Consumer Conversations: Protecting Golden Years

By Stephanye R. Clarke

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Even with no subsides (financial help from the federal government) this Connecticut resident chose to sign up for health insurance through the state exchange.

Why? Simply put — because it was cheaper for him.

Asking to be remained nameless, Mr. H, a Hamden resident, is a 63-year-old early retiree from the private sector. He has no pension, but has access to substantial savings and income.

“There is a group of people, like me, who retire before the age of 65. And you’ve got five years before being eligible for Medicare where your premiums and costs are really high. What Obamacare did for people like myself, who don’t qualify for subsidies, is make [coverage] more affordable.”

Health insurance under his former employer cost him $50 per month for full benefits (medical, dental, vision) with no copays or deductibles. Upon retiring, he was eligible to participate in the same coverage through COBRA—but now paid $500 per month. After 18 months, it was time for Mr. H to find his own coverage and ended up with a plan that cost him $790 monthly with a $6,000 in-network deductible and $6,000 out-of-network deductible. He knew that he would be paying roughly $15,000 annually for health care coverage.  While expensive, he considered himself lucky to get this plan during a time when people could be rejected for coverage because of their age and/or health issues.

Then the Affordable Care Act happened. The first open enrollment period began in October 2013 and he signed himself up online, a process he found relatively easy. His coverage during the first year contained deductibles similar to his previous plan, but he noticed an immediate monthly savings of $172. When the second open enrollment period began on November 15th, he checked Access Health CT and discovered that he would be saving even more this year—18% more, nearly $100 monthly.

Mr. H believes that people in his financial situation are choosing less-expensive plans, sometimes with high deductibles, because they aren’t necessarily frequent users of the health care system. He says while the cost is still expensive, he is receiving excellent coverage and for less than what he would have been paying without the ACA.

He worries, though, that the ACA will be gutted. He enjoys the fact that the law has allowed him to join a pool which lowers his rates. “I still pay a higher rate, because of my age and maybe even the county I live in, but Obamacare has allowed me to join in a group policy of sorts—and I believe the overall rates are better than if I were in an individual plan.”

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