Monday, March 03, 2014

It's time they pay their 'Fair Share'

Single mom thanked Obama for her $169/mo insurance — then discovered it would actually cost her $621/mo

Written by . Posted in 2014 Campaigns, Issue Watch, Yep, This Happened

Published on November 19, 2013

A few weeks ago, I noted that nearly all of the early Obamacare applicants on the Washington State Health Benefit exchange had been given bad information. They were told they qualified for large subsidies to pay their insurance premiums, but it was all the result of a computer error that was massively underreporting the applicants’ income. The error may even partially explain the state’s unusually high sign-up rate for Obamacare at the outset.

Anyway, after discovering their error, state officials promised to contact all of those affected (about 8,000 people), give them the bad news, and give them another opportunity to decide whether to enroll.

Well, Washington State Wire reports that one of these folks has turned up — Jessica Sanford of Federal Way, Wash., a freelance court reporter. She isn’t just any enrollee. As it happens, President Obama once mentioned her by name. She was so thrilled at getting a “gold” level insurance plan for herself and her son for just $169 per month that she had written Obama to thank him. And then he read from her letter and gave her a name-check in his October 21 Rose Garden speech. He told her story — one of the few positive ones out there — as part of his sales pitch:

“I recently received a letter from a woman named Jessica Sanford in Washington State, and here’s what she wrote: ‘I am a single mom, no child support, self-employed, and I haven’t had health insurance for 15 years because it is too expensive. My son has ADHD and requires regular doctor visits, and his meds alone cost $250 a month. I have had an ongoing tendinitis problem due to my line of work that I have to have treated. Now, finally, we get to have coverage because of the ACA for $169 a month. I was crying the other day when I signed up. So much stress lifted.’

“Now, that is not untypical for a lot of folks like Jessica who have been struggling without health insurance. That is what the Affordable Care Act is all about.”

Unfortunately, Washington State did finally got back to Sanford about her application. That $452 subsidy we said you’d get? That was a mistake. You actually get zero. So for that gold plan, instead of paying $169 per month, you’d pay $621 per month.

Sorry about that

Now she says her dream of affordable health insurance has gone poof. She can’t afford it. She’ll have to go without. “I’m really terribly embarrassed,” she says. “It has completely turned around on me. I mean, completely.”

At least she was able to enroll her son in Medicaid for $30 per month — but that might be another mistake. As the piece notes, her income is actually slightly too high for that. The state may or may not get around to fixing that error. If it does, she might become eligible for some kind of subsidy for her insurance (because suddenly they’d count again as a family of two), but it’s not going to be anywhere near what she was originally expecting. She says the deductibles for the cheapest plans — the Bronze plans — are simply too high and she wouldn’t be able to cover them anyway.

For middle-class people like Sanford — a single mom who makes just under $50,000 per year — “that is what the Affordable Care Act is all about.” This law was not created to benefit people like her, it was created to benefit someone else, probably at her expense.


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