the plan will save everyone money.
"So one study shows that through new options created by the Affordable Care Act," the president boasted, "nearly 6 in 10 uninsured Americans will find that they can get covered for less than $100 a month." He glossed over the fact that, according to the federal government study, 56 percent of the uninsured should pay less than $100 a month because they qualify for Medicaid or for federal subsidies. To the extent that these people's prices come down, it's because someone else pays the price.
Some people will save without subsidies. Obama read a letter from John Mier of Leetsdale, Pa. Mier agreed the website "stank" when he first logged on, but later he found that instead of paying $1,600 a month for coverage, as his current provider would charge, thanks to Obamacare, "we have a plan that will only cost us $692 a month -- a savings of $900 per month."
I talked to Mier, who is a consulting engineer; his wife works for his business. The couple does not qualify for subsidies. He's in his 60s. She's in her late-50s. He has a pre-existing condition, and she has diabetes. One insurer turned down his wife. I asked him if he thought his claims experience, because of the family's medical history, explained the couple's high premiums. Mier answered, "probably, no doubt."
I've been hearing from healthy Californians who were kicked off their private plans because of Obamacare and were informed they would have to pay much higher premiums on Affordable Care Act exchanges. It could be that his family's boon spells a financial hit for healthy individuals who had good affordable health care before Obamacare.
The White House doesn't hold events with families who have been burned by Obamacare. The president had promised Americans that if they liked their heath care plans, they could keep them. But the president doesn't read letters from people who feel they were betrayed and deceived.
Couples who decide to earn less money so that they can qualify for federal subsidies don't swoon on the White House steps as the president crows about how swell Obamacare is. There is no "rate shock" on Pennsylvania Avenue.
So let me quote from an e-mail from a San Francisco contractor who is "very angry over this new health care act." Kaiser informed him that for him to comply with the new law, his deductible would rise from $2,700 per year to $4,500, and his premiums would rise from $356 to $567. "All I ever heard was that if you currently had health insurance, you need not worry, you could keep your same coverage, your doctor and nothing would change for you. Wrong, wrong, wrong."
Voters never should have believed that Washington could provide the same benefits to millions more Americans and that people would pay less. That thinking, not computer glitches, is the real "kink in the system" of Obamacare.
Debra J. Saunders is a San Francisco Chronicle columnist. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @DebraJSaunders
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