See Everything This Mom's Cutting to Pay for Obamacare
Kelsey HarrisNovember 23, 2013 at 3:00 pm
The holiday season is looming, but this year Kate Joy and her husband aren’t budgeting for gifts or saving for a vacation. They’re figuring out how to afford the 150 percent premium increases they’ll face in the New Year, thanks to Obamacare.
Joy and her husband live in Sonora, California, and help support their 19- and 21-year-old sons, who both work part-time and attend a local community college. After her husband’s retirement, she enrolled her family in a private policy through Anthem Blue Cross Insurance because the plan the retirement package offered was too expensive.
“There must have been 20 or 30 plans to choose from,” she said, explaining that they ultimately chose a plan with a high deductible and low monthly payments because they are all very healthy and wanted to maintain lower monthly payments.
“We are very healthy, had savings for any emergencies, wanted to lower monthly premiums, so we thought no problem,” Joy said. “Everybody gets one checkup a year, I got all my female checkups, plus two additional doctor visits a year.”
Their deductible was $17,000 per year for their family of four with a $389 monthly premium. In 2011, California required all plans to pay for birth control and the family’s premiums increased to $499 a month.
A Canceled Plan
In late September, the family received a notice from Anthem announcing their plan would be dropped January 1 because it does not meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. If they wanted to stay with Anthem insurance, enrolled in an equivalent plan that was compliant with Obamacare, their new premium would be $1,252 a month.
“That means about $14,000 a year that would be paid into an insurance company when all we use health care wise is about two checkups a year each,” Joy said. The 150 percent premium increase amounts to one-fifth of her husband’s retirement salary, and she said that they don’t want to devote that much money to health care.
Desperate for more affordable options, Joy made an account on the California Exchange website. She said the cheapest, best option for her family was only $100 less than the plan Anthem offered and since they live off her husband’s retirement salary, the family does not qualify for any subsidies.
“My husband and I have talked about not getting the insurance at all,” she said. “It’s kind of scary to think that, but I don’t know what else to do.”
Even more frustrating for Joy is Obamacare’s threat to her relationship with trusted doctors. She’s had the same gynecologist for 29 years, in the same office, at the same hospital. But because of restrictions in Obamacare, insurers are sharply limiting their physician networks. Heritage’s Chris Jacobs explains:
Patients could face the choice of giving up their established doctor and traveling long distances to find a new doctor or hospital in their insurance company’s provider network—or paying significantly more to see a more convenient and accessible doctor on an out-of-network basis.
“At this point we really don’t know what we are going to do,” Kate said, fearing the effects a $15,000-plus health care bill would have on her family’s annual budget.
They’re so concerned about the increased costs that she and her husband have already started brainstorming on what they’ll have to cut back on if they choose to enroll in either plan. Here are all the cuts they’ve come up with so far:
Stop paying the extra payment on my mortgage: $100/month
Stop eating out: $150/month
Don’t go to the movies: $36/month
Switch to getting a haircut every other month: $15/month
Stop getting manicures: $40/month
Stop monthly charitable donations to Wounded Warrior and Habitat for Humanity: $70/month
Stop saving for an annual anniversary getaway: $60/month
No Christmas gifts to extended family: $40/month
Quit buying beef at the grocery store: $100/month
Teeth cleaning only once per year: $30/month
Cancel all magazine/newspaper subscriptions: at least $30/month
Cut DISH service to cheaper plan: $50/month
Cancel land line phone service: $70/month
If Joy makes these cuts, she will save $791 a month, enough to make up the increase in her family’s monthly premiums. She said she realizes that other families aren’t in a position to cut so much from their budgets, and said, “I fear for what’s coming.”