Justice for All? Skyrocketing Obamacare Premiums Forcing Many Middle-Income Families to Make Difficult Choices

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Politically active Catholics who take the teachings of their Church seriously often turn to the body of papal and conciliar teachings known as Catholic Social Teaching (CST).  While conservatives often emphasize the principle of subsidiarity found in these teachings – the idea that the organization closest to a problem is usually best able to solve it – the principle of solidarity is crucial as well. 

Solidarity can be defined as the virtue or habit of recognizing our duties to the common good and arranging our social and political institutions so that basic human needs can be met.

One obvious example of how the principle of solidarity affects community life is health care.

In their landmark 1993 statement on healthcare reform and Catholic Social Teaching, A Framework for Comprehensive Health Care Reform, the U.S. Catholic bishops insisted that the principle of solidarity in Catholic Social Teaching (CST) requires that quality healthcare be available to everyone regardless of ability to pay. 

Basing their analysis on Jesus’ admonition to care for “the least of these (Matt 25:40),” the bishops insisted that “genuine health care reform must especially focus on the basic health needs of the poor…”  They even went so far as to say that the poor have a compelling claim to “first consideration” and access to “comprehensive benefits.”

These mandates do seem at least partially fulfilled by 2010 Obamacare system.

Yet others clearly are not. 

Solidarity with our fellow humans also requires respect for life, the bishops said – and it was Obamacare’s provisions on abortion and birth control services that led the bishops to reluctantly refuse to endorse the system once it was finally passed.

Moreover, the mandate for serving the poor has to be balanced by other considerations of justice, the bishops said, including cost containment and controls and what they termed “equitable financing.”

“We have the best health care technology in the world,” the bishops observed, “but tens of millions have little or no access to it and the costs of the system are draining our nation, our economy, our families and our Church to the breaking point.”

Indeed.  In late January 2019, two weeks after the close of the Open Enrollment period for health care insurance, we received our dreaded annual notice from Anthem Blue Cross:  the monthly premiums for our family would increase 25% over the year before, from $1,445 per month to $1,800. 

When the comically misnamed Affordable Care Act first went into effect in 2010, our premiums were $350 per month for a high-deductible policy ($5,000 per person) roughly equivalent to the Bronze Plan on most exchanges. 

The new price of $1,800 per month represents a total increase of 414.2% — or about 22.7% per year over the past eight years. 

This is a far cry from the $2,500 annual savings that President Obama promised.

Like thousands of others, my family is caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place when it comes to health insurance:  we earn too much to qualify for Obamacare subsidies… yet the price of even the cheapest Obamacare plans are increasingly out of reach. 

With five children and two in college, paying $1,800 per month means hard choices.

And we’re constantly told we’re actually lucky. 

Were we to pay for one of the ADA-compliant policies on the exchanges, we’d be paying $2,500 per month in 2019 – or $30,000 per year. 

That’s more than our mortgage.  And it’s a lot more than we pay in Social Security, State Income Taxes or even Federal Income Taxes.   

Right now, health insurance is our single greatest expense outside of college tuition.

And to make matters worse, there is no escape:  in many blue states, such as California and Washington, the Democrat-controlled legislatures quickly outlawed the short-term and other co-called “catastrophe” plans that would allow families to access affordable coverage even temporarily. 

This is a deliberate attempt to force everyone into a “one-size fits all” Obamacare system.

All this is further complicated by a healthcare delivery system built on outright greed:  

The Democrats sold their healthcare plan to the insurance companies with the promise that it would mean billions in additional profits. 

To pay for the uninsured poor, the Democrats promised a system that would force everyone to purchase the insurance companies’ products – with temporary cash infusions from the government until the insurance companies could raise premiums to a maximum level.

Since buying into the system was mandatory, the insurance companies had an artificial monopoly:  consumers could choose between two or three similar plans all equally expensive.

And the Democrats certainly delivered on their promises to the insurance companies:  Anthem’s Executive Chair, Former President and CEO Joseph Swedish, earned $18 million in 2017. 

Long Beach, Calif.-based Molina Healthcare’s new CEO, Joseph Zubretsky, earned $19.7 million in total compensation the same year. 

To be fair, Obamacare did result in extending healthcare coverage to roughly 20 million people who lacked coverage before – but at the cost of making healthcare insurance beyond the ability of many middle class families to pay.

Instead of funding coverage for the poor from general tax revenues, the Democrats created a new, regressive tax – a kind of second income tax — that specifically targets middle class families and allows the fraud, waste, overbilling and greed of the existing insurance system to remain in place.

