So while state and national Republicans -- chugging Red Bull and wearing glucose IVs -- continue to frantically, loudly warn us to fear "Obamacare," the word is in, and it's this: The only thing you have to fear is Republican fear-mongering itself.
The US Department of Health and Human Services Department today released a comprehensive report on what individual and family insurance coverage will cost starting January 1 under the health insurance exchanges set up in each state as a result of the Affordable Care Act, and the results were bad, bad, bad -- but only for Republicans who are trying to convince people that "Obamacare" will wreck the economy. For most of the rest of us, the numbers are good, good, good. No wonder the Repubs are trying everything on up to shutting down the federal government and defaulting on our debt payments to kill the health care reform law.
The health insurance premiums announced today are even better than the rates calculated in advance by fiscal analysts before insurance firms actually posted hard numbers to the exchanges. Overall, HSS reported:
... in state after state, consumers will see increased competition in the Health Insurance Marketplace, leading to new and affordable choices for consumers. According to the report, consumers will be able to choose from an average of 53 health plans in the Marketplace, and the vast majority of consumers will have a choice of at least two different health insurance companies - usually more. Premiums nationwide will also be around 16 percent lower than originally expected – with about 95 percent of eligible uninsured live in states with lower than expected premiums – before taking into account financial assistance.
In Wisconsin, where, it is true, health exchange plans will overall offer premiums slightly higher than the national average, it is also true that a family of four will pay as little as $106 per month after figuring in the care act's new financial-assistance subsidy. That's $1,272 in annual insurance premiums to cover four individuals. And don't forget, that's for new insurance that cannot -- thanks again to "Obamacare" -- exclude them because of pre-existing conditions.
I don't know about you, but that's music to my ears. My spouse and I are in a reasonably typical employer insurance plan, and our premiums for two people greatly exceed those offered in the new Wisconsin Health Insurance Marketplace. We pay nearly $20,000 a year in premiums and we're healthy, middle-aged people. In fact, everyone I know who's in an employer health plan pays a four-figure sum per month for family health insurance premiums.
Which is why, once we study the offerings, we're likely to jump from our company plan into the health exchanges. We already know our income will be under the maximum qualifying amount. Making some general assumptions based on the preliminary data now available for the Milwaukee market (the actual on-line calculator won't be available until next month), and assuming we skipped the gold-plated or silver coverage and took a lower-end "bronze" plan, we would pay something like $840 a year for our total premium, saving us nearly $18,000 per year. That's not a typo. We two Milwaukeeans would save EIGHTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS A YEAR.
But even if we decide we need better coverage and go with a middle-quality "silver" plan, paying something like four times as much in annual premiums compared to the bronze plan, we'll still likely save enough cash to put a serious dent in the price of a new car or for seriously underwriting that solar roof we've been considering. [Full disclosure: The numbers offered by HSS are weighted based on many factors, including your age and locale, and aren't going to be quite the same for everyone; my family's own particular case is as yet unavailable, so I'm using the next, best comparison. Bear in mind that in the example I share here, there are only two of us, not four, so that surely will influence our final, subsidized premium beyond what I've assumed.]
This new data -- largely anticipated by analysts and policymakers, despite what the latter might claim rhetorically -- is what has the Republicans in full panic mode. When many lower-income and middle-class Americans can suddenly afford health care or get a much better deal, thanks to Obama and the Democrats, they'll not only be healthier, but happier too, and thus less stressed out. They'll arguably be more productive citizens. They'll keep more money in their pockets, and they'll probably spend it. That's why federal budget analysts said years ago that the reforms in the care act would not only save federal dollars despite outlay for the subsidies, but that the health reform law would help advance the economy.
This is the worst possible news for Republicans, who have spent the past five years (and, really, since before the Medicare fight, the past six decades) whining about every attempt to reform and rationalize and make more efficient our nation's crazy-quilt health care insurance system.
Now, you can expect Scott Walker and the rest of Wisconsin's tea-publican crowd to claim they were right that "Obamacare" would be expensive. They have a teensy, weensy, tiny point in that marketplace coverage will be slightly more expensive here than, say, in Texas (about forty dollars a month more, for plans already announced). But overall the exchanges still represent a health coverage bargain, compared to what you can get now. And it will likely become an even better bargain, as time goes on. After all, that's the point of the insurance exchanges (which Walker refused to take charge in setting up). When consumers can more readily compare plans and costs and make rational decisions, and when insurers feel compelled to put their best offer on the table in the face of more transparency, those already sweet rates in Wisconsin will come more in line with places like California and Texas.
Is the Affordable Care Act perfect? Far from it. But it's a lot better than what we had before. That's already apparent to anyone with a calculator who knows how to use it, and will only become more apparent as people sign up under the exchanges.
At this point the only way Republicans think they can gain politically is by doubling down, stopping the Affordable Care Act they were so invested against from the beginning, and the only way they can do that is by lying about it and misinforming people. They know that if they sit back and let the law continue to roll out, it will soon be seen as a success. They've said so!
Oh, and by the way: It's now clear that Walker's state insurance commissioner puffed up the idea of high "Obamacare" premiums in Wisconsin way out of proportion to reality. Puffed up compared to what? Compared to select other states and their very, very, very low rates, that's what. Ours are just very, very low -- one less "very." Of course, Walker has dumped 92,000 people off of Medicaid and suggested they go buy insurance on the exchanges -- which will be very difficult for some of those very low-income people, whom the Affordable Act was designed to serve through Medicaid. But the conservative majority on the US Supreme Court said state lawmakers didn't have to, and guys like Walker took them up on it. Of course, that's not the fault of "Obamacare" -- it's the fault of Walkercouldcareless.
Yup, it's ironic, but when all the shouting is done and most Americans realize what a deal this truly is, that's when Obamacare will actually make the Republican Party sicker than it is now.
Go to the links below to see the HSS report and run your own shirt-cuff analysis.