Two Alaskans, two very different Affordable Care Act experiences
The deadline to sign up for health insurance is Monday, March 31st. To accommodate the last minute rush, the Obama administration announced you’ll be able to enroll as long as you begin the process before the end of the month. After that, you won’t be able to buy coverage on healthcare.gov, or anywhere, unless you have a qualifying life event, like getting married or having a child. As Alaskans navigate the complicated health law, two people have had very different experiences.
Alex Cruver hasn’t had to use his health insurance yet. But he’s very happy to have it. He reaches into his back pocket and proudly pulls out a white and blue Premera Alaska card.
Cruver has asthma. And because of that, he knows he needs health insurance. But it’s always consumed a big chunk of his monthly budget. The last plan he had cost him about $200 dollars a month. When he logged onto healthcare.gov, Cruver found he qualified for a subsidy that would bring the cost of a mid-level silver plan down to just $70 dollars a month.
“It just means I have more money, that’s what it means. I have more money now for myself.”
Cruver is a jazz musician who also works a part time retail job. He earns about $25,000 a year. He’s already paid his first few health insurance bills. And he says the Affordable Care Act offers him a very good deal:
“For me, yeah it’s great. I’m very satisfied. It’s like it was meant for me basically, but I can’t say the same for everyone. Some people are pretty angry about it.”
Including Mark Knapp. He and his wife Angel own a custom knife shop in Fairbanks. Until last December, they were happy paying $750 a month for health insurance from Premera. But because the plan didn’t meet Affordable Care Act requirements, it was canceled. President Obama then extended many canceled plans for a year, but the Knapp’s plan didn’t qualify:
“So we decided we’d shop around.”
On healthcare.gov, Knapp found a similar plan to the one the couple had for $1260 a month. The subsidy they qualified for brought the cost down to about $700. But Knapp says he and his wife didn’t feel right about accepting a subsidy:
“It doesn’t really fall under affordable health care to me, even though I wasn’t going to pay it all, somebody was going to have to pay it for me.”
So instead, the Knapps found a new policy through a small business organization they belong too. The monthly premium is $850:
“So that’s about $100 a month more than what we were getting it for with Premera.”
It’s also $150 more than what they would be required to pay on healthcare.gov. The plan doesn’t comply with the Affordable Care Act, so it’s scheduled to be canceled at the end of this year. After that, Knapp isn’t sure what he and his wife will do, but he says they won’t ever feel right about accepting a subsidy:
“We were looking at just paying the penalty for not signing up for Obamacare and then paying for any medical care we needed ourselves.”
Knapp says his wife puts things more bluntly saying, ‘No way, no how, are we signing up for national health care.’
This story is part of a reporting partnership between APRN, NPR and Kaiser Health News.