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The Horror: Rich White Dude Must Pay $197.37 Extra Under Obamacare

After a long series of Obamacare horror stories that either didn’t pan out or turned out to be deliberately misleading, there is finally a hard-luck story of higher Obamacare premiums that actually gets the facts right, and it comes from an unexpected source: Republican author, former George W. Bush speechwriter, and Daily Beast scribe David Frum. His tale of woe begins with an Obamacare premium that is $197.37 higher than he was paying. Try to remain calm.

Frum deserves enormous credit for getting his facts straight, something which ostensible objective mainstream media reporters have yet to accomplish. He’s also a much more moderate voice than most conservative media figures who came out strongly in favor of gun regulation. Here’s how he explains his health care dilemma:

My family was enrolled in a Carefirst high-deductible plan that cost $667.63 per month. In-network deductible, $5,400; out of network, $10,800. Out-of-pocket limit: $6,400 in-network; $12,800 out of network. The plan was joined to an HSA.

The most directly comparable plan on the D.C. health exchange will cost $865. The deductibles are somewhat higher: $6,000 and $12,000. The out-of-pocket limits are very slightly lower: $6,000 and $12,000.

Unlike so many of these Obamacare stories, in which the sticker-shocked interviewees actually turn out to have access to cheaper and better insurance now, Frum’s numbers check out. Here’s his assessment of the premium increase (emphasis mine):

That $200 a month differential seems to be the cost of community rating: I had to answer a bunch of questions about my health before qualifying for my prior plan; the new plan will be issued, no questions asked. Presumably somewhere there is a D.C. resident who smokes or who has some pre-existing condition who will receive a corresponding $200 a month windfall.

Now, it is tempting to greet the best-selling author of eight books, writer for The Daily Beast, and well-compensated public speaker’s (he makes enough from a single speech to pay his premium and his out of pocket max for an entire year) tragic $197.37 rate hike by quoting Jeff Spicoli, calling Frum a Wahmbulance (Obamacare covers that), and calling it a day.

That DC resident who has “some pre-existing condition” isn’t getting a “windfall,” he’s getting insurance that he couldn’t get before, and most people would be satisfied with that one tradeoff. Another way of looking at that is to say that millionaires have been reaping a $200 windfall for years by throwing or keeping people out of health insurance, at the bargain cost of tens of thousands of deaths per year. Obamacare also expands Medicaid coverage to millions of Americans who used to just go to the emergency room on Frum’s dime, or die, or go to the emergency room and then die.

But those people stupid enough to get sick aren’t the only expense baked into Frum’s Obamacare policy (which would have gone up by 6% anyway, pre-Obamacare). For one thing, it allows Frum to keep his two adult children on his insurance until they’re 26. If he dropped them, his premium would be cheaper than his old plan, at 629.62. His kids could get policies of their own for about $73 each, and if they remained healthy, probably wouldn’t pay a dime more, while receiving routine preventive care and contraception. That would save Frum a net of about a hundred bucks a month. The tradeoff would be that, if anyone did get sick, it would take longer to meet their respective deductibles.

Frum’s insurance company must also now cover services that they didn’t have to before, like mammography and prostate cancer screening, and they can’t impose an annual or lifetime cap that could bankrupt even a hard-luck case like Frum, If someone in his family gets sick, they can’t cancel his policy retroactively and take back every dime they ever paid for his or his family’medical care. That’s gotta be worth something to Frum, no?

If that’s still too much for Frum to swallow, there is another option. Ever since the mainstream media got burned by their subsidy-eligible horror story, they’ve been focusing on people who make too much money to qualify for Obamacare tax credits, but they never tell you how much more they make. It’s worth noting, then, that if David Frum can somehow manage to keep his income below $110,000 a year, he’ll be eligible for a subsidy that would net him a Bronze plan for $471 /mo.

Good on David Frum for being honest, but you probably won’t see his story featured on CNN, or CBS News, or even Fox News because his story, the only one to actually pan out so far, illustrates the true face of Obamacare panic: people who just don’t want to give up their $200-a-month dead poor people subsidy, no matter how much it benefits them personally. David Frum is happy with the pre-Obamacare insurance market because he’s healthy now, and makes plenty of money. I’d be willing to bet he never even gets close to using $14,000 in health care services in a year, which begs the question: why even have health insurance? He’s surely losing money on the deal.

It’s because he and his family are healthy now, and Lord willing, they always will be, but if the worst happens, he knows they will not be financially ruined on top of that. Obamacare protects him from that, so if fairness to his fellow man isn’t compelling enough, Frum ought to at least be grateful for that.

[photo via Caleb Howe]

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