The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Want to debate Obamacare’s cancellations? You need to see this study first.

What's that pig thinking? (Flickr/CC)
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About 15 million people currently purchase health insurance on their own, using the individual market. And about 70 percent of them -- about 10.8 million people -- will qualify for the financial help buying coverage under the health-care law, according to a new study out Thursday from Families USA.

Their analysis suggests that many Americans receiving cancellation notices would receive assistance through the health overhaul, either by qualifying for subsidies to purchase a private plan or through Medicaid, the public program that serves low-income Americans.

Whether they know about that financial help is a different question, as many have had trouble using to figure out how much insurance would cost under the Affordable Care Act. And the study does not include information on whether those subsides would lead to lower premiums for shoppers buying in the health law's new exchanges.

"There's no question that when people get better coverage it is likely to mean that they are going to pay somewhat higher premiums," Families USA executive director Ron Pollack said. "You don't get anything for nothing. But if you're eligible for subsides that are going to significantly reduce your premiums, that could more than make up for an increase in premium costs."

Families USA is a nonprofit that supports the Affordable Care Act, so it's worth noting they do have a dog in this fight. But it's also put together one of the better demographic analyses of who buys health insurance right now -- and what will change for them under the health-care law.

The individual market is small, covering about 5.7 percent of non-elderly Americans. Using data about that market, from the Urban Institute and the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, Families USA estimates that 71 percent of them earn less than 400 percent of the federal poverty line, meaning they would qualify for some sort of help purchasing coverage.

The number does vary a bit by state: Families USA estimates that 64 percent of people in Vermont's individual market fall below this threshold compared to 84 percent of those in Utah's market.

The idea here is to suggest that some -- in fact, most -- of the people who have received a cancellation notice from their health insurance carrier would likely qualify for financial help from the health-care law, that they wouldn't be left worse off under the health-care law. Without the federal Web site working very well, it's still hard for many to know whether or not, for them, that is actually true.