Perspective: Overlooked Obamacare Opportunities

07:05AM Apr 01, 2015
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Saying anything slightly positive about President Obama, the IRS or the EPA can destroy “true conservative” credentials. Maybe it would help for someone with nothing to lose to point out some possible advantages of another favorite target, Obamacare:

1. Guaranteed Insurability. For the vast majority with health insurance coverage, this life-changing regulation means nothing until it means everything. Your insurance company folds or sells; your spouse loses the benefit-providing job; your daughter can’t find full-time work after graduation; etc.

[VIDEO] John Phipps Explains How to Shop

2. Community Rating. Individual policies often saw sharp premium increases as the “assigned group” aged. Switching to another policy or group was seldom allowed. Insurers are now limited to a 3x factor for premium differences based on age. The only other factors that can be used are tobacco use, location and family size. 

3. No Lifetime or Annual Limits (Essentially). This seems trivial until your second surgery, a major accident or a premature baby.

4. Drug Coverage. Optional dental and vision plans for children. No rescission. Preventative services. Out-of-pocket maximums of $13,000 per family. No gender discrimination.

Unsung Subsidies. Many of these features are universal, but not all. If you are on an older policy, it might be grandfathered, exempting the insurer from some of these benefits and rules—all the more reason to shop the exchanges. Most importantly, neither insurers nor government will get you in the optimal coverage. It’s up to you.

Obamacare primarily regulates the health insurance industry, not the health care industry, something often lost in political rhetoric. Those who label it socialized medicine probably haven’t shopped Compared to USDA—Risk Management Agency and crop insurance, it’s practically libertarian. (Seriously, a handful of identical yield and revenue products at identical prices?)

The big change for ag is familiar: subsidies. Thanks to the rock of cash rent and the hard place of input prices, our formerly ample cash income could be meager in 2015. Sadly, qualifying for a health insurance subsidy might be likelier than an ARC-CO payment. For a family of four with income of $95,000, this could mean a 15% break. At $50,000 income, subsidies could cover nearly 70% of the premium. The ag media did not stress this strategy in time for 2015 sign up, so now, we’re talking about 2016. 

Set Ideology Aside. One hurdle is the horror of abandoning even poor insurance. To be fair, returning to this peril is not impossible, so refusing to choose better coverage might seem like a hedge. If your state has no exchange, the U.S. Supreme Court could endanger your subsidies, as well.

My advice to Obamacare neophytes, especially those over 50, is to surf to, click on “Get Covered/Shop Plans and Prices” and see what options you have. The only personal info required is your ZIP code, age and smoking status. 

If you are unlucky, you might find a way to match or even improve your coverage at lower costs. At that point, it’s dogma-eat-dogma: economics or politics? You might struggle with the choices: Lower premiums or lower deductibles? Big network or lower cost? How much co-pay? The jump from no options to several can be jarring, but it indicates a freer market.

Frankly, in an industry that demands government-subsidized crop insurance, the opposition to similar support for health insurance baffles me. Perhaps until you’re affected by a health expense crisis, such benefits look like undeserved welfare. Ideological principles might inhibit farmers from considering opportunities Obamacare can offer. However, a visit to the exchange, if only to window shop, can reveal the price of those scruples.