by Grace-Marie Turner
The cascade of delays, missed deadlines and workforce distortions accelerated in the countdown to the launch of the health exchanges.
But they overshadowed the real issue: What will the experience be for the average consumer trying to get coverage?
Despite the happy talk from President Obama about enrollment being as easy as online shopping, consumers are in for some big shocks.
The first will be the daunting costs. Health insurance in the exchanges will be far from free. In most states, premiums will be higher than in the private market today, especially for the young people the administration most needs to enroll.
Those who choose a plan with the lowest premium likely will still face deductibles and co-payments of several thousand dollars a year on top of monthly premiums. Even with subsidies, most will find exchange coverage to be very expensive.
Many young voters who worked tirelessly to elect President Obama still are in denial that they were played for suckers with the health law. When they have to pay higher premiums for richer policies than most want or need, their idealism will crash into reality.
Then there is the complexity. Just to determine eligibility for subsidies, the exchange application requires consumers to hand over — often to unlicensed strangers — their Social Security numbers, dates of birth, names and ages of children, addresses, employers, income and even health habits. The risk of identity theft is enormous.
Further, if those who enroll underestimate their income for next year and therefore get a bigger subsidy than they are due, they could owe the IRS thousands of dollars in repayments.
Even people with employer-provided insurance will feel the bite, with some losing their current plans despite the president’s promise, and with most facing higher costs. Growth in private health insurance premiums is expected to double to 6% this year, with bigger jumps next year as more taxes and costly mandates are passed through to consumers.
ObamaCare is not ready for prime time. Real people need real help with health care, but America needs a solution that is consumer-friendly, and that supports rather than damages our health sector and economy.
Posted on USA Today October 1, 2013