After all the screaming over the last four years about the health care law, after all the Republican attempts to shut it down, defund it and call it a “train wreck,” the success of President Obama‘s signature achievement comes down to this: How much will Americans have to pay for health insurance under the new law? Based on a report released yesterday by the federal government, the answer appears to be: Not much.
Starting Oct. 1, Americans will be able to sign up for coverage that officially begins on January 1. While there has been considerable speculation over how much premiums would cost the average person, no one knows for sure how Obamacare will affect them until the healthcare exchanges open for business next week and Americans go shopping for coverage.
The plans are categorized by metal levels, from bronze to silver to gold to platinum. The bronze plans will have lower monthly premiums but higher out-of-pocket costs, while gold and platinum plans will have higher premiums and less out-of-pocket spending.
The law requires all legal U.S. residents to obtain health coverage or face a tax penalty. Depending on your age, your income, where you live, whether you use tobacco and how much coverage you desire, there is a vast range in how much you will have to pay.
There will be an estimated 106 health plan choices in Arizona and 102 in Florida, while Alabama will have just seven — the lowest number in the country. Most states offer choices in the range of 40 or 50 possible plans.
The report estimated the average monthly price in the nation for the lowest cost silver plan at $310, with the second lowest cost silver at $328, and the lowest cost bronze at $249. But the averages are virtually meaningless because prices will vary drastically depending on individual circumstances.
In addition, low-income families and individuals will be eligible for subsidies that can drastically lower the cost of premiums — i.e, a family of four in Dallas with a $50,000 household income could choose a bronze plan for as little as $26 a month, including the subsidies; $36 a month in Charlotte, N.C.; $32 a month in St. Louis; and $24 a month in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., all including subsidies.
“For millions of Americans, these new options will finally make health insurance work within their budget,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said during a conference call with reporters Tuesday.
Though the president has been pushing his plan very hard in the face of incredible Republican opposition, many Americans are still leery. NBC and the Wall Street Journal surveyed uninsured Americans this month and only about 1 in 3 said they’re likely to use the exchanges—clearly not even aware that they are required to get insurance.
But Obama has been telling the nation that the insurance prices will be a good deal.
“In many states across the country, if you’re, say, a 27-year-old young woman, don’t have health insurance, you get on that exchange, you’re going to be able to purchase high-quality health insurance for less than the cost of your cell phone bill,” Obama said in an appearance at the Clinton Global Initiative with former President Bill Clinton, who unsuccessfully tried to pass his own healthcare law while in the White House.
The two leaders sat side by side in a pair of overstuffed armchairs and made their appeal to the nation.
“This only works, for example, if young people show up,” said Clinton. “We’ve got to have them in the pools. Because otherwise all these projected low costs cannot be held if older people with pre-existing conditions are disproportionately represented in any given state.”
“Those who have opposed the idea of universal health care in the first place and have fought this thing tooth and nail through Congress and through the courts and so forth, have been trying to scare and discourage people from getting a good deal,” said Obama.
Clinton noted that the growth in health care costs has slowed dramatically in recent years—though analysts aren’t sure whether Obamacare has anything to do with the change.
If the cost of health care in the U.S. could be brought in line with other countries, it would largely fix the federal deficit and make U.S. employers more competitive, Obama said.
“This has everything to do with the economy, in addition to what I consider to be the moral imperative that a mom should not have to go bankrupt if her son or daughter gets sick,” said the president, who watched his own mother go through that ordeal when she suffered from cancer.
But as Obama pushes one way, congressional Republicans push back. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas displayed his opposition to the health care law by speaking from the floor of the Senate, assisted by several of his colleagues, for more than 15 hours and 30 minutes as of 6 a.m. Wednesday — the sixth longest time since precise record keeping began in 1900.
After declaring on Tuesday afternoon that he intended to speak in opposition to Obamacare “until I am no longer able to stand,” Cruz kept his word.
“Obamacare isn’t working,” he said. “There are politicians in this body who are not listening to the people.”
During his interminable speech, his topics ranged from the American revolution and the Washington establishment to his Cuban-born father and the impact of the health care law. But despite Cruz’s efforts, the Senate is still scheduled to hold a vote today on a House-passed bill that both funds the government past Sept. 30 and defunds Obamacare.
Cruz wants his colleagues to block the bill in the Senate—out of concern that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will add an amendment stripping out the Obamacare provision. But while most GOP leaders want to defund the law, most of Cruz’s colleagues don’t think stalling the bill in the Senate is the best way forward.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said the effort is hopeless.
“It will be a cold day in Arizona when we defund Obamacare,” he said. “I know how this movie ends. I don’t know all the scenes before it ends, but I know how it ends. We don’t defund Obamacare.”