DOOLITTLE: Affordability of Obamacare in question

Last time you learned that even if you obtain health insurance through your employer you’re likely to be forced into a more costly plan sooner rather than later. How can this be since Obamacare is from legislation called “The Affordable Care Act”?
Feb 6, 2014


That’s because, for some people, the word “affordable” is relative. Obamacare mandates many benefits not currently offered by most health plans, and these new benefit-heavy plans may seem relatively affordable. For example, Obamacare mandates that plans offer a long list of preventative services at no cost to you – colon cancer screenings, mammograms, Pap smears, flu and pneumonia shots, as well as counseling for weight loss, healthy eating and depression. Boy, this sounds wonderful, but there’s a problem – is it really cost efficient to offer all those preventative services?

Every illness caught early by prevention saves much more money in otherwise later and costly treatments, right? No. According to almost 600 studies have shown that “less than 20 percent of preventative options fall in the cost-saving category – 80 percent add more to medical costs than they save.” Bottom line: It costs a lot to offer everybody preventative medicine and you’ll be paying for it.

Moreover, when Obamacare takes hold don’t be surprised when you have to wait (behind a long line of depressed and obese people getting free counseling) to get your sick child in to see your doctor. It takes a lot of time to deliver all these preventative services. The American Journal of Public Health estimates it would require 7.4 hours of a doctor’s day to deliver all preventative services recommended by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, not including time on follow up for illness. This may explain why just 16 percent of Canadian men, where health care is “free,” have ever had a screening for prostate cancer, versus 52 percent of insured, and 31 percent of noninsured, American men.

In the first column in this series, you read that insurance is attractive when the presentation is limited to benefits, and less attractive when you read the fine print and price. Are you getting the picture now?

“All right,” you counter, “Obamacare drives up premiums, but surely insurance will become more ‘affordable’ after all the subsidies are doled out?” What subsidies? If you’re like most people who are covered under an employer plan, you don’t qualify for subsidies. The only way Obamacare may help you is it limits the premiums you may pay for individual coverage through your employer to 9.5 percent of your household income (only if you earn less than 400 percent of poverty.) Nothing in the law says your employer can’t make up that loss by cutting your wages, or eliminating your job.

Suffolk University estimates 700,000 jobs will be cut for this reason by 2019. The Congressional Budget Office estimated 800,000 fewer jobs will be created for this reason. Moreover, your employer can charge whatever it likes (not affordable) if you elect family coverage. Next time, more on what Obamacare will cost you.

Editor’s Note: This is the second of a weekly six-part series digging into the Affordable Care Act by William Doolittle, a local writer, a former stockbroker and insurance salesman, and has a degree in business administration. He said that while this series does include some opinion – which may or may not be the opinion of the Tribune – he can back it all up with facts and hopes to be able to help people understand a very complicated Act and what it means to them.


Real estate maven

Change you can count on!!


Oh goodie. Another extremely vague and biased article on the ACA from Doolittle. Make it stop....


As debate continues in Washington over the funding of President Obama’s health care initiative, sources confirmed Thursday that 39-year-old Daniel Seaver, a man who understands a total of 8 percent of the Affordable Care Act, offered a vehement defense of the legislation to 41-year-old Alex Crawford, who understands 5 percent of it.

According to reports, Seaver mounted an impressive case given his severely limited knowledge of the actual law itself, bolstering his 8 percent understanding of the Affordable Care Act with his 6 percent awareness of the nation’s current economic landscape. Crawford, meanwhile, demonstrated just about the full extent of his understanding of Obamacare by claiming that its provisions could potentially kill jobs.

At press time, both men’s understanding of Obamacare had dropped to 3 percent as a result of the debate.


Yes, the problem is the stupid American people; too stupid to understand and intelligently debate, and come to sound conclusions about, a law intended only for their good. They should stop trying to understand it and just accept their medicine. Doctors Obama, Pelosi and Reed know what's best.


One of the problems with this, is that premiums will not be even close to affordable, I just calculated using the Kaiser Family ACA calculator, at 28,000 a year for 2 adults, and more than 3 kids, no tobacco use, and my premium came back at $11,026 per year. that is almost 40 percent of the 28,000. That is 10 times of what we used to pay through our employer. This was just for 2014, it will incrementally go up every year.

Say no to new taxes

If you only make $28,000 and have three dependents you would qualify for a subsity that could lower that premium by almost two thirds if not all of it.


So that is my other question, If I qualify for the subsidy, and my children for medicaid. Who fits this bill? The rich? poor? From all that I gather, The lower aged healthy people.


Also, I am not even 100 percent of the poverty level, I am only at 78 percent. So I will not meed the subsidy requirements.


not if you are covered by your employer's insurance. no subsidies are available to persons who are covered through their employer's plan, unless the premium for yourself as an individual exceeds 9.5% of household income.


If the focus was on improving the Affordable Care Act, maybe we could get something that would work for all. I agree the people that need it most don't qualify for help and that should be changed. Our congress is totally dysfunctional and they need to start working for all the people, not just the rich.

Mystic Michael

While the ACA is far from perfect, it was never intended to be perfect. It was intended as a great big step in the right direction. And on that basis, it has already succeeded.

Actually the people who need help the most are the indigent. And thanks to the major expansion of Medicaid - along with an equally major infusion of federal funds to help pay for it - many of those people are obtaining coverage for the first time. At least in the blue states, where the governors don't have a chip on their shoulders toward a program that could actually help their own people.

But as for Congress, we are in complete agreement. Dysfunctional, elitist and self-serving is just the beginning...

Former Grandhavenite

Doolittle? More like "Do Very Little" when it comes to convincing me that this is a serious, unbiased analysis of the ACA. It'll be interesting to see if he praises some aspects of Obamacare. Such a large and complex bill obviously is going to have some aspects worthy of praise and also some worthy of criticism no matter your political orientation. It's always a good measure of someone's credibility to see whether they occasionally say something nice about their political opponents or their policies. I admire George W. Bush for having the political courage to fight for his policies (even though they were the wrong policies), unlike the current occupant of the White House. The same Congress that voted to start the fiasco in Iraq also established the telemarketing "Do Not Call" list for which they deserve praise.

As I've said before, I think the whole anti-Obamacare bandwagon will run out of steam gradually. In terms of reputation, the program pretty much has no direction to go but up. The transitional period of any big change is always the hardest, but as people gain a better understanding of it and more of the benefits start kicking in, nobody's going to remember or care that the website was terrible at first or that Obama told people they could keep their current insurance if they like it. Inertia will begin to work in its favor instead of against it as problems are ironed out and it becomes status quo instead of this new scary thing.

Tri-cities realist

Set the bar low enough, and you will always exceed expectations. The new definition of American exceptionalism.


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