After receiving a letter from her insurer that her plan was being discontinued, Deborah Persico, a 58-year-old lawyer in the District, found a comparable plan on the city’s new health insurance exchange. But her monthly premium, now $297, would be $165 higher, and her maximum out-of-pocket costs would double.
That means she could end up paying at least $5,000 more a year than she does now. “That’s just not fair,” said Persico, who represents indigent criminal defendants. “This is ridiculous.”
If the poor, sick and uninsured are the winners under the Affordable Care Act, the losers appear to include some relatively healthy middle-income small-business owners, consultants, lawyers and other self-employed workers who buy their own insurance. Many make too much to qualify for new federal subsidies provided by the law but not enough to absorb the rising costs without hardship. Some are too old to go without insurance because they have children or have minor health issues, but they are too young for Medicare.
Others are upset because they don’t want coverage for services they’ll never need or their doctors don’t participate in any of their new insurance options.
“There are definitely winners and losers,” said Sabrina Corlette, a senior research fellow at Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms. “The problem is that even if the majority are winners . . . they’re not the ones writing to their congressmen.”
The administration says that about 12 million Americans, or 5 percent of the population, buy individual polices — they don’t get coverage through their employers or programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Millions of them will be required to get new policies, but many will qualify for federal aid to pay for the premiums. Thus, they will end up with better coverage at lower costs, officials say. If they are sick, they won’t be denied coverage or charged more.
But conveying such information is difficult because of the “calamitous” launch of HealthCare.gov, former White House senior adviser David Axelrod said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” He said that “many of the people who have to transition are going to get better insurance for less money, but they just can’t tell that right now because they can’t get on the Web site.”
Republicans have showed little sympathy. Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, appearing on the same program, attacked Obama for his often-repeated pledge that people would be able to keep their health plans if they liked them. Romney said that Obama has engaged in “fundamental dishonesty” that has “undermined the foundation of his second term.”