Millions who buy health insurance brace for double-digit increases
WASHINGTON -- Millions of people who buy individual health insurance policies and get no financial help from the Affordable Care Act are bracing for another year of, and their frustration is boiling over.
Some are expecting premiums for 2018 to rival a mortgage payment.
What they pay is tied to the price of coverage on the health insurance markets created by the Obama-era law, but these consumers get no protection from the law's tax credits, which cushion against rising premiums. Instead they pay full freight and bear the brunt of market problems such as high costs and diminished competition.
On Capitol Hill, there's a chance thatcan produce legislation offering some relief. But it depends on Republicans and Democrats working together despite a seven-year health care battle that has left raw feelings on both sides.
The most exposed consumers tend to be middle-class people who don't qualify for the law's income-based subsidies. They include early retirees, skilled tradespeople, musicians, self-employed professionals, business owners, and people such as Sharon Thornton, whose small employer doesn't provide health insurance.
"We're caught in the middle-class loophole of no help," said Thornton, a hairdresser from Newark, Delaware. She said she's currently paying about $740 a month in premiums, and expects her monthly bill next year to be around $1,000, a 35 percent increase.
"It's like buying two new iPads a month and throwing them in the trash," said Thornton, whose policy carries a deductible of $6,000. "To me, $1,000 a month is my beach house that I wanted to have."
A suggestion that she could qualify for financial assistance by earning less only irritates her more. "My whole beef is that the government is telling me: 'If you work less, we'll give you more,'" said Thornton, who's in her 50s.
If people such as Thornton drop out, they not only gamble with their own health. Their departure also means the group left behind gets costlier to cover as healthier customers bail out. That's counter to the whole idea of insurance, which involves pooling risk.
It wasn't supposed to be this way.
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