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Individuals can’t afford ObamaCare

The costs of ObamaCare’s individual insurance mandate should worry every Nevadan, not just those currently without coverage.

The Silver State Health Insurance Exchange, the state-run ObamaCare brokerage, last week released preliminary 2014 premiums for Nevada’s individual insurance market. As opponents of the health care reform law have long warned and feared, they’re expensive.

Come Jan. 1, all Americans must purchase health insurance or pay a penalty tax of $95 or 1 percent of their adjusted gross income, whichever is higher. The vast majority of insured Nevadans have their coverage through their employers or unions. Just 15.4 percent of the state’s insured currently purchase their coverage through the individual market.

That figure will increase, and not simply because the mandate takes effect in five months. An untold number of employers are expected to drop coverage for their workers as a result of premium increases. Because President Barack Obama has delayed for one year the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate — a penalty tax on companies that don’t offer medical benefits but have at least 50 full-time-equivalent employees — businesses now have an incentive to dump their insurance.

Plenty of Nevadans who currently have health insurance very well might find themselves in the market for an individual policy by this fall. They won’t like what they find.

As the Review-Journal’s Jennifer Robison reported last week, today Southern Nevadans can find individual catastrophic policies online for as little as $29 per month. High-deductible PPOs are available for about $83 per month. But ObamaCare piles new coverage mandates and rules on top of ones already in effect, including caps on premiums for older Americans that necessitate higher costs on younger, healthier men and women. As a result, the exchange’s catastrophic plans for Southern Nevadans in their 20s start at about $150 per month. A 40-year-old in need of a plan comparable to typical employer coverage can expect to pay up to $300 per month. Plans for rural and Northern Nevadans cost even more.

The rates won’t be finalized until Sept. 1, and those who purchase coverage through the exchange can qualify for tax credits to offset some of those costs. But for those working part-time and temporary jobs to get by, and for the young and healthy, even subsidized premiums will be unaffordable. They’ll pay the penalty tax and remain uninsured.

Last month, researchers from Harvard University and the City University of New York estimated that about 300,000 Nevadans will remain uninsured after ObamaCare takes effect, a figure that matches the state’s own projections. Nationally, the researchers estimate that about 30 million Americans will decline coverage.

Such a lack of participation would send premiums even higher and collapse the exchanges. This design flaw is one reason why the federal government is spending $700 million marketing ObamaCare to persuade Americans to sign up. It won’t work. There’s no sweetening this lemon.

Repeal and replace this policy disaster.

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