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 HealthAffairs.org 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.