The Biggest Question about Obamacare

That’s right. How much is it going to cost me? The Affordable Care Act is designed to be affordable, a presumptuous verb that vexed my mother to no end. (“Who has the gumption to tell me what’s affordable?”) Yet this is the primary purpose of Obamacare: to make health care available at a price that won’t have you listing your silverware on Ebay. And that’s why on October 1st the government will begin subsidizing the cost of health insurance for people earning up to 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, which currently stands at $11,490 for a single person, and $23,550 for a family of four. So if your family income is below $94,200 — and isn’t that just about everybody? — there will be some form of subsidy designed to make your insurance “affordable.”

So how affordable are we talking? Right now, the go-to source is the Kaiser Family Foundation, which no longer has any relationship with Kaiser Permanente or Kaiser Industries. Instead, they spend $30 million dollar’s worth of interest from their $400 million endowment to fund a non-partisan, non-profit think tank on health care policy analysis and research. In other words, these folks have good cred. For those of you who will be buying your own insurance, Kaiser has posted a subsidy calculator that will calculate what your government subsidy for a benchmark “Silver Plan” will be. For example, a family of four — okay, small by Utah standards — making $48,000 annually can expect their health premium to cost $3,088 per year, thanks to a government tax credit subsidy of $6,781. This subsidy is designed to keep the cost of this family’s health care premiums down to about 6.43 percent of their annual income, which evidently falls into the range of what the government considers “affordable.” Sounds pretty good, even when you add in your out-of-pocket health care costs (your deductible and co-insurance), which for this family of four will be subsidized at around $10,400 (not including the premiums or the subsidy on out-of-pocket costs). Given a bad health year, this family’s worse case scenario is a health liability of $13,488.00. Bottomline: If we can trust this calculator, it should calm some of the anxiety about skyrocketing health care costs under Obamacare.

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