Twenty-five years after the Catholic bishops outlined a statement of basic principles of healthcare reform based on Catholic Social Teaching, the cost of health care in the U.S. is still skyrocketing. 

Worst of all, the burden of paying for health care increasingly falls disproportionately on middle class families who, increasingly, cannot afford it. 

Many Americans now must deliberately reduce their work hours or incomes so they are eligible for Obamacare subsidies, making it difficult to save for retirement or send their children to college.

Even Americans who receive their health insurance through their employers often do so at the cost of stagnant or reduced wages and shortchanged retirement programs. 

The lesson of the Obamacare disaster is that, if solidarity means anything, it means burdens must be shared equitably – not merely shifted from one group to another.

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of CatholicVote.org

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About Author

Robert J. Hutchinson is the author, most recently, of The Dawn of Christianity (Thomas Nelson, 2017). He can be reached at CatholicSpeakers.com.

18 Comments

  1. You should consider a Catholic health-sharing organization. It’s a way for people who don’t want to pay for the mandated items that are against our faith, can pitch in to share health costs with other like minded folks. Check out Solidarity Health or CMF Curo. We pay approx. $500 per month for a family of 7 with Solidarity. This includes well visits and only a $500 per person/$1500 overall cap for the annual deductible. http://www.solidarityhealthshare.org or cmfcuro.com

  2. Michel Cazayoux on

    THIS is why we switched to the Christian-based, Solidarity Healthshare. $445/mo, $1500 deductible for the year then coverage of $1,000,000 per incident.

  3. Like you, I had Blue Cross coverage through the ACA a number of years back. I was so disappointed in that they continued to deny claims, and we were forced to cover the bills on top of the high premium. As an example, when my wife had a baby, they covered the delivery and hospital but denied the costs for baby which amounted to $2500. They said that the baby was not covered. I fought it to no avail. A couple of years ago, I switched to Liberty Healthshare, a Christian co-op. I pay $500/month for my whole family. My wife had a baby again, and they paid. I have been so angry at the whole healthcare scam that it has made it a double pleasure to get away from them.
    They don’t cover abortions, babies born outside of wedlock (unless through rape) drug addiction problems etc. I love it.

  4. Christian health sharing is a wonderful option in this case. My program is Samaritan Health Ministries. It would reduce the monthly cost by at least one half to 2/3rds. With essentially no deductible or coinsurance.

  5. Mr. Hutchinson, we feel your pain. We have 6 children, 5 under roof and all in Catholic school including one in college. Our Humana premium went up 41% this year to $2600/month. We also have a $7500 deductible per person with $15k max out of pocket. Besides $31,200/year we have to pay to Humana, we have to have a $15k reserve to pay the deductible. That makes $46200/year in health insurance – $3850/month. We have to make some very hard choices for our family in order to have health insurance. Besides complaining and picking up another job, what can we do? Where do we start?

    • Mr Ahern, please check out the healthsharing organizations mentioned above. If you don’t have any other existing issues, you should be able to switch over very quickly. Even if you do, you may be able to insure most of the family this way, and then just have insurance on one person. Or have a higher deductible for a while till you build up a reserve. I can’t imagine spending what you are doing now!

  6. The Catholic CURO, unless it has changed, is an arm of Samaritan Ministries, but charges a larger fee for use of a credit card that they make you have to load with the reimbursement. I’ve been a member of Samaritan Ministries for 4 years and am very satisfied. I dropped the CURO portion and saved myself $84 per month. Check out http://www.samaritanministries.org for more info. I choose my providers, go when I need to without having to ask permission of an insurance company, and because I can negotiate my fees with doctors and hospitals, end up costing the program less. It’s a win-win. No preexisting conditions though.

  7. Thanks for the comments and resources. My friend cleans homes for a living and had healthcare through the exchanges last year. This year her Obamacare premiums went to over $600. a month for the same plan. She had been paying @$240. a month. She tried reducing her coverage but that plan cost over $500. a month. She just drop her medical insurance altogether. I will pass on this information to her. My son is paying @$1,300. a month for a family of 4 and had to join an association for $600 a year to get a reduced monthly price. I’m passing it on to him. My other son is a Type 1 aka Juvenile Diabetic and an individual payor and is paying $600 a month with a $9000. deductible. Most of his diabetic needs he pays out of pocket because of the high deductible. Insulin cost $250 a bottle (it use to cost @$60. a bottle). He needs 2 bottles a month. Some JD’s he knows are rationing their insulin; one has died from ketoacidosis because of that rationing of insulin. Tragic. He’s getting this info too.

  8. Charles E Gauvin on

    It took seven years for my health insurance to increase from $1000 per month to $1400 per month before Obamacare. It took one year to go from 1400 to $2000 a month after Obamacare, which I could not afford, so I switched to Solidarity, and now I’m paying $300 a month. So far so good, but it was a scary thing to cancel my insurance at 35 years of age. I also didn’t qualify for Obamacare because it’s based upon household income, and my kids had part-time jobs, which put me over the limit. I was livid. Even if I could have afforded the monthly payment for the insurance, I never would have been able to afford to use it. The whole thing was a big fraud, with nothing but lying politicians. I’d love some justice.

  9. Joining a healthshare like Liberty and finding a Direct Primary Care family practice doctor really helps. There are even some Catholic practices and you can ask the healthshare to pay your monthly fee to the DPC doctor.

  10. This was the whole idea. Take health care away and your one step closer to single payer. No care for anyone unless you vote for socialist

  11. Jonathan Smith on

    On the flip side, a commitment to the common good must examine whether the author’s initial insurance scenario is actually fulfilling solidarity and the common good. It’s not too difficult to determine that the proliferation of low-premium, high-deductible plans were the direct cause of unaffordable rates for sick people. The less healthy people pay in, the more the sick are going to pay. After all, if the insurance market was only sick people and no healthy people, what would the insurance companies charge to the sick? This isn’t that hard to figure out.
    There have been an uncountable number of articles on this website decrying the Affordable Care Act. Let’s hear the author’s solutions, since it’s pretty clear that his low-premium, high-deductible plan may have been good for him and his family, but surely not for the common good as the market existed at the time.

  12. I’ve looked into healthsharing organizations and I can understand why some people would use them. What I want from health insurance, however, is not help paying routine medical bills — we’ve always paid those anyway — but quite literally catastrophe insurance.

    We want insurance to protect us financially from catastrophic accidents — against getting hit by bus or contracting some form of cancer.

    This is what the old insurance was for and it was affordable. Healthsharing organizations explicitly do NOT offer this type of protection (they have low caps) because they are not insurance companies.

    The way to fix health care is to (a) bring back what people want, which is catastrophe insurance; (b) force insurance companies to compete nationally and across state lines; and remove the incentives for overcharging by allowing insurance companies to pay only for high-cost health services, such as hospitalization.

    This is how it works in France: EVERYONE pays at least something. There is not a two-tier system in which some people pay 100% and other people pay ZERO.

  13. Richard Palzer on

    This strident criticism of Obamacare as a disaster conveniently ignores Republican opposition to it from the start, despite the fact that the conservative Heritage Foundation advocated for universal coverage and its model was its implementation by Republican Governor Mitt Romney. The higher costs are much driven by Republican repudiation of the mandate, which constrained costs by including the healthy in the pools of insureds, and by maintaining the system of for-profit private insurers.

    Obamacare was never a cure-all, but you’re disingenuous by not recognizing and holding accountable the Republican reaction that continually undermined it, Repeal! (“Replace” being somehow lost in the shuffle). As McConnell so famously–more accurately, infamously–said: making Obama a one-term president was the number- one goal.

  14. You have all been conned. ObamaCare was NEVER about providing healthcare to the masses. It was ALWAYS about the Redistributionist Kooks controlling you.
    And please never include the words ObamaCare and Health Insurance in the same sentence. To have true insurance you most consider the individuals exposure to risk, hence you must have underwriting. Underwriting assists the insurer to assign a realistic premium to the policy of protection.
    Better to have the two-tiered insurance system of say, Missouri of over a decade ago. The regular tier for those individuals without pre-existing conditions and the second who exhibited same. Monthly premiums for the second tier cost 18-20% more than the first and the plans were a bit less benefit rich – BUT, the system worked.
    ObamaCare was NEVER supposed to work – it only meant to destroy the industry in true Marxist style..

  15. Why not just self-pay direct like in the past? Let’s cut out insurance companies, do our best to take care of ourselves, and see healthcare procedure costs go down. Stop being part of the scam. I was brainwashed too years ago, but won’t go along with the scam of “must have” insurance. If I die earlier than I hoped for, so be it. This makes me cautious about taking care of my soul. I hate to sound morbid or hopeless but let’s get real; we weren’t meant to live forever. And even 300 a month is more than I want to pay when in most months I won’t see an MD and if I finally choose too I’ll pay $60-120 for an appointment. If I have a huge life-saving 10,000, 100,000, etc. bill, I’ll make payments after getting fee reduced by 30-50% for self-paying. I’m sick of catering to insurance companies and ridiculous medical costs. Illegals get free healthcare. That’s also unjust.

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