View from the Grassroots – March 30, 2014: Health care for the cost of a cell … – NorthJersey.com
As the president’s approval ratings continue to spiral downward due in large part to more and more people waking up to the realities of the Affordable Care Act, he’s gone on a public relations tour—in addition to one that never stopped since running for office in 2008—to try to bolster his image among the younger crowd he so desperately needs to log on to HealthCare.gov and buy health insurance.
One of those appearances was on the “Between Two Ferns” show where he granted an interview to comedian Zach Galifianakis. Aside from the demeaning comments from both parties, the one statement from the president that grabbed my attention was that young people could obtain health-care coverage for about the same cost as their monthly cell-phone bill.
It sounded too good to be true. But despite this being a comedy show, Obama wasn’t joking.
The Tampa Bay Times PolitiFact.com fact-checked this exact statement: “Nearly six in 10 uninsured Americans can get health insurance for what may be the equivalent of your cell-phone bill,” and concluded that the statement was “mostly true” based on “… a credible study” that indicated that “about 56 percent of marketplace-eligible people could pay $100 or less.”
Yet there were plenty of caveats to go with that conclusion; “health insurance isn’t the same thing as a cell-phone bill. It’s insurance, so people who get sick will face additional costs in the form of co-pays and deductibles. Policyholders who get sick could be shelling out thousands of dollars each year for health care, much more than any cell-phone bill.”
It sounds like another Obama bait-and-switch.
So I asked one of those young people upon whom Obama is relying—my older son—who is 25 and employed with benefits for the straight scoop.
He pays $75 per month for his cell phone. His health-care insurance costs him an out-of-pocket payroll deduction of $45 a month but on top of this his employer shells out an additional $490. That’s a total monthly cost of $535.
In my own company, where we have offered health-care insurance to our employees as a 100-percent employer-paid benefit for the last 26 years, the cost to insure a single person is $719 per month.
That’s a lot of text messages.
I spoke to Brad Greenbaum, the president of Altigro Benefits Services located in Fairfield. The company specializes in employee benefits. Certainly an industry expert could sort it all out for me.
Starting with rates offered by AmeriHealth, the only individual, non-HMO point-of-service provider in the State of New Jersey, Greenbaum quoted monthly rates for a healthy 25-year-old male at $245, $345, and $419 depending on whether one purchased a bronze, silver, or gold level plan.
For someone earning in the mid $30s annually in NJ, that person would be entitled to no subsidy from the government to defray the monthly costs for any of the three plans.
At an annual salary of $25,000, the premiums would not change but an annual tax credit “subsidy” of approximately $1,295 would kick in, lowering the monthly cost to $145 assuming the silver plan—the plan Greenbaum recommends in most cases.
We’re still two to three times over the cost of most people’s monthly cell-phone bill.
Greenbaum played with the numbers further until he was satisfied, saying, “You’d have to earn less than $20,000 a year to bring the monthly health-care premium under $85 through subsidies for the silver plan.”
Of course you’d still have to pay the monthly premium in full, the subsidy being in the future, after filing a tax return the following year (although some might be entitled to “advance payments of subsidies… as [premiums] come due.”
On top of this would be the deductibles within the plan itself, i.e. those “out-of-pocket” expenses additional to the monthly insurance premiums.
So yes, the president is “correct.” There is health insurance available in our state for about what cell-phone service costs on a monthly basis.
But frankly speaking—if you’re a single person living in New Jersey and you’re earning less than $20,000 a year, it’s not really a case of health care costing the same as a cell phone but which would you purchase—health care or a cell phone?—because you probably can’t afford both.