I read an article in the New York Post this week by a young man who was upset because he lost his student health plan and couldn’t find an affordable new health plan. His income was too low for a subsidy, so his only option under the Affordable Care Act was to sign up for Medicaid.
So there I was: A struggling grad student with no health insurance, and unable to afford unsubsidized ObamaCare plans I’d hardly, if ever, use.
But Uncle Sam was there on his white horse, ready to save my day with . . . Medicaid?
There’s nothing wrong with getting government help in a time of need, but I wasn’t in a time of need. I had some money from student loans, and no serious health concerns; my career was getting started and my wife was less than two years from graduating medical school.
Call me crazy, but in my book Medicaid is a last resort, not a first option.
His situation is very similar to my niece’s, who turned 26 and was no longer eligible to be on her parents’ health insurance. She is a third-year medical student living on student loans, but she, too, couldn’t afford over $200 a month for the cheapest bronze plan on our state’s health exchange. And because her income was too low, she didn’t qualify for a subsidy.
Like the author of the above article, she was dismayed that she had no option option than to sign up for Medicaid (made more palatable in our state by being renamed “Apple Health”).
“That’s not how I was raised!” she said. She wondered why as a healthy young adult she couldn’t find an inexpensive plan, say $50 a month, that would only cover her in case of an emergency.
“That’s a catastrophic plan,” I explained. “Those aren’t allowed anymore.”
She accepted her fate and enrolled in Medicaid.
But the young man who wrote the article in the Post didn’t. He chose the option of buying a short-term health plan. These are relatively inexpensive plans that cover you for 12 months or less.
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However, these plans are not considered “qualified” health plans under Obamacare rules, so he can be fined for not having mandated health insurance coverage.
My experience perfectly highlights the insanity of the Affordable Care Act. It forced me — a paying, insured, well-educated, healthy American — out of the coverage I’d had, then tried to push me into Medicaid.
The program wouldn’t let me pay more when I offered to pay a higher rate to stay out of Medicaid, and it provided only one other option: paying the highest rate available for insurance I didn’t use once in 2014.
Rather than take the easy route and enroll in Medicaid, I paid my own way with a private plan of my choosing. Now, instead of being rewarded for saving taxpayer money, I’m being punished with a fine of at least $95. What a country!
I’m sure his and my niece’s experiences aren’t unusual. I hope at some point the policy makers realize there is a need for truly affordable, catastrophic health insurance plans.
Having more options at different price points will make the mandate somewhat more palatable as well as affordable.