EDITORIAL: Obamacare premiums nowhere near affordable

It wasn’t part of the Obama administration’s shutdown theatrics, but had to close for the weekend, and it was closed again early Tuesday. The website was taken offline because of myriad glitches that have plagued the national health insurance exchange (and state exchanges across the country) since the Oct. 1 rollout.

The technical problems are significant because huge numbers of people are being prevented from learning how much their newly mandatory health insurance will cost. Once potential enrollees can review exchange plans, their premiums and deductibles, there will be yet another uproar — one with the potential to force changes to Obamacare or at least delay enforcement of its individual mandate.

Which leads to an obvious question: Why are the plan details and premiums buried behind a wall of lengthy forms and privacy-invading questions? Consumers can contact any insurance agent anywhere in the country, provide a few details about their homes, vehicles or personal property and what type of coverage they’d like for such possessions, and within minutes know the cost — no forms, no security questions, no problems.

Some people have learned the price of Obamacare through the mail. As reported by the San Jose Mercury News, Californians Cindy Vinson, a 60-year-old retired teacher, and Tom Waschura, a 52-year-old self-employed engineer, were hit with major premium increases despite being healthy. Ms. Vinson’s individual policy will cost $1,800 more next year, and Mr. Waschura’s family-of-four plan was hit with a whopping $10,000 annual increase. If they don’t pay up, the IRS will hit them with a penalty tax for not having health insurance.

“I was laughing at (House Speaker John) Boehner — until the mail came today,” said Mr. Waschura, who like Ms. Vinson supported President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. “I really don’t like the Republican tactics, but at least now I can understand why they are so pissed off about this.” Said Ms. Vinson: “Of course, I want people to have health care. I just didn’t realize I would be the one who was going to pay for it personally.”

Ms. Vinson and millions of others could have been spared this pain if Obamacare’s individual mandate — like the employer mandate — had been pushed back to 2015. Jon Stewart, certainly no fan of Republican politics, drove that point home while surprisingly hammering Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a Monday interview on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.”

As a result of this law, it’s no exaggeration to say a lot of people — including plenty of folks in Southern Nevada, especially the self-employed and those otherwise without coverage — are now in a personal financial crisis. The president repeatedly said Obamacare would cut a typical family’s premiums by $2,500 a year. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in July 2012 that “everybody will have lower rates.” In a monologue following his interview with Ms. Sebelius, Mr. Stewart said, “Well, maybe she’s just lying to me.” If so, she’s not alone.

The biggest glitch in Obamacare is not a website error message, but rather real financial pain brought upon real people. The Affordable Care Act is the greatest legislative misnomer of our time. There’s a better way to do this. Delay the individual mandate. Eliminate coverage mandates. Improve consumer choice. Repeal and replace.

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