JUST THE STATS
The average monthly premium for a mid-range health insurance plan in Florida under the Affordable Care Act; $257 for the cheapest plan.
The average monthly premium for a family of four in Orlando earning $50,000 a year, after tax credits are included. Prior to federal subsidies, the monthly premium would be $816
The average monthly premium for a 27-year-old in Orlando, compared to $167 in West Palm Beach
“Obamacare is working and Republicans in Washington are doing everything in their power to take it away, even if it means hurting our economy by shutting down the government and not paying our nation’s bills.”
– Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant in a Sept. 25 statement
Sources: Miami Herald, Florida Democratic Party
Do you feel that? No, not the lingering fingers of Happytown’s annual (and uninvited) Come Out With Pride grope, but the fiery winds of hell scalding your face off now that the Obamacare insurance exchanges are open! They told you it would happen, sometimes even in rhyming Seussian verse, and now there’s no escaping it. Everything is horrible forever and we all might as well be dead.
Except that’s not exactly true. If we dial back to what the original purpose of the Affordable Care Act was – namely, to provide insurance to the uninsured, thereby addressing a health care crisis in this country that is more than the sum of its economic failings – there’s a lot to like about it. We won’t go through the litany of talking points (you can have a pre-existing condition, your loser kids can stay on your plan through 25), but by most objective accounts, the pieces of Obamacare that have already been implemented have at least coincided with an improvement in health care costs. Now comes the big test. Will it float?
On Sept. 25, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a convoluted abacus of crazy numerology that seemed to indicate that the insurance policies offered on the government-run marketplaces launched Oct.1 would actually come in 16 percent lower than initial estimates by the Congressional Budget Office. Hooray! But because this is still a free market and because everybody is different (and because we couldn’t quite get that single-payer thing worked out three years ago), everything that should feel amazing about the ACA now just feels confusing. To wit, much of Florida’s uninsured population will have approximately 100 variations on insurance coverage to choose from; each provider will offer at least three tiers of coverage; more than a million people living below the poverty line will not qualify for federal subsidies because the state chose not to move forward with Medicaid expansion, thereby refusing $55 billion in free money. And those are just the simple-ish facts.
Actually, trying to divine a narrative from the HHS report has proven difficult for most of the state’s newspapers, largely because there are just so many numbers offered and virtually no connecting fabric to reveal a trend. Rates may be lower than expected when gazed upon from atop a giant philosophical mountain, but peering in closer – like, say, just at the state of Florida – there are 67 counties with widely varying rates, and Orlando ranks sixth most expensive on average of the 25 U.S. cities broken down in the report. We’re winning! We’re losing! Add in the confusion of federal subsidies, and you’ll basically need to go back to college for an advanced degree.
Which, in some ways, is Florida’s Obamacare tragedy. The victims, beyond just the one million tossed into the Medicaid gap by the legislature, are all of the state’s 3.5 million uninsured. Because Gov. Rick Scott and his rotting cabinet fought this thing tooth and nail – right down to trying to forbid so-called Navigators from traipsing on health department properties to educate the uninsured (several counties are refusing that order) – we’re now existing in a perfect storm of misinformation. And if nobody young decides to (or knows how to) enroll in the exchanges – as Republicans have tried to convince them to by climbing between their legs in commercials – then the whole thing falls apart. The GOP might want to call that “strategy”; we’d be more inclined toward “nihilism.”
But it’s not the end of the world. If you’re 27 in Orlando and making about $25,000 a year, odds are that your base insurance premium for the cheapest plan will only be around $102 a month after subsidies. Just go to healthcare.gov and tool around a little bit to find out what’s best for you. You have until mid-December to buy in; maybe by then the powers that be will be finished looking out for their own political interests instead of your health.