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Published: Wednesday, September 11, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Adding up the benefits of Obamacare

The other day I went onto the Washington Health Benefit Exchange website to look at the actual costs for health coverage. (In the interest of full disclosure, my spouse works for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange.) I wanted to escape the non-stop rhetoric from those who are panicked that the Affordable Care Act will actually begin. It is not that they think it won't work. They fear that it will.
Will it? To find out, I looked up what the cost of health insurance next year under the Affordable Care Act will be for workers and their families in Snohomish County.
Let's say you are single and working at a minimum wage job. You are working close to full-time and going to community college. So what does the Affordable Care Act do for you? Actually, a lot. With your income of less than $16,000, you're covered under Medicaid and pay nothing for your health care coverage.
What happens if you have a couple of children, while working full-time at a $15 an hour job? Your monthly Obamacare premium for health coverage for your whole family is $104. If your employer cuts back your hours to four days a week, you keep your health care coverage and your premium goes to zero.
Two out of five households in Snohomish County have less than $50,000 in income. How about these households? With a $40,000 income, your monthly Obamacare premium to cover your family of four will be $164.
OK, well how about a family smack-dab in the center of the middle class? Their household income is $63,685. Their Obamacare premium to cover two adults and two children is $449. If they have three kids, the premium for total coverage drops to $383 a month.
How about those families with incomes between $75,000 and $100,000? Yep, even they get some help. If your family income is $90,000 and you have three kids, your monthly premium will be $713 to cover all five family members. Add all these families together and almost 75 percent of households can benefit from Obamacare.
Wonder how your family will make out under the Affordable Care Act? See for yourself at www.wahbexchange.org/news-resources/calculate-your-costs/
Many of us have already benefited from Obamacare. Do you remember pre-existing conditions? If you admitted to any of a number of health incidences, and you were denied coverage or forced into a very expensive pool of "high risk" people, not because you were bad, or didn't pay your bills, or cheated on your taxes, but because you were sick. Now you cannot be discriminated against because of a pre-existing condition. That didn't happen through the good graces of insurance companies. That was part of Obamacare.
How about young people in their 20s? It used to be that once they turned 25 (or much younger in other states) young adults were kicked off their parents' family coverage. Now young adults can continue their coverage on their parents' insurance until they are 26. This provision particularly helps the children of upper income families the most because their parents are the ones most likely to have employer health insurance.
Are you on Medicare? You should notice that the doughnut hole for prescriptions is getting smaller and smaller and you are paying less for your medicine. Is that because the pharmaceutical companies have decided to trim their profits to help you out? No, it's thanks to Obamacare.
The Republicans in D.C. seem intent on doing everything possible to dislodge health-care reform. Just last month, in their 40th Obamacare repeal vote, every single Republican voted to prevent enforcement of the Affordable Care Act. That includes our state's Republican members of Congress -- Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Doc Hastings, Dave Reichert, and Jaime Herrera Beutler -- all who receive government-paid health care coverage for themselves and their families.
They should be panicked. Once the Affordable Care Act kicks in for good with affordable care, we are not going back. It's good public policy, if you believe that everyone should have access to high quality health care. But if you don't care about the benefits of health coverage for the citizens of our country, then you will try to throw every barrel in the way of the Affordable Care Act. Luckily for us, the act has been signed, sealed and is about to be delivered. No symbolic vote of opposition is going to block its implementation and your health-care coverage.
John Burbank is the Executive Director of the Economic Opportunity Institute (www.eoionline.org). He can be reached at john@eoionline.org





John R. Burbank

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