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Another feature of Obamacare is those much heralded online insurance exchanges, meant to enable those without job-related coverage to log on and find an array of competing products, none of which would be allowed to have the bait-and-switch limits that had left Sean unprotected when he needed lifesaving care. (When he was diagnosed with cancer, Sean's policy limited his coverage to $2,000 a day in the hospital, which at MD Anderson barely covers an opening round of blood tests.) And all policies would be presented on the exchanges in plain English for easy comparison. Or, as President Obama often put it, buying health insurance would now be like going online to buy an airplane ticket.
Finally, people with incomes below 400% of the poverty line (up to about $94,000 for a family of four like the Recchis) would get subsidies from the government, so that it all would be more affordable. If they were at or below the poverty level, they would be enrolled in Medicaid for free.
The Recchis now know all that, and they're fully insured for 2014. But it took a while. When we spoke in October and Stephanie told me she didn't "think Obamacare will help us," I suggested that she might be mistaken and that if she was unable to get information from the then sputtering website she should consult an insurance broker. (Insurers pay the brokers' fees, not consumers.)
"When they came to my office, Stephanie told me right up front, 'I don't want any part of Obamacare,' " recalls health-insurance agent Barry Cohen. "These were clearly people who don't like the President. So I kind of let that slide and just asked them for basic information and told them we would go on the Ohio exchange"--which is actually the Ohio section of the federal Obamacare exchange--"and show them what's available."
What Stephanie soon discovered, she told me in mid-November, "was a godsend." The business that she and her husband had launched--which sells a product that enables consumers to store their DNA or that of family members for future genetic testing--had recently received investor interest after being featured on an episode of the television series CSI. So she estimated to Cohen that their income would be about $90,000 in 2014. But even at that level, her family of four would qualify for a subsidy under Obamacare.
The Recchis and their agent soon zeroed in on a plan with a $793 monthly premium that provided full coverage, though with a deductible of $12,000 for the entire family, meaning the Recchis would pay the first $12,000 in expenses. After the deductible was reached, there would be no co-payments for anything, including all drugs. However, the Obamacare subsidy, assuming a $90,000 income, brought their cost down to $566 a month. If their income was the same $40,000 Stephanie had estimated for 2013, the subsidy would increase and their premium would be just $17 a month.
"They had budgeted insurance at $1,200 for each of them for their new business," says Cohen. "That's $2,400 for the two of them, compared to $566, so they were thrilled ... They had seen all those stories on television, and because of their views about Obama, they believed what they wanted to believe--until they saw these policies and these numbers."