How Affordable Is Affordable Care?


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For the average person without health care, the most important part of the Affordable Care Act is the “affordable” part. Even conservatives, who have enthusiastically maligned the idea of national health care fromt the start, want affordable doctor visits. So do liberals. We all do, and President Obama has promised that the increased competition of government-run insurance marketplaces will provide just that. But what is really affordable?

By March 2014 all uninsured Californians will be required to purchase healthcare through California's insurance marketplace, Covered California, or pay a penalty that increases each year. If you don't get insurance, over three years you will pay more than a grand to not have health care.

So the other and presumably better option is to buy in. Covered California provides five insurance plans of varying coverage and price. The plans are named after precious metals and the cost of each declines with the value of the metal: Platinum, Gold, Silver, you get the idea. For people under thirty years old there will also be a less expensive Catastrophic plan. So far Covered California isn't offering many specifics about what will come with each plan.

But the real fun on the Covered California website is their online calculator, which estimates monthly health care costs. I entered my age as thirty. No dependents. Making $45,000 a year (just an estimate). And lo and behold, if I buy into the Silver plan my estimated monthly health care costs will be $261. No tax credits.

I have to ask, is that really affordable?