Affordable Health Insurance And The Individual Mandate

2015-06-25 09_54_46-Exemptions Screener _ HealthCare1.govMy biggest financial problem for 2016 is keeping my grandfathered health insurance plan and paying for it with pre-tax money. In 2014 and prior years my health insurance was affordable since it was completely paid for with money from a Health Reimbursement Account(HRA) set up by my employer. Health insurance for healthy people was affordable and the HRA allowed my employer to pay for my health insurance with pre-tax money. Like most health care decisions before the Affordable Care Act it was a no-brainer. Then we passed the Affordable Care Act and everything became complicated and more expensive. In 2015 HRA’s become an inadvertent casualty of the Affordable Care Act. The next casualty I suspect will be my grandfathered health insurance plan. So I have three options:

  1. Convince someone in government to allow me to keep my grandfathered health insurance for another year.
  2. Not carry any health insurance.
  3. Get health insurance from the exchange.

No one should be surprised that health insurance from the exchange is not affordable and the only happy customers are those getting subsidies. According to the Exemptions Screener, I should be paying no more than 8% of my income on health insurance. For a couple earning $63,721(400% of the federal poverty level) this is only $425 a month. Last November I looked up the lowest cost bronze plan and it was going to cost me $979 a month or $11,748 a year.  For a couple earning $63,721, health insurance would have taken 18.4% of their income. According to a couple like me would have to earn $146,850 a year before a health insurance policy from the exchange became “affordable”. Only the subsidized, wealthy, chronically ill, or naive would choose health insurance from the exchange.

With health insurance from the exchange costing $11,748 or more per year in 2016, self-insurance becomes a financially attractive option.  As a healthy family who has gone without health insurance in the past(1998-2008) and who is exempt from the individual mandate because I cannot purchase “affordable health coverage” from the exchange, the biggest financial risk is a hospitalization that costs more than $12,000. If you have the discipline to have a large enough emergency fund to cover future health costs then this is an attractive, financially efficient second choice. $12,000 per year will buy a lot of health care especially if you are a savvy buyer. If I could get a catastrophic care policy priced at 4% of my income this would be my number one choice since it would be the best of both worlds, encouraging both healthy living and saving for medical expenses.

My first choice is to keep my existing health insurance and to convince the government to reinstate HRA’s for companies with less than 50 employees. My health insurance plan is almost as affordable as the subsidized insurance from the exchanges. As a person who has not filed an insurance claim in the last 15 years, I am by definition the perfect health insurance customer. It is probably in the best interest of the insurance industry to do whatever it takes to keep me as a loyal customer. Although my employer gave me a $500 a month bonus this year to pay for my health insurance I would be financially better off if that money went into a HRA. Taxing a health care bonus is just plain stupid. Once again it is in the best interest of the insurance industry to bring back the HRA before I get comfortable going without health insurance